By Michael Collins
There has been a lot of noise from Democratic office holders and candidates that they will uphold the Paris Agreement on climate change. They also demand to know if Gov. Larry Hogan and other Maryland Republicans will do likewise.
Such progressives as Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, and the Democratic candidates for mayor in Annapolis think it is a great strategy to label Republicans as climate and science “deniers.” Republicans should not take the bait.
It’s an unratified treaty
As Rich Douglas pointed out here last week, the Paris Accord really is a treaty. President Barack Obama called it an “executive agreement” in order to bypass the Senate’s Constitutional advice and consent role. By doing so, Obama hoped to make a treaty by fiat—binding future presidents and congresses to an international agreement and financial commitments, without doing the hard work of building consensus at home.
By ruling with a “phone and a pen,” however, Obama’s sleight of hand means his successor can do likewise. Although the Paris Agreement says that signatories cannot pull out for 3-4 years, a treaty that was not ratified in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, laws, and customs is not binding on the United States. So, withdrawing from the accord is well within President Trump’s legal authority.
In response, progressives in Maryland and around the country are vowing to nullify President Trump’s foreign policy by agreeing to the Paris Accord themselves. In their zeal to sign up for this international agreement, however, these progressive leaders are running up against the Logan Act.
While widely perceived as prohibiting private citizens from engaging in foreign policy, the Logan Act says:
“Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without the authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with the intent to influence the measures of any foreign government or of any officer or agency thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies within the United States, or to defeat any measure of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned to not more than three years, or both.”
Since the president of the United States has declared his intention to withdraw from the executive agreement by his predecessor, he is acting within his constitutional foreign policy making role.
Democrats have had jolly good fun accusing President Trump’s family and advisors of violating the Logan Act for talking with the Russian ambassador. By actively trying to undermine President Trump’s foreign policy through “resistance” and by becoming parties to the Paris Accord, however, they may be the ones in real jeopardy of violating the act … not that there ever will be an indictment.
Details, details …
The Paris Accord is not a long document—the English version is 16 pages of high-minded rhetoric. And then there are the appendices, were the devil is in the details.
For example, Article 7 says, “Continuous and enhanced international support shall be provided to developing country Parties … in accordance with the provisions of Articles 9, 10, and 11.” Article 9 says, “Developed country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country parties. …”
The U.N. will administer a fund for climate mitigation projects in the developing world. One needs to go to the Climate Fund link to see that the commitment is $100 billion per year through 2020—and this is a funding floor, not a ceiling. Developed nations are expected to ratchet up funding further.
Keep in mind the U.N.’s shoddy record of mismanagement. Too often U.N. administered aid for international development projects has ended up in the Swiss bank accounts of Third World dictators.
Republicans should get out of their defensive crouch on the Paris Accord and push back on the Paris Democrats. Demand that they explain things, like:
- Do they think it was okay that President Obama bypassed the Senate? If so, why?
- Since they do not represent the United States, how will they honor the Paris Accord international agreement?
- Have they read the entire Paris Accord, including all appendices? Will they honor all aspects of the accord or just some parts? Do they think it is okay that China and India can increase emissions until 2030, and if so, why?
- How will they lower emissions in their jurisdictions?
- How much will their jurisdictions contribute to the annual $100 billion Climate Fund?
Chances are the local climate warriors don’t have any answers to these questions that they would like to share with their constituents. But they should be given the opportunity to answer.
One should hope that these pols have well reasoned responses to such questions and not just moral preening. If not, however, it will show that, when it comes to climate change, they are full of hot air.
Michael Collins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Some links of interest:
NPR—What’s in it?
Pugh, Kamenetz Sign Pledge
Leggett on Paris Accord
Rushern Baker on Paris Accord
Annapolis Democratic Mayoral Candidates
The Hill—Trump Should Kill the bad deal