Thursday, October 22, 2015

3 Myths About the Paris Climate Agreement, Refuted

U.S. climate change envoy Todd Stern, right, looks at his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua speak during a press briefing of a joint statement on a climate change meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing Friday, May 31, 2013. (Photo Credit: AP/Andy Wong) Click to Enlarge.
On Tuesday afternoon, a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee questioned Todd Stern, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, in a hearing on the forthcoming Paris climate agreement.

Senator Barrasso (R-WY) used the opportunity to make a number of familiar objections to the agreement.  He claimed, for example, that the agreement “won’t achieve the environmental gains that have been promised.”  He further claimed that the United States is reducing greenhouse gas emissions while fast-developing economies such as China “are getting a pass on having to take any shared economic pain.”  He also claimed that the administration is acting to circumvent Congress and that the agreement must be submitted to the Senate for formal consent.

Stern refuted each of these objections.  The reality, he explained, is that the agreement has the potential to be successful in addressing carbon pollution.  It also will elicit serious climate action from all countries, including fast-developing economies, and will not penalize the U.S. economy.  Further, it is not the case that the administration is seeking to illicitly bypass Congress.

Here are the three myths about the Paris climate agreement, refuted:

‘Paris is bound to fail’
One takeaway from the hearing was that it is a mistake to claim that the Paris agreement is bound to fail. The agreement can actually prove successful in limiting carbon pollution.
‘The United States should not act because the rest of the world will not act’
Another takeaway from the hearing was that it is a fallacy to maintain that the United States should not transition to a clean energy economy because the rest of the world will not act.

In the run-up to Paris, many developing countries are making serious commitments to limit carbon pollution.  Approximately two-thirds of the post-2020 climate goals submitted to the UNFCCC to date have been from developing countries.  Brazil, for example, pledged to reduce emissions 37 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.  South Africa pledged to peak emissions by 2025.  Mexico pledged to peak emissions by 2026.  China pledged to peak emissions around 2030.  India pledged to increase non-fossil energy to account for 40 percent of electric power capacity by 2030....

‘The Senate has to approve any agreement that comes out of Paris’
In the hearing, Barrasso claimed that the agreement must be sent to the Senate for formal consent.  He further charged that “whatever deal is reached in backrooms of the Paris climate change conference, it has been telegraphed by this Administration that the deal will be a calculated end-run around Congress.”

This narrative is misguided; there is no effort to pursue U.S. participation in the agreement illicitly.  Whether the Paris climate agreement will qualify as an executive agreement or a treaty will depend on its content, which is still under negotiation.  Elements that would suggest the need for formal congressional consent include legally binding national emissions reduction goals or legally binding national finance commitments.

It is possible, however, that the Paris agreement will lack these elements and will qualify as an executive agreement rather than a treaty.  Although the core Paris agreement will be legally binding, the associated national goals are expected to be non-binding political commitments.
Stern made clear in the hearing that opposition to the agreement is economic and diplomatic folly.  It is also at odds with the welfare and security of the United States.  The agreement should therefore inspire broad bipartisan support.

Read more at 3 Myths About the Paris Climate Agreement, Refuted

No comments:

Post a Comment