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While Washington focuses on whether President Obama will sign on to a nuclear agreement with Iran without submitting the deal for Senate approval, the administration is following a similar strategy on a global climate change policy that could leave the U.S. beholden to an International Climate Justice Tribunal.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, recently released the negotiating language for the agreement to the public. The official purpose of pursuing a “universal climate agreement” is to renew the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 deal championed by then-Vice President Al Gore but resoundingly condemned by the U.S. Senate. President George W. Bush eventually cut all U.S. ties to Kyoto.
Competitive Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Chris Horner, who raised alarm about the proposed tribunal in Sunday’s edition of the Washington Times, says that provision is ominous for the United States.
“What is climate justice? This is troubling for several reasons,” said Horner, who added that his first concern is President Obama attempting an end run around the Senate’s role in ratifying any international treaties.
“The Senate has an advisory and a confirmation role in international agreements,” he said. “Whatever comes out of these Kyoto II talks, the president said, ‘It’s not a treaty, so I don’t need to go through the Senate.’ But now we see this draft that has a court. That’s a problem.”
The first problem, he said, is that the U.S. has always vigorously resisted being subject to any international court, despite the best efforts of the political left.
“You know about the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST). That was a global environmental treaty as well as a wealth transfer,” he said. “It had a court as well, and that was a major reason the United States never ratified it. The first thing Ronald Reagan did was push that aside. Bill Clinton later signed it, but we’ve never ratified it because it had a court. It was Kyoto with a court.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with Chris Horner:
Horner said it’s also a problem in part because this tribunal will mainly be looking to punish one country – the United States.
“Now we actually have a Kyoto court and the president saying ratification has proven to be a problem. We’ve seen that when our system causes him obstacles, he decides he doesn’t have any use for our system. Now we see there’s going to be, in a treaty, a climate justice tribunal, which I assure you has one country in mind and it will not be stacked with the Antonin Scalias of the world,” said Horner, who elaborated more on what the tribunal would likely be about.
“It will be stacked with people who style themselves as climate jurists seeking climate justice, which as we’ve seen in recent years, means pretty much any grievance there is, climate is an excuse to force a wealth transfer to remedy it,” he said.
Why would the United States have any interest in joining an agreement that largely targets it for climate violations or makes us subject to a legal entity outside of our own judicial system? Horner said it’s part ideology and partly driven by policy.
First, he said there are many leaders and activists on the political left in America and around the world who don’t like our system.
“There are a lot of people, including the head of the UNFCCC, which is the U.N. body running this and some academics and some authors who have come out saying, ‘Look, capitalism is the problem. This is how we solve the problem. This is how we solve capitalism.’ There are a lot of people who believe that, including some in the administration,” said Horner, who said the climate-change movement has had the U.S. economy in its cross hairs from Day 1.
“It was transparently all about us when [Kyoto] was drafted in the ’90s,” he said. “When Asia happened and all this development occurred, thank goodness, and their emissions began skyrocketing while ours did not, it remained about us. Now that’s odd if it really was about greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Now that they’re putting in a court and claiming they’re going to go around the U.S. Senate, you need to be very concerned because these climate jurists will not be those who have our best interests at heart,” he said.
Horner said another major motivation for Obama to get involved in this climate agreement is to help lock his own environmental policies in place.
“He’s trying to make sure that his EPA rules are too politically hot-buttoned that his successor will not touch them and undo them,” Horner explained. “Congress will not undo them and the courts will be reluctant to undo them.”
Does the Senate have a way to stop this if the agreement is never presented for ratification? Horner said there is and it means following the strategy we’ve seen Senate Republicans already take this week on Iran.
“They need to make the same statement, either in a letter or perhaps through a Sense of the Senate Resolution saying that anything he does that purports to bind us in Paris on climate is freelancing,” he said. “Do not think this is a treaty because we don’t.”
Horner cited a Sense of the Senate Resolution passed unanimously in the 1990s to denounce the Kyoto Protocol before it was even adopted at the conference. As a result, the Clinton administration never submitted the plan for ratification and the U.S. was never bound by it.
He admits the Senate can no longer get a unanimous vote on this issue, but he says you don’t need that many when two-thirds of the Senate would be required to approve it.
“Fifty-one votes is plenty,” he said. “To be honest, 34 votes is plenty. You have to put the world on notice, because of something called customary international law which our courts sometimes bow to, that whatever happens is not a treaty if it doesn’t go through the Senate.”