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White House Says 'Not Necessary' to Get Senate Approval For Climate Accord

A Chinese media source is reporting that President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping will announce on Friday that both countries have ratified the Paris treaty on climate change.

Washington Times:

The South China Morning Post reported that 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 the Senate.”

“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.’ “

The White House confirmed that the president thinks it’s “not necessary” to get Senate approval for the treaty.

“The Paris Agreement is an executive agreement and so the president will use his authority that has been used in dozens of executive agreements in the past to join and formally deposit [indecipherable] acceptance and therefore be —put our country as a party to the Paris Agreement. That is a procedure that is quite well established in our existing legal system in the context of international agreements and international arrangements. There is a category of them that are treaties that require advise and consent from the Senate, but there’s a broad category of executive agreements where executive can enter into these agreements without advise and consent.”

The White House won’t send the treaty to the Senate for the same reason that President Clinton wouldn’t send the Kyoto accord for congressional approval: about half of his own party would vote against it.

Eventually, the Senate voted 95-0 on a sense of the Senate resolution that said the U.S. should not become party to any climate agreement that  “(1) mandate new commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the Annex 1 Parties, unless the protocol or other agreement also mandates new specific scheduled commitments to limit or reduce greenhouse gas emissions for Developing Country Parties within the same compliance period; or (2) result in serious harm to the U.S. economy.”

Translation: Unless China and India operate under the same rules as US and the west, no deal.

But the question isn’t whether the treaty would be voted up or down. The question is whether Obama has the authority to enforce the provisions of the agreement if the Senate hasn’t ratified it.

Mr. Ebell is absolutely correct. If Obama only has to say “So be it” for the Paris treaty to be ratified, there is no difference between him and any tinpot dictator. I doubt that Congress will let him get away with it. Even the courts are going to have a hard time clearing a path for the president to will this treaty to ratification.