Inhofe Speaks on Senate Floor on Letter to Trump Urging Withdrawal From Paris Climate Agreement

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) committee, today spoke on the Senate floor, urging President Trump to withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Inhofe led a group of 22 Senate Republicans in a letter to President Trump this morning calling for a clean break from the agreement. Read the letter here

paris floor speech

Click here to watch the video

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President: there has been a lot of discussion in the media over the last couple of weeks about what President Trump should do about the Paris Climate Agreement. 

We know all about this agreement. It was entered into by President Obama in December 2015, at the United Nations’ annual party that they hold the 21st annual Conference of Parties meeting. 

The last one I went to was in December 2009, which was held in Copenhagen. It was just after President Obama was elected, and he and his administration were pledging we would soon have legislation to regulate carbon dioxide in the United States. Pelosi, Hillary, John Kerry and Barack Obama all wanted cap-and-trade. 

I went to Copenhagen as a one-man truth squad to let them know that under no circumstances would the Senate pass cap-and-trade legislation, making everything that the Democrats were promising their international friends wrong. And I was right. 

That legislation was estimated to cost the economy $300 billion to $400 billion per year to implement. But it never came up for a vote because the Democrats, though they had 60 votes in the Senate at that time, could not get the votes to pass it. It was too expensive. Many people thought that was the first time we had considered cap-and-trade legislation, but it was not. We had been working on it for years. 

The first attempt was back in 2003, and it failed miserably: 43–55.  In 2005, they tried again, but that time it only got 38 votes, failing 38–60.  In 2008, then-Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman tried again, and that time they got 48 votes, failing 48-36. That’s a far cry from the 60–votes they needed for it to pass.

After suffering those embarrassing defeats in the Senate, President Obama sought to do by regulation what he could not do by legislation. That is how we got to the Clean Power Plan, which also has an implementation cost of $300 billion per year and made it impossible to build a new coal-fired power plant. 

Fortunately, President Trump has made good on his campaign promise to unwind these horrible regulations. A few weeks ago, he signed an executive order instructing the EPA to unwind the United States from this regulation, and that is exactly what my friend, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, is working to accomplish right now. While the president has disavowed the Paris Agreement, he hasn’t pulled out. And I understand that there are a lot of competing voices on this front. 

Many people do not believe that the Paris Agreement is binding, and while that is true to a certain degree, it is shortsighted. I am speaking today because I believe the president should make a clean exit of the Paris Agreement. And there are two key reasons why.

Reason Number 1: If we remain in the agreement, we are putting ourselves at significant litigation risk. 

The Paris Agreement commits the United States to lowering our greenhouse gas emissions by 26–28 percent by 2025.We all know that the environmental community wants to do whatever it possibly can to regulate carbon. Richard Lindzen, the esteemed MIT scientist, once said that “if you control carbon, you control life,” making it a bureaucrat’s dream. 

That is what they want. And if we stay in the Paris Agreement, environmentalists will be able to sue the EPA to force it to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under Section 115 of the Clean Air Act. 

Section 115 of the Clean Air Act is entitled “International Air Pollution.” This section is triggered when a country asserts that our pollution is harming them, establishing an endangerment finding and when there is a reciprocity agreement between our countries to conduct regulation. 

It is not difficult to imagine that if we remain in the Paris Agreement, the environmentalist NGOs—led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Sierra Club—will all file lawsuits against the EPA as it takes legal steps to deregulate the Clean Power Plan. 

While there has not been an international endangerment finding, the environmentalists will be working to force the issue. Further, they will make the case that the “reciprocal” requirements of Section 115 are met by the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Even though it is not binding at the international level, the environmentalist could—with a sympathetic judge—make the case that the administration has made the reciprocal agreement by staying in Paris. 

As we’ve seen with other priorities of the administration, it’s not hard to find a sympathetic judge. 

This is something that they have been planning to do all along. They built this backdoor into the agreement as the Obama administration was writing it. 

A former General Counsel for the Sierra Club, David Bookbinder, said that Section 115 of the Clean Air Act is “the silver bullet de jour of the enviros, and they are dead serious about this.” Meaning, they believe the Paris Agreement clearly states that it meets the reciprocity test established by Section 115 of the Clean Air Act.

If you’ve noticed, the environmental groups have been very silent about whether the administration should stay in the agreement or not. We all know they want us to stay in the agreement. But why be so quiet? 

I think the environmentalists see that there is real progress being made to convince the president to stay in the Paris Agreement, which means they could have their wish of greenhouse gas regulations. If we stay in the agreement, they could sue the EPA and force regulations under Section 115. They have been very quiet and do not want President Trump to know that they’ll also benefit if we stay in the agreement.

Because of this, they’re allowing people to believe nothing will happen by staying in the agreement, despite knowing that it is not true… They just don’t want us to know it as well. 

Could it be that a Republican president would give them the tools they need to force greenhouse gas regulations without even meaning to? It’s a possibility—and this is why the president needs to make a clean exit from the agreement.

 If the president stays in the Paris Agreement, he is putting at risk our ability to accomplish his campaign goals—namely ending the war on fossil fuels and rescinding the Clean Power Plan. He has already taken the executive steps he needs to on this front—and EPA is currently on solid legal footing—but we must not limit the effectiveness of these key steps by remaining in the Paris Agreement. 

So that was reason number 1: if we remain in the agreement, we put ourselves at significant litigation risk, particularly under Section 115 of the Clean Air Act. 

Reason number 2: even if we pull out of the agreement, we will still have a seat at the table. 

Many people believe that if we pull out of the Paris Agreement, then we’ll lose our ability to negotiate with other nations and vocalize our concerns. This is simply not true. 

The Agreement that gives us a seat at the table has already been ratified by the United States—meaning the Senate gave its advice and consent. 

It is known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This is the 1992 treaty that supports all of the big parties that are held every December in exotic locations. 

The UNFCCC was the foundation of the Paris Agreement, and the foundation for the Copenhagen discussions back in 2009 where I was the one-man truth squad. 

Further, it was the foundation of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which was the first agreement that sought to set binding international greenhouse gas regulations. The Senate demonstrated its intent to defeat that with the Byrd-Hagel resolution, which passed 95–0. Though President Clinton signed the agreement, he never sent it to the Senate for consideration because he knew it would fail miserably. 

So even if President Trump removes the United States as a signatory to the Paris Agreement, we will continue to have a seat at the table and the president will have the ability to negotiate future deals there if that is his desire. 

Now, in the event the president does decide to stay in the Paris Agreement, he will need to send it to the Senate for ratification. 

This is because the Paris Agreement meets seven out of the eight criteria established by the State Department to determine what constitutes a treaty. An agreement need meet only one to require Senate advice and consent. If the president does not exit, the Paris Agreement should be considered a treaty. 

It is in the best interest of the nation and of the president’s agenda to make a clean exit from this agreement. It is the best way to get everything he wants: the complete end of the war on fossil fuels without a risk of further future litigation mandating the EPA to establish new greenhouse gas regulations. And it keeps a seat at the table for the United States to negotiate future international agreements if the need arises. 

And if for some reason he decides not to withdraw, he should submit it to the Senate as a treaty, where it would certainly be met with strong opposition.