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Ten Minutes again…Mr. President? Mr. President? On the Paris Climate Agreement…

I was searching about for hints on whether Trump will “ratify” (which a President cannot do – only a President together with 2/3 (67) of the Senate can “ratify” a treaty) the Paris Climate Accords (Here’s Sandy’s reasons why he should NOT) and I found this CNN headline for this post by John D. Sutter and for two reasons, I just could not resist another post:

There’s one sentence that could decide the fate of the planet (yes, really)

Sutter’s headline is right but not in the way he means!  For there is one sentence that could (and will) decide the fate of the planet:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
John 3:16 (KJV)

Sutter did not cite John 3:16 so I think he did NOT mean that sentence!  For if all believed in and walked in the light of these words, the fate of the planet would indeed be secure.  (To know more about faith in Jesus, go here!)

Rather John D. Sutter meant these words:

Here it is, Article 4.11 of the Paris Agreement (Warning, it’s boring. But stay with me): “A Party may at any time adjust its existing nationally determined contribution with a view to enhancing its level of ambition, in accordance with guidance adopted by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Agreement.”
And here is my rough translation into human-speak: Any country that signs onto the Paris Agreement has to make a pledge to reduce pollution, called a “nationally determined contribution.” The United States, for example, pledged to reduce heat-trapping emissions 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Anyway, these pledges are the building blocks of this agreement. The overall goal is to eliminate fossil fuel pollution this century, to avoid sinking low-lying islands, flooding cities like New Orleans and creating the sort of runaway warming that scientists say could lead to mass extinction. Hopefully these pollution reduction pledges will get MORE AMBITIOUS over time. But we’re not saying explicitly that they MUST get more ambitious.
Not sure if Sutter is an attorney or had legal training but I am not sure how the words “with a view to enhancing its level of ambition” to be anything but an explicit statement (well explicit to lawyers anyway) that the official pledge made in accordance with the Paris accord (which has NOT happened yet, Sutter’s language notwithstanding, because former President Obama, thank the Lord, cannot unilaterally bind the US to a treaty!) is binding and the pledge can only be made higher or more ambitious.
Since this is the most important sentence since John 3:16, according to Sutter and CNN, let finish this out:
“…in accordance with guidance adopted by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to this Agreement.”
Do you think the Official Climate Fellers who dreamed this stuff up will ever approve a less ambitious climate regime?  To ask the question is to answer it.  But Sutter reassures us:  This is not an explicit binding of the US to ratchet up its pledge and can never dial it back down:
Todd Stern, Obama’s special envoy for climate change, told me this week that while this is the intent of the Paris Agreement, countries are not legally bound to ratchet up their ambitions. In fact, he said, negotiators discussed and then left out language in the all-important sentence that would have required countries not to moderate their pledges. “We obviously didn’t want parties to be going back, but we also thought it would be counterproductive to have a legal bar saying ‘thou shalt not go back,'” Stern told me.
With all due respect to Ambassador Stern, the only reasonable reading of that language is exactly that.  A binding pledge.  That cannot be undone or moderated.  Something like the laws of the Medes and Persians.  So I think CNN is engaging in a misinformation campaign.   But they give themselves away a bit in this paragraph:
Often, climate wonks talk about this issue of ambition as a “ratcheting mechanism.” It’s an apt metaphor. Think of your toolbox. A ratchet — or socket wrench — is the tool that lets you tighten bolts in one direction only. You can’t turn them the other way seamlessly.
So I must say:  Thank you to CNN (I need to lay down for a few minutes after writing that!) for inspiring me to realize that this Paris Climate Agreement is also a sovereignty-killer!  Even though CNN tried to fool the people with fake facts again.  (One fake fact is that the US is already bound to the pledge it made when it signed the Paris agreement.  Again, the Constitution says treaties are not binding unless 2/3 of the Senate vote to ratify the treaty!)  Sutter might reassure some that this is no real treaty BUT we ought not be fooled.
So if I had ten minutes with President Trump, I’d advise him to, in the immortal words of Nancy Reagan, just say no.  And not because he might be able to weasel out of an obligation the US DID NOT legally make.  But because it is not, as Ron Paul would say, authorized by the Constitution.

About Elwood Sanders

Elwood “Sandy” Sanders is a Hanover attorney who is an Appellate Procedure Consultant for Lantagne Legal Printing and has written ten scholarly legal articles. Sandy was also Virginia’s first Appellate Defender and also helped bring curling in VA! (None of these titles imply any endorsement of Sanders’ views)

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Tom White Says:

Nothing is more conservative than a republican wanting to get their majority back. And nothing is more liberal than a republican WITH a majority.

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