White House insists legally binding UN climate agreement is ‘not’ a treaty

earnestThe New York Times reported yesterday that Secretary of State John Kerry is working closely with his “foreign counterparts” to ensure that the UN-backed climate change deal “does not legally qualify as a treaty,” which would require Senate approval. Obama “pledged” yesterday that the United States will reduce its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 28%, using executive orders and federal agencies to bypass congressional approval. Even EPA head Gina McCarthy said the “regulations are likely to be litigated all the way to the Supreme Court.”

Michael Bastasch, a reporter at The Daily Caller, writes that White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said Tuesday “that senators who ‘deny’ man-made global warming probably shouldn’t have any say over an international agreement to cut carbon dioxide emissions.” Earnest said at the press briefing that many of the Senators at least, “deny the fact that climate change even exists. So I’m not sure they would be in the best position to decide whether or not a climate change agreement is one that is worth entering into.”

The UN climate plan has been under attack by both businesses and Congress because it allows China, which has one of the worst pollution records, to get a free pass at least until the year 2030. The pledge made by Obama has been calculated to reduce the planet’s temperature by 2/100 of one percent. Many industrialized nations haven’t pledged their participation in the plan while developing nations argue it impedes on their right to advance their countries forward. With Republicans holding majorities in both houses, and global warming ranking dead last among voters in Gallup’s yearly environmental poll, Obama is still forging ahead to keep a campaign promise from his first presidential election.

Earnest also told reporters that “the kind of agreement that the president succeeded in striking with China, and is implementing here in the United States, is one that will have a positive impact on carbon pollution, will have a positive impact on trying to make the air safer for Americans here in our country. And will have a positive impact on our economy. That’s why the president is pursuing this so aggressively. We certainly would welcome any kind of support that we could get from Congress on that measure.” (see video)

Kerry is ensuring that the deal does not meet the legal definition of a treaty, even though the upcoming talks, called COP21 or CMP11 and being held in Paris, France, in December 2015, are moving forward as a global climate treaty among participating nations. This would surpass the landmark Kyoto Protocol (KP) that was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in December 1997, but has only been in force since 2005. The KP, unlike the upcoming Paris talks, only encourages industrialized countries to stabilize CO2 emissions.

But the United Nations website writes in a press release that this new “global climate change agreement in Paris” will force every participating country to “contribute now and into the future, based on their national circumstances, to prevent global warming rising above 2 degrees Celsius and to adapt societies to existing and future climate change.” The 2 degrees Celsius limit has been under contention since Earth has gone through millionfold periods with much higher temperatures and CO2 levels, producing historical levels of biodiversity and flourishing ecosystems.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said, “Paris needs to puts the world on a recognizable track to peak global emissions as soon as possible, achieve a deep de-carbonization of the global economy and reach a climate neutral world in the second half of this century at the latest.” This new agreement includes, “mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology, capacity building, and transparency of action and support.”

The release also said that Cyclone Pam “brought into sharp focus the human consequences of the threats of climate change and disasters.” Unfortunately, scientists have disagreed with this assessment, noting that there has been a lull in cyclonic activity, not to mention hurricane activity. As first reported by Bastasch, Kerry Emanuel, a professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote that the “roughly thirty year period over which we have reliable re-analyses and satellite measurements [for tropical cyclones] is too short to rule out the influence of natural climate variability.”

Reporters repeatedly asked Earnest if the climate agreement would need the Senate’s approval, as required by the U.S. constitution. Earnest deflected reporters’ questions by needling the Senate. “Well, again, I think it’s hard to take seriously from some members of Congress who deny the fact that climate change exists, that they should have some opportunity to render judgment about a climate change agreement.”

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