The Paris Climate Agreement Is a Treaty Requiring Senate Review: Why and How Congress Should Fight President Obama’s Power Grab

President Obama claims the recently adopted Paris Agreement on climate change is not a treaty but rather an executive agreement—a pact he can approve on his sole authority, with the stroke of a pen. Why is he doing this? Because if he were to follow the constitutional treaty-making process, and submit the agreement to the Senate for its advice and consent, the treaty would be dead on arrival. In fact, the Paris Agreement is a treaty. That is the only reasonable conclusion based on U.S. historic practice, the Agreement’s potential costs and risks, its prescriptiveness and “ambition” compared to predecessor climate treaties, and international protocol, including recent instructions from the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat to the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

To safeguard America’s economic future and capacity for self-government, congressional leaders must expose Obama’s climate diplomacy as an attempted end-run around the Constitution’s treaty-making process. They should do so before the President signs the Agreement on Earth Day, April 22, at a United Nations ceremony in New York. The centerpiece of this counteroffensive should be a Sense of Congress resolution emphasizing a clear and simple message: The Paris Agreement is a treaty, and therefore, under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, the United States is not a party, and therefore not bound to its terms, unless the Senate ratifies it. Absent Senate approval, Obama’s climate pledges to the United Nations are just administration proposals, not commitments of the United States.

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