The New York Times reports that President Obama, tired of trying to work with a recalcitrant Congress determined to block anything he proposes, is working with the United Nations to forge a new climate agreement which will not require ratification by the Senate.
For years, negotiators attempting to hammer out an international agreement on climate change have faced the daunting task of devising an agreement that is acceptable to all parties, although the U.S. Congress has been unwilling to accept any agreement which will impose new regulations.
The President is aware that he cannot count on the current Congress for the necessary two-thirds vote needed to ratify a treaty. As a result, the agreement that is being worked out with diplomats from several countries will not be a binding treaty, instead they are working on an agreement that is being referred to as “politically binding” and will call on larger economies to commit to enacting laws to limit emissions with a “name and shame” component to encourage countries to cut emissions.
The agreement which is scheduled for signing at a United Nations summit meeting in Paris in 2015, is expected to face opposition from Congressional Republicans and small countries from around the world. But negotiators say that this is the only way to realistically do what needs to be done.
“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 high level climate change official in the Clinton administration said.
Legislators from both sides of the aisle agree that the current climate in Washington precludes the ratification of any climate change treaty with a Senate that cannot even bring an action to a vote without the complete agreement of the Republican minority which would certainly block any such vote — a factor that the negotiators have taken into consideration while crafting the agreement.
Laurence Tubiana, the French ambassador for climate change to the United Nations acknowledged the difficulty faced by the President on climate change:
“There’s a strong understanding of the difficulties of the U.S. situation, and a willingness to work with the U.S. to get out of this impasse. There is an implicit understanding that this not require ratification by the Senate.”
The goal of the negotiators is to craft an agreement that would blend legally binding provisions with voluntary pledges to reduce emissions, updating an existing 1992 treaty and avoid a ratification requirement.
Of course the backlash from Senate Republicans has already begun.
“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,” said Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY).