April 21, 2016
Climate diplomats have paraded December’s Paris Agreement as historic. But as representatives gather in New York Friday to sign the deal, they should already know: The deal is nothing but a stack of empty promises.
In order for the agreement to take legal effect, 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions have to sign it. As the Obama administration has promised, the United States will inevitably sign the agreement on Friday despite the reality that my country will fall well short of President Obama’s promise.
The United States’ contribution to this climate agreement hinges entirely on President Obama’s commitments. Congress has passed no new laws to enable the president to meet his promises, and the so-called Clean Power Plan — the capstone regulations for cutting emissions 26-28 percent by 2025 — has been dealt a major blow.
On Feb. 9, the US Supreme Court issued an unprecedented stay of the Clean Power Plan, halting the implementation of its rules until the suit is settled. The Court signaled what Congress, states and legal experts have been warning: President Obama’s climate regulations may ultimately get struck down.
But let’s not kid ourselves: Even before the Supreme Court’s decision, the president’s pledge to reduce emissions didn’t add up.
Should the Clean Power Plan be implemented in the United States, we’ll fail to deliver on 45 percent of promised reductions. Without the Clean Power Plan, the United States will fail to meet 60 percent of the president’s goal.
Despite my many requests as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee asking the Obama administration to explain how it will close this gap, the president refuses to account for the administration’s faulty math.
Naturally, the Supreme Court’s decision quickly sent ripples of worry abroad. Navroz K. Dubash, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, told The New York Times that “this could be the proverbial string which causes Paris to unravel.”
The Times reported similar sentiments from Zou Ji, the deputy director general of China’s National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International Cooperation, who said bluntly, “Look, [if] the United States doesn’t keep its word, why make so many demands on us?”
India and China, two of the world’s largest polluters, aren’t the only countries second-guessing the agreement. Leading up to Paris, and well in advance of the Supreme Court stay, Poland had its doubts.
Polish Prime Minister Beata Szyd?o worried that the UN’s commitments would undermine Poland’s economy and cause widespread job loss. Poland reluctantly agreed to the terms anyway, but it would be unsurprising if the Supreme Court decision gave Poland — and likeminded countries — the perfect excuse to rethink it.
The Supreme Court isn’t the only branch of the US government to have voiced concerns with President Obama’s climate agenda. In November, the Senate passed two bipartisan resolutions disapproving of the Clean Power Plan — a clear signal to the international community that without Senate ratification, the Paris Agreement isn’t legally binding in America.
The House of Representatives voted to block the president’s climate rules as well.
President Obama isn’t even attending the signing ceremony in New York, nor is his architect of the agreement, Todd Stern, which speaks volumes to the value this administration has placed in their commitment.
If foreign leaders need further evidence that the Paris Agreement will resoundingly fail to meet expectations, I point them in the direction of history; after all, past is prologue. Of the 36 countries legally bound to greenhouse gas-reduction from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, nearly half failed to comply and some countries even increased their emissions.
The Paris Agreement faces insurmountable problems ahead, with the most obvious being that the United States can’t follow through on President Obama’s commitment and may even withdraw its support with a new president come January.
The message could not be clearer to the international community: the Paris Agreement is not only misguided. It was also a waste of everyone’s time.