The Paris Climate Treaty Signing DebacleAlan Carlin | April 22, 2016
Today Secretary of State Kerry signed the proposed Paris climate treaty for the US. His signature will not actually commit the US to do anything, of course, since the treaty will not become an obligation of the US unless and until it is ratified by the Senate, which is highly unlikely. As in a number of other policy areas, the Obama Administration is attempting to rewrite the Constitution in its favor, in this case by claiming that the treaty is not a treaty and can be approved by the President as an executive agreement. This is nonsense, of course, as explained here.
The Majority Staff of the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee issued an extensive report on the treaty yesterday. They argue that the treaty will be no more effective than the Kyoto Protocol has been since the treaty would probably do little more in terms of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than the Kyoto Protocol, which it would replace. And that was very little.
The report points out that the US reductions have been much greater than other developed countries that did ratify Kyoto as a result of the action of the market mechanism, which encouraged the use of fracking and other improved technology to lower the cost of producing natural gas. This resulted in the substitution of cheaper natural gas (with half the carbon content) for coal for generating electricity. This happened even though the US never ratified the Protocol.
The Treaty Requires Little More from the Less Developed Countries than Kyoto Did
But the treaty requires little or nothing from the less developed countries, particularly China and India. This was supposed to be the major change from the Kyoto Protocol and would certainly be needed in any serious effort to reduce emissions since these countries have much more rapidly expanding emissions than the developed countries. But the wording adopted in Paris would make little or no difference in emissions from the less developed countries.
Despite the failure of the Kyoto Protocol to make any significant reduction in CO2 emissions, and quite likely the Paris treaty as well, the Obama Administration is intent on trying to get the US to unilaterally make expensive reductions in US emissions, and both Democratic presidential candidates Clinton and Sanders want to go so far as to abandon the use of fossil fuels altogether even though that is impossible in most areas if the electrical network is to continue to meet America’s electricity needs.