The Details Of Kyoto

The June 5 World News article “China Outlines Modest Environmental Goals” asserted that the “Bush administration has refused to ratify” the Kyoto Protocol.

The Constitution vests 101 individuals with roles in forming treaties, one of whom is the president. Pursuant to Article II, Section 2, the president is limited to making agreements; he has no constitutional role in ratification.

Once a pact is signed — as Kyoto was on Nov. 12, 1998 — the executive function is one of protocol. The president may send a transmittal letter seeking a Senate vote, which usually but not always asks for ratification. An example is the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, for which President Bill Clinton lobbied. Alternatively, he may do nothing beyond the act of signing, or maintaining a predecessor's signature on, a pact. An example is Clinton signing Kyoto but deciding against seeking ratification, a stance inherited and adopted by President Bush.

A president is not empowered to ratify a treaty; only the Senate is. The Post should know better.