By Greg Richter
President Barack Obama is working toward an international agreement that would pressure countries to cut fossil fuel emissions, and is doing so without seeking congressional approval, The New York Times reports.
The agreement is set to be signed in Paris in 2015.
The U.S. Constitution requires a president to obtain a two-thirds majority vote of the Senate for a treaty to be legally binding. That isn’t likely to happen because Republicans, who oppose the agreement, hold 45 Senate seats.
So, the White House is working with other countries on a plan that would be what they call “politically binding” and would “name and shame” the nations that need to cut pollution, the Times reports.
In addition to Republicans, poor countries are also likely to object to the plan.
“If you want a deal that includes all the major emitters, including the U.S., you cannot realistically pursue a legally binding treaty at this time, Paul Bledsoe, a climate change official from the Clinton administration, told the Times.
Instead, U.S. negotiators are aiming for an agreement that blends legally binding rules from a 1992 treaty and new voluntary promises. Such a deal would not require Senate ratification, negotiators say.
While countries would be required to enact pollution policies, they would be allowed to voluntarily pledge how much they would cut emissions and could give money to poor countries to help them meet their goals.
Republicans already are critical of Obama for using executive actions to achieve parts of his agenda that he could not get through Congress. He used an executive order in June to impose reductions in carbon emissions on coal-fired power plants in the United States.
That regulation is set to take effect in 2015 and faces a lawsuit filed by several coal-producing states.
“Unfortunately, this would be just another of many examples of the Obama administration’s tendency to abide by laws that it likes and to disregard laws it doesn’t like — and to ignore the elected representatives of the people when they don’t agree,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told the Times.