Paris Is A Treaty, And The Senate Must Now Treat It Like One

REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

Christopher Horner Senior Fellow, Competitive Enterprise Institute
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Despite two weeks of posturing and haggling, negotiations for a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol here outside Paris ran, as has been typical throughout this process, into overtime. Amid the dismantling of much of the Le Bourget conference center’s elaborate infrastructure, late Saturday morning, the parties released the final, if annual “historic agreement.”

It is a treaty. The United States is a party. President Obama insists it isn’t a treaty. Whatever you agree to label the deal, it will be held against the U.S. (even before an occasional court) with claims that the terms bind us.

The specifics are a shadow of those in the earlier drafts. Gone is the “International Climate Justice Tribunal.” Also out is troubling language about a new regime (and revenue stream) for processing, management and relocation of displaced persons that — given the massive, existing UN operations in the refugee “space” — likely were a rapid step toward formalizing the idea that all refugees are climate refugees, for which developed countries are responsible for reasons of their industrial development.

Language automatically renewing and escalating every five years the binding vows (by select countries) which the treaty still says “shall” reduce emissions, each time “progressively more ambitious” than the prior, is watered down but remains. The same is true for massive wealth transfers.

About those, Paris does promise a *minimum* of one hundred billion dollars in “climate aid,” which the greens and recipients already decry as a fraction of what they want. So Paris has many in the global warming industry gnashing their teeth, despite that it was never realistic to obtain developed country agreement on an economic suicide pact, particularly (given the climate-refugee idea) as the current Middle East crisis spills over into Europe.

Regardless, this is a treaty, given the mandatory language, level of financial commitment, level of detail, and of course by practice and precedent in this realm — it resembles the 1992 Rio treaty (UNFCCC), which no one dared insist wasn’t a treaty. Indeed, that document, which Paris amends, was ratified with the support of the George H.W. Bush administration and Democrat-run Senate.  Both left no doubt that:

“a decision by the Conference of the Parties to adopt targets and timetables would have to be submitted to the Senate for its advice and consent before the United States could deposit its instruments of ratification for such an agreement.”  Exec. Rpt. 102-55.

Paris includes supposedly mandatory emission-reduction targets and timetables. Still, there is no requirement, anywhere, that these claim to be “legally binding” before the Senate must approve them.

As such, and despite putting some of the biggest, shiniest objects of green desire off to the future, the Paris global warming treaty does still purport to bind  the U.S. to making more stringent promises every five years.

This will get ugly next time around and in any other fifth year in which a Republican occupies the White House. This was the point, because all parties knew that, in the end, there was no chance of a document formalizing these demands as some mandatory regime.

Despite its collapse from the original dream, Paris is a treaty. As such, it is incumbent upon Congress to reaffirm this to the world: there is no basis on which one may claim they reasonably relied on any U.S. representations here as anything more than a State of the Union speech, things Obama wants Congress to approve, which it probably won’t.

The strangest aspect of the Paris treaty is its marquee achievement of countries agreeing where to set the world’s thermostat. This is an absurd proposition, but observations also show that the computer models projecting lurid warming scenarios are effectively programmed to do so, building in a spectacularly higher sensitivity to the suddenly magical if marginal gas carbon dioxide (also known as plant food).

The UK’s Scientific Alliance shrewdly notes that it is quite possible the Paris negotiators recognized the modeled scenarios are mere computer-generated fantasy, and have positioned themselves to take credit for the warming not coming, which wasn’t going to come. It can thereby “declare that it had saved the planet and there would be little need to confess to undue alarmism.”

President Obama has recklessly sought to bind his country to an agenda it has rejected through the proper democratic process whenever tried, because our process stands in his way.

Paris will still provide a political cudgel, but not the one they were looking for. Still, any pressure on the U.S. to restrict its economy and transfer massive sums of taxpayer money because of the Paris treaty is too much, and the Senate should drive a stake in this folly. Paris is a treaty, and the Senate must now treat it like one.