The Obama administration's strategy for inking a climate change deal would involve voluntary pledges and binding commitments from a 1992 treaty that wouldn't require Senate ratification, according to a report.
That the White House was searching for a way around a Senate that was unlikely to approve an international climate pact by the necessary two-thirds majority wasn't much of a secret. Republicans on Capitol Hill are likely to object to the strategy — they have fought various Obama administration efforts designed to address climate change, such as twin proposals to limit carbon emissions from new and existing power plants.
But the New York Times account offered some details regarding the administration's approach ahead of international negotiations next year in Paris.
Under the evolving terms, which Obama administration negotiators are pursuing through bilateral meetings with officials from other countries, nations would make legally binding commitments to adopt climate change policies. Countries would then voluntarily set their own targets to cut emissions and send money to poorer nations to help them adapt to the effects of climate change. Nations would then need to report their progress at annual meetings.
Negotiators are looking at United Nations-hosted Paris talks as a last-ditch effort to secure enough carbon-cutting commitments by 2020 to avoid a 2-degrees Celsius global temperature rise by the end of the century.
But GOP lawmakers would almost stand in the way of approving a binding treaty.
Many are still skeptical of the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans drive climate change, largely by burning fossil fuels. They've also said steps to cut emissions would harm economic competitiveness if other nations don't take similar steps — countries like China and India have traditionally been holdouts of international pacts, saying agreeing to restrain emissions would keep millions in poverty.
David Kreutzer, a research fellow in energy economics and climate change with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the Senate should be allowed to weigh in on any sort of climate commitment.
“Costly and ultimately ineffective climate policies have been repeatedly rejected by the U.S.," Kreutzer said in a statement, adding, "Thumbing his nose at democratic process and the U.S. Constitution, President Obama wants to ensnare the U.S. in a wealth-transfer scheme dressed up as global-warming policy."
Kreutzer noted the upper chamber unanimously approved a non-binding resolution in 1997 that was designed to thwart ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and other international climate deals if they didn't require emissions cuts of developing nations or "would seriously harm the economy of the United States."
That climate treaty, which then-President Clinton signed, was never put up for a vote.