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A New Kellogg-Briand Pact
We Can Already See How Toothless the Paris Climate Treaty Is

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision last week to order the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to suspend its regulation to cut emissions from power plants—called the Clean Power Plan—was a shot across the bow to the President’s climate legacy. Checked by Congress in 2010, Obama had to resort to regulation in order to achieve his climate goals, and the centerpiece of that strategy was the now-frozen Clean Power Plan, which set emissions reductions goals for states but did not specify how they might achieve those. The downside of going the regulation route, as has just been illustrated, is that it opens itself up to legal challenges, and so far 27 states have filed suit. The Supreme Court ruled that the EPA can’t enforce the Clean Power Plan until these challenges are settled, and in so doing set itself up as the likely eventual decider of the regulation’s fate.

Justice Scalia’s death adds another layer of uncertainty on the matter, however, as he was one of the 5 justices who voted to suspend. If the Clean Power Plan really is kaput, though, Obama loses his marquee emissions reduction policy tool, and the U.S. loses the ability to follow through on what we “committed” to at the December Paris climate summit. Unsurprisingly, America’s head climate negotiator has spent the last week assuring the rest of the world that all is well. The BBC reports:

As US lead negotiator, Todd Stern has been visiting Europe as part of efforts to “reassure” countries that America will stick to its promises. “We anticipate that the Clean Power Plan will be upheld,” he told reporters in London. “But if for whatever reason it is not, then we will have to use other means to get to our target, but we are not backing off our target.” […]

“There was a lot of blowback that the US got generally diplomatically across the range of diplomatic concerns and I have no doubt that it would be very significant if the US were to do that with regard to Paris, probably much, much more significant than what happened before,” [said Stern]. “There is a record there that you can look at to have a pretty good sense that there would be diplomatic consequences.”

Stern is trying to paint a menacing picture of ominous “consequences” if the U.S. doesn’t follow through on what it agreed upon in Paris, but already we’re seeing just how toothless this treaty was. The UN isn’t going to sanction the U.S. if the Clean Power Plan is binned, and this lack of an enforceability mechanism is one of the key problems with any international approach to climate change. The United States isn’t the only country whose court system or domestic politics are going to make it difficult to achieve the goals set in Paris, but there’s nothing beyond “naming and shaming” that the international community can do to cajole a country into sticking to the deal. We knew in the run-up to the Paris summit that any deal reached would be little more than a green version of the Kellogg-Briand pact, and now we’re seeing that in action. It sure didn’t take long.

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  • Blackbeard

    Either Obama will appoint a fifth ultra-liberal justice, or, if the Republicans stall him, Hillary will. Either way the days when the Supreme Court interfered with anything the progressives want to do are over. As for Paris, the countries that don’t care (China, India, most of Africa, etc.) will pay lip service but will do nothing that interferes with their economic development. In the US global warming is a religious issue for the left so we will march ahead, right over the cliff.

    • Jim__L

      Hillary’s going to end up in prison. =)

      • Blackbeard

        You really think the Obama Justice Department is going to indict the Democratic front runner?

        • Proud Skeptic

          Actually, I trust James Comey to conduct a thorough investigation and to make an correct recommendation on indictment. Whether the Obama Administration follows through, is difficult to predict. There are reasons to go both ways.

          That said, I fully expect a leak if the Administration doesn’t follow the FBI’s recommendations.

          Either way, this is it.

          • Jim__L

            Here’s to hoping.

            Although I’m not sure what they could leak about Hillary that would be more damaging than they’ve already published. Maybe it would be damaging to Obama — although that they could bury just by waiting out the clock.

        • Jim__L

          I think that Hillary’s on very thin ice here. It wouldn’t take much — only one person deciding to be reasonably scrupulous in enforcing the laws she appears to have broken — to put her into a courtroom.

      • Andrew Allison

        Fingers crossed [grin]

      • f1b0nacc1

        I think that the FBI will almost certainly recommend prosecution, but given the recent news that Obama was aware of this rogue email server (and possibly more than just ‘aware’), I wonder about whether or not she is going to be indicted or not. I still think there is a good chance of it, but I am not yet certain. The more interesting question is what happens if she is indicted? “Running out the clock” on legal proceedings (in this case, delaying and obscuring matters while the election proceeds apace) is a real option for HRC, however destructive this would be to the country as a whole.

        • Jim__L

          If Obama was “more than just aware”, we may be looking at grounds for impeachment.

          • f1b0nacc1

            If Obama was white, he would have been impeached already. He isn’t, and (considering that the election is only 9 months away), he won’t be. He could kill and eat a small child on live television in front of witnesses and the Dems would find some way to blame the kid.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    “we “committed” to”?

    There is no “WE” here, only Obama and the other anti-science “Warmists”. That the Senate and Supreme Court have all rejected “Global Warming” as a lie, shows just how much support there is for the Warmists. So there is no “WE”.

    • f1b0nacc1

      In fairness, the SCOTUS has not rejected AGW as a lie (it is, but that is another discussion), they in fact accepted the basis for AGW a few years back when they allowed regulation of CO2 emissions, based on ‘settled science’ regarding AGW. What they did here was reject Obama’s EPA, and its particular method of rule-making.
      With that quibble aside, I agree with you completely….there is no “We” here…

  • dawnsblood

    It was always going to have problems. The administration negotiated a treaty but decided not to treat it like one. This means a commitment that lasts as long as the nation’s top executive decides it does. Parties and politicians in the US have decided their job is done the moment 50% + 1 voter is convinced (for the moment) on a course of action or a political candidate.

    Since they have all seemingly given up on actually making a case and convincing the public as a whole, policy will flop back and forth depending on who wins a given election. I am sick of hearing ‘its too hard’ or ‘voters are too polarized’. That is the job. Do it or find another job.

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