Fiji became the first country to ratify the United Nations Paris agreement on global warming earlier this week, but the way the deal was approved may pose huge problems for President Barack Obama’s global warming ambitions.
Fiji’s parliament unanimously ratified the Paris deal Monday, which commits the country to getting 100 percent of its electricity from green energy sources by 2030. Fiji’s president can formally sign the climate deal in April — that’s also when Obama and other world leaders plan on signing the deal.
But the fact Fiji’s parliament had to ratify the Paris deal before its president could sign it in April could spell disaster for Obama’s plans to bind the U.S. to an international global warming agreement without Senate approval.
“His argument is that he says it isn’t really a treaty, in order to skirt the Senate’s shared role in this process,” Chris Horner, an attorney at the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Horner has been a prominent critic of the Obama administration’s labelling of the U.N. deal as a political agreement, rather than a formal treaty. The White House has been careful not to call the Paris deal a “treaty” — which requires Senate approval to have the force of law.
Obama doesn’t want to bring the U.N. deal before a Republican-controlled Senate where it will surely be voted down. Indeed, both chambers of Congress have passed bills to repeal key regulations the administration is relying on to meet its global warming goals.
But Fiji’s parliamentary actions signal the U.N. deal is being seen as more than a non-legally binding political agreement. If other countries follow suit and have legislators vote to approve the U.N. deal, that weakens Obama’s argument the Senate doesn’t need to weigh in.
Furthermore, Fiji ratified the U.N. deal as a formal “treaty” — news reports on Fiji’s approval even used the term “treaty” to describe the deal being ratified.
“Obama can claim the obvious treaty isn’t a treaty — despite practice, protocol, its history and its terms,” Horner said, adding he thinks the Senate should vote on the agreement whether or not Obama brings it before them for approval.
“Nothing, however, says the Senate cannot vote on the Paris agreement, now that it has been struck and the President vowed to purport to bind us,” Horner said, “absent the Senate exercising its shared role in the treaty-making process that Obama has said it cannot exercise because, well, if it did, the treaty wouldn’t stand a chance.”
U.N. delegates from nearly 200 countries pledged in December to cut carbon dioxide emissions in the coming years — a framework ensures nations are meeting their goals. The agreement was hailed by environmentalists and liberal politicians, including Obama, who plans to sign the agreement in April with or without Senate approval.
The president promised the U.S. would cut emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025, which he says he can do solely through executive authority — much of the emissions reductions comes from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and green energy subsidies.
Republican senators have promised to vote down any treaty Obama brings before them. Lawmakers have already passed two bills to repeal EPA regulations and have opposed funding for the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund.
“Despite the administration’s best efforts, the Paris agreement has no means of enforcement, sustainability or legal significance without approval from the U.S. Senate,” Oklahoma Republican Sen. [crscore]Jim Inhofe[/crscore] wrote in a January op-ed.
“And so, with no democratic legitimacy, this agreement should not be viewed as the policy of the United States, but rather a perpetuation of the president’s climate legacy that Congress and the American people consistently reject,” Inhofe wrote.
To complicate matterS further, the Supreme Court recently issued a stay against the EPA’s key global warming regulation — a rule clamping down on CO2 emissions from power plants. This means the rule could be delayed and possibly struck down by the courts.
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