President Barack Obama confirmed in a press conference in Paris on 1st December that he intends for the Paris Climate Treaty to bind politically the next President, even if he is succeeded by a Republican who opposes the treaty and even if it’s not ratified by the Senate.
Here is what the President said in response to a question:
But even if somebody from a different party succeeded me, one of the things that you find is when you’re in this job, you think about it differently than when you’re just running for the job. And what you realize is what I mentioned earlier, that American leadership involves not just playing to a narrow constituency back home, but you now are, in fact, at the center of what happens around the world, and that your credibility and America’s ability to influence events depends on taking seriously what other countries care about.
Now, the fact of the matter is there’s a reason why you have the largest gathering of world leaders probably in human history here in Paris. Everybody else is taking climate change really seriously. They think it’s a really big problem. It spans political parties. You travel around Europe, and you talk to leaders of governments and the opposition, and they are arguing about a whole bunch of things — one thing they’re not arguing about is whether the science of climate change is real and whether or not we have to do something about it.
So whoever is the next President of the United States, if they come in and they suggest somehow that that global consensus — not just 99.5 percent of scientists and experts, but 99 percent of world leaders — think this is really important, I think the President of the United States is going to need to think this is really important. And that’s why it’s important for us to not project what’s being said on a campaign trail, but to do what’s right, and make the case.
In short, President Obama thinks his successor will lead—as he does—from behind.