U. S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping will announce that their two countries are officially joining the Paris Climate Treaty when they meet on Saturday, 3rd September, ahead of the G-20 summit meeting in Hangzhou, China. The South China Morning Post reported on 25th August that the announcement would occur on Friday, 2nd September, but an environmental reporter told me today that Saturday was the day.
President Obama’s action in joining the treaty without ratification by the Senate is clearly an unconstitutional usurpation of the Senate’s authority. Article Two, Section Two, Clause Two of the U. S. Constitution states: “[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”
The U. S. State Department insisted at COP-21 in Paris last December that calling it the Paris Agreement rather than the Paris Climate Treaty would help President Obama evade the constitutional requirement of Senate ratification. Obama Administration officials continue to insist that it is an executive agreement that only requires the President’s approval. Marlo Lewis, my CEI colleague, details why it is a treaty and not merely an executive agreement in this analysis, and Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation makes a similar analysis here.
Negotiators at COP-21 went along with the charade that it’s not really a treaty for the United States. However, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat considers it a treaty. The relevant UNFCCC web page is headlined: “Paris Agreement—Status of Ratification.” The information note prepared by the UNFCCC Legal Affairs Programme on the Entry into Force of the Paris Agreement: Legal Requirements and Implications begins: “1. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties states that ‘a treaty enters into force in such manner and upon such date as it may provide or as the negotiating States may agree’.”
Moreover, every other country considers it a treaty and is going through its normal procedures for joining a treaty. Patrick Goodenough in CNS News reported recently that even in China, which is ruled by a Communist Party dictatorship, the government has referred the treaty to the Standing Committee of Parliament for its approval.
The fact that President Obama knows that Paris is a treaty inadvertently slipped out just this week. Valerie Richardson reported in the Washington Times that: “Speaking at a conservation summit in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Mr. Obama said elected officials in the U.S. must continue to work on policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after he leaves office in January. ‘It’s not going to happen if we boast about how we’re going to scrap international treaties, or have elected officials who are alone in the world in denying climate change, or put our energy and environmental policies in the hands of big polluters,’ Mr. Obama said.”
It will be a bitter irony if President Obama does indeed unilaterally commit the United States to the Paris Climate Treaty on 3rd September for it was on that day in 1783 that United States negotiators signed the Treaty of Paris officially ending the American Revolutionary War with the United Kingdom. An official U. S. government web page includes this comment: “The three American negotiators, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay, proved themselves to be masters of the game, outmaneuvering their counterparts and clinging fiercely to the points of national interest that guaranteed a future for the United States.”
Clinging fiercely to the national interest is not really President Obama’s thing. Another difference between then and now is that the Continental Congress meeting in Annapolis ratified the Treaty of Paris on 14th January 1784.