Sen. Mike Lee on Thursday will introduce a resolution “expressing the sense of Congress” that President Barack Obama should submit an international climate deal expected to be struck in Paris next month to the Senate for its approval.
The measure will be filed as a “concurrent resolution,” meaning it represents the views of both chambers of Congress, but is non-binding, so it does not function as a law or require approval of the president.
Indeed, the resolution is meant more as a messaging vehicle to pressure Obama to submit the climate deal as a treaty. The House and Senate must both pass the resolution.
The House is expected to file an identical resolution.
Officials representing United Nations member states will gather in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 to negotiate an international agreement for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas emitted from coal and other fossil fuels.
To avoid the objection of congressional Republicans, the Obama administration has indicated it plans to negotiate the deal in a way where it would not be submitted to Congress as a legally binding treaty, which must be approved by two-thirds of the Senate.
According to a report in the New York Times, the Obama administration will argue that the agreement can be produced as an executive agreement, and not a treaty, because it is already legally protected under a 1992 United Nations climate change treaty.
Under the plan reported by the Times, the U.S. and other countries would be legally required to certify that they will enact climate change policies, but would only voluntarily commit to a specific level of emissions cuts.
The 1992 treaty, called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was signed by President George H.W. Bush and ratified by the Senate. Its objective is to “stabilize” greenhouse gas emissions, but it does not set emissions limits or timetables on individual countries.
Lee and other Republican critics argue that Bush and the then-Democratically controlled Senate committed to the 1992 treaty with the understanding that future agreements containing timetables and/or targets would be submitted to Congress.
It’s unclear if Obama’s international climate deal would contain “legally binding” timetables or targets.
“Any agreement adopted containing targets and timetables, whether deemed legally binding or not, must be submitted to the Senate for advice and consent,” Lee’s resolution reads.
The resolution also says Congress should refuse to authorize funding that would help other, less developed countries implement their climate plans.
Obama has already pledged $3 billion to the “Green Climate Fund,” where developed countries, with contributions from public and private sources, would help developing nations confront climate change.
Republicans have blocked efforts to appropriate the money.
“Congress should refuse to consider any budget resolutions and appropriations language that include funding for the Green Climate Fund or any affiliated body or financial mechanism unless and until all agreements on emissions targets and timetables are submitted to the Senate for advice and consent,” the resolution concludes.
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