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Monday, August 29, 2016
Obama to 'ratify' climate change treaty without getting Senate approval
A Chinese news source is reporting that President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping will announce as early as this week that both nations have "ratified" the climate change treaty inked in Paris last year.
The most asked question during the Obama years: "How can he do that without congressional approval?"
The South China Morning Post reportedthat Mr. Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are "set to jointly announce their ratification" of the ambitious international climate-change pact on Friday, two days before the start of the 11th G-20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang.
"There are still some uncertainties from the U.S. side due to the complicated U.S. system in ratifying such a treaty, but the announcement is still quite likely to be ready by Sept. 2," an unnamed source told the English-language newspaper.
In addition, "[s]enior climate officials from both countries worked late into the night in Beijing on Tuesday to finalise [sic] details," said the article, citing "sources familiar with the issue."
The Thursday report touched off alarm among foes of the Paris Agreement, which calls for nations to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions with the aim of holding global temperatures to an increase of "well below" 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels.
Myron Ebell, director of the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute's Center for Energy and Environment, described the report as "curious because ratifying treaties in the United States requires a two-thirds vote of theSenate."
In China's Communist Party dictatorship, ratification merely requires their Maximum Leader to say, 'So be it,' " said Mr. Ebell, who flagged the article, adding, "Lo and behold, the president of the United States can ratify a treaty in the same way as China's Maximum Leader. He merely has to say the magic words, 'So be it.' "
Sen. James Inhofe, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, has warned other nations that without Senate approval, the agreement will "soon become another stack of empty promises on global warming."
"I want to make sure international participants are warned now that the president's commitment lacks the support of his own government and will fail," Mr. Inhofe said in an April 12 statement.
He delivered his broadside shortly before Secretary of State John Kerry participated in a United Nations ceremony on Earth Day to sign what he described as the "historic" Paris agreement. Participating nations are required to sign and ratify the agreement.
The report may be erroneous. President Obama may have gotten away with approving the Iran nuclear agreement by holding a majority vote in Congress, rather than seeking approval of two thirds of the Senate. But it's hard to see how he could magically transform what is clearly an international treaty into something that would require only his signature.
But then, this is a president who has played fast and loose with the Constitution for seven years, making this report – even if it is bogus – entirely believable.
If Obama can make an end run around Congress on the Paris treaty, there's no limit to what he could do in the remaining months of his presidency. He could sign off on the TPP, on a nuclear weapons reduction treaty, on several other trade agreements – all without going through the messy process of adhering to the Constitution and getting Senate approval.