Energy

‘In A Small Room’: How Countries Made Sure Obama Wouldn’t Have To Bring A UN Treaty Before Congress

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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United Nations delegates met “in a small room” last weekend to fix a last-minute problem with an international agreement to cut carbon dioxide emissions, according to France’s foreign minister.

Fixing this “typo” in the agreement likely saved it from being defeated by a Republican-controlled Senate because it would have made the agreement into a legally binding treaty.

President Barack Obama claims the treaty is based on voluntary commitments from countries to cut emissions, but a final draft of the agreement contained wording that may have turned the voluntary agreement into a legally binding treaty.

Article 4.4 of the U.N. agreement said developed countries “shall” have “economy-wide absolute emissions reduction targets.” U.S. delegates feared the word “shall” would force the treaty to be brought before the Senate for ratification — Senate Republicans have vowed to vote down any global warming agreement.

The Obama administration needed the treaty to say developed countries “should” cut emissions. The thinking is that “should” is a much less onerous requirement and would not need to be brought before the Senate for ratification.

“We made it crystal clear that every text up until this particular one had a different wording, so it wasn’t hard for them to realize that somebody had made a mistake and accepted responsibility for it,” Secretary of State John Kerry said over the weekend.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the use of “shall” instead of “should” was the result of a “typing error” by a U.N. stenographer. Fabius also noted some developing countries, like South Africa and Nicaragua, wanted the binding language to stay in the agreement.

“I had to come to a small room… I said trust me,” Fabius said. “I certify that it is just a typing error. Let’s not block this deal for the human race for that. They told me, Mr. Fabius, we trust you.”

Nearly 200 countries approved a final draft of the U.N. agreement Saturday to the cheers of left-wing reporters and some environmentalists. Obama praised the agreement as a “turning point for the world.”

But Republican lawmakers blasted the agreement and vowed to vote it down if it came before the Senate. Lawmakers have already passed legislation repealing key global warming regulations imposed by the Obama administration to meet its U.N. climate pledges.

“Before his international partners pop the champagne, they should remember that this is an unattainable deal based on a domestic energy plan that is likely illegal, that half the states have sued to halt, and that Congress has already voted to reject.”

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