The Treaty Not to Be Called a Treaty

The recent Paris Climate Agreement is clearly a treaty, but like the fable of the emperor’s new clothes, few people are willing to incur the wrath of the regime in power by saying so out loud. Chris Horner made this analogy yesterday at a Capitol Hill briefing on the Paris Climate Agreement and Green Climate Fund. Staffers from Congressional offices, nonprofit organizations, and media outlets huddled inside a Senate hearing room to find out what Congress can do about this disastrous proposal and its parallel funding mechanism, the Green Climate Fund. This Friday the Obama Administration, along with 130 other nations, is set to sign the treaty at United Nations headquarters in New York.

CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis began the event with a quick introduction to the Agreement, a clear power grab from the Obama Administration. This troubling document, negotiated at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-21) in Paris, is “self-renewing,” which means it could bind U.S. policy indefinitely. This is one reason why, the panelists argue, it should be called a treaty and treated as such.

The panel consisted of CEI experts Myron Ebell and Chris Horner, both of whom attended COP-21 last December, and David Kreutezer of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis, who has analyzed the costs that the Paris Climate Agreement will impose on the U.S. economy. 

Horner emphasized the Senate’s responsibility and duty to challenge the treaty by calling it a treaty. The President has hijacked the power of approving treaties, Horner said, by calling a document which is clearly a treaty an agreement instead.

Kreutezer explained how the treaty will make energy more expensive and hit the manufacturing sector especially hard, resulting in lower output and layoffs. Between now and 2035, the average family of four will face a loss of $20,000 in income. Meanwhile, the aggregate GDP loss will be over $2.5 trillion.

For all of this economic pain, the treaty promises the gain of reduced carbon emissions, but actual reductions are likely to be slight. The initiative will reduce household income, slash jobs, cut manufacturing production, and increase product costs while delivering only marginal reductions in greenhouse gases.

Next, Ebell discussed the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the financial mechanism that the United Nations will use to redistribute billions of dollars per year from developed nations to undeveloped countries in order to fund their emissions reduction programs. While these countries may see this as a free lunch, the economic damage of meeting these goals in both developed and undeveloped counties will far outweigh the value of the funding they have received.

In March, the State Department flagrantly violated Congress’s decision to cut funding for the Green Climate Fund by “re-programming” $500 million from the Department’s Economic Support Fund to the GCF. Congress should respond to this move by preventing such budgetary transfers in the future and reducing appropriations for the Economic Support Fund by an equivalent amount.

To address the Paris Climate Agreement, the Senate should hold hearings to challenge the administration’s claim that it is not a treaty and demand it be submitted for advice and consent. A dangerous precedent will be set if the executive branch believes it can claim exclusive treaty making power and face no challenges from Congress. With the signing of the treaty this Friday, there is no time to lose.