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House Moves to Block President from Leaving Paris Climate Agreement

July 1, 2019

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to block President Donald Trump’s decision to take the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to block President Donald Trump’s decision to take the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

Radical Greenhouse Gas Reductions

Under the terms of the Paris climate agreement, which the Obama administration helped develop and President Barack Obama signed in 2015, the United States committed to reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions 28 percent below its 2005 levels by 2025.

In a rebuke to the Obama administration at a Rose Garden press event in June 2017, Trump announced he would withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement. This action was in keeping with a commitment Trump made during his campaign for the presidency. Trump said the agreement was bad for the U.S. economy and the world did not face a climate crisis.

Under the terms of the agreement, the United States cannot withdraw before November 4, 2020, one day after next year’s presidential election and four years after the agreement went into effect.

‘We Are Still In’

H.R. 9, the Climate Action Now Act (CANA), is arguably the most significant climate change bill the House has passed in a decade. CANA would block the president from using any federal funds to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

The bill also directs Trump to develop a plan to meet the emission reduction targets in the agreement.

This bill would ensure the United States complies with the Paris agreement, says Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“Today we sent a message to the president, to the American people, and to the world that we recognize the seriousness of the climate crisis, and that we intend to do our part to address it,” Pallone said a statement. “Today we sent the message: We are still in.”

The House, currently controlled by the Democratic Party, passed CANA on May 2, almost two years after Trump said he would withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement, with a vote of 231 in favor of the bill and 190 opposed. The vote was along party lines, with three Republicans joining the Democratic majority in passing the bill.

‘Exciting Political Theater’

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) characterized the bill as symbolic, saying on the Senate floor it was “exciting political theater” by House Democrats but he did not intend to bring the measure up for a vote in the Senate.

“This futile gesture to handcuff the U.S. economy through the ill-fated Paris deal will go nowhere here in the Senate,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “We’re in the business of actually helping middle-class families, not inventing new obstacles to throw in their paths.”

The Trump administration also panned the bill in a statement, saying it would “interfere with the President’s constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations, including the authority to withdraw from an executive agreement.”

In a bit of legislative theatrics of his own, McConnell forced a Senate vote in March on the Green New Deal (GND), a bill that would force the United States essentially to end the use of fossil fuels by 2030. The chamber overwhelmingly rejected the bill, with three Democrats and one Independent joining the entire Republican caucus in voting against it. The bill did not garner a single vote in its favor, with even its authors and sponsors voting “present” instead of yes.

House Republicans still hope to bring the GND up for a floor vote. In May, Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) filed a discharge petition to force a vote on the resolution.

Agreement, or Treaty?

Though officially referred to as an agreement, the Paris climate pact is a treaty in all but name. Realizing it would never receive the two-thirds supermajority required for Senate ratification, the Obama administration labeled the Paris climate document an “executive agreement” instead of a treaty, and it sought to implement it through a string of regulatory actions restricting the development and use of fossil fuels.

The Paris climate agreement would cost the country trillions of dollars while doing nothing to affect climate change, says Jay Lehr, Ph.D., a senior policy analyst at the International Climate Science Coalition.

“President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement was primarily driven by the enormous costs it would have imposed on American families and businesses,” said Lehr. “Estimates of its costs ran as high as $2.5 trillion, yet even many of the agreement’s backers acknowledge if all the parties to it kept their commitments, the effect on global temperatures would be negligible.

“What would not be negligible would be the massive reduction and redistribution of income which lies at the core of the climate-change agenda,” Lehr said. “With its vote, the House is virtue-signaling and participating in the scientific fraud that is manmade global warming.”

Overtaken by Events?

The plentiful energy delivered by the fracking revolution has undermined the Paris climate agreement and other laws and treaties intended to restrict fossil fuel development, much to the dismay of climate fear-mongers and profiteers, says Craig Rucker, president of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT).

“The Paris Agreement is about hamstringing the U.S. energy behemoth,” said Rucker. “Nothing sends chills down the spines of climate alarmists, and the purveyors of renewable energy who hope to profit from mandated energy scarcity, more than the prospect of the United States supplying itself and much of the rest of the world with affordable and reliable energy.”

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. (bcohen@nationalcenter.org) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and a senior policy analyst with CFACT.

Official Connections

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ): https://pallone.house.gov/; https://palloneforms.house.gov/contact/

Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA): https://hice.house.gov/; https://hice.house.gov/contact/

Author
Bonner R. Cohen is a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, a position he has held since 2002.
bcohen@nationalcenter.org