President Barack Obama is working to sidestep Congress and commit to a sweeping international climate change agreement at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015, the New York Times reported late Tuesday.
According to the Times, the agreement would compel signing countries to slash their carbon dioxide emissions through a fusion of volunteer pledges and legal requirements.
President Barack Obama speaks about veterans issues at the American Legion’s 96th National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Obama, however, would have to employ some legal gymnastics to make the agreement, since the president is legally required by the U.S. Constitution to have all legally binding treaties approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.
The Times reported that Obama plans to bypass that requirement by crafting a “politically binding” deal which would “name and shame” countries to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gasses.
American negotiators are instead homing in on a hybrid agreement — a proposal to blend legally binding conditions from an existing 1992 treaty with new voluntary pledges. The mix would create a deal that would update the treaty, and thus, negotiators say, not require a new vote of ratification.
Countries would be legally required to enact domestic climate change policies — but would voluntarily pledge to specific levels of emissions cuts and to channel money to poor countries to help them adapt to climate change. Countries might then be legally obligated to report their progress toward meeting those pledges at meetings held to identify those nations that did not meet their cuts.
“There’s some legal and political magic to this,” said Jake Schmidt, an expert in global climate negotiations with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group. “They’re trying to move this as far as possible without having to reach the 67-vote threshold” in the Senate.
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