The Obama administration is reportedly planning to bypass the American Congress to forge a climate change agreement that is to cut world carbon emissions.
Addressing global warming
As we have previously written, the 2011 UN climate talks in Durban failed to produce a legally binding international treaty on climate change, instead committing to a second phase of the Kyoto protocol. Negotiators however agreed on of a legally binding treaty to address global warming, the so called ‘Durban Platform for Enhanced Action’, the terms of which are to be defined by 2015. The treaty is to become effective in 2020.
It is reported that in preparation for the 2015 negotiations, United Nation representatives have been meeting with diplomats from some of the world’s largest economies to ensure their commitment to carbon pollution reduction.
Under the U.S. Constitution, however, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the United States Senate – a situation that is unlikely to occur in light of the heated American political debate on the validity of climate change.
Obama’s climate change treaty politically instead of legally binding
To circumvent any political opposition, Barack Obama is looking to re-package the upcoming climate change treaty as a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions.
The hybrid agreement would mix the legally binding conditions of 1992’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with new voluntary country pledges, thus avoiding the need for a new vote on 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, writes The New York Times.
What about other big emitters?
Obama’s climate change dedication is nothing new: in his second inaugural speech, the president promised that his administration will respond to the threat of climate change, citing an obligation to posterity and future generations.
However, the commitment of just one mega-polluter may not be enough: even with the United States aboard, any climate change treaty would, in order to function, require the participation of the reluctant India and China as well.
This exact issue was the bone of contention already in 2011’s Durban talks, with the EU threatening to ratify the new phase of the Kyoto climate change pact only if the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas ratified the new Kyoto as well.
And while the question of who will sign what, in which form and under which conditions remains, reports have surfaced that global warming may already be here and be irreversible.
States a draft report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sent to world governments at the end of August:
Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.
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