While most Americans were out shopping on Black Friday, Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) was busy sending a letter to Barack Obama with an important message for the president to take to Copenhagen: Don’t forget about us. Senator Webb’s letter to President Obama said the following:
Dear Mr. President:
I would like to express my concern regarding reports that the Administration may believe it has the unilateral power to commit the government of the United States to certain standards that may be agreed upon at the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties 15 in Copenhagen, Denmark. The phrase “politically binding” has been used.
Although details have not been made available, recent statements by Special Envoy on Climate Change Todd Stern indicate that negotiators may be intending to commit the United States to a nationwide emission reduction program. As you well know from your time in the Senate, only specific legislation agreed upon in the Congress, or a treaty ratified by the Senate, could actually create such a commitment on behalf of our country.
I would very much appreciate having this matter clarified in advance of the Copenhagen meetings.”
Although a House cap and trade bill narrowly passed this summer, there are more than enough reasons why cap and trade or any other carbon reduction scheme is not U.S. law right now. But the two big reasons are that it is prohibitively costly, thereby reducing economic growth and increasing unemployment, and it is highly ineffective, reducing the global temperature by only a fraction of a degree in a century’s time.
Webb’s mention of the phrase “politically binding” is an important one since any international treaty is legally binding on the U.S. under the supremacy clause of the Constitution, and therefore by nature represents a potential erosion of our nation’s sovereignty. In a recent paper, Heritage Fellow Steven Groves outlines the sovereignty concerns that could result from a carbon reduction treaty agreed to in Copenhagen. He points out that multilateral treaties are much more dangerous than bilateral treaties since “the U.S. has less control over the final terms of multilateral treaties and thus less control over what obligations it has to the other treaty parties. The less control the U.S. has over the final terms of a treaty, the greater the possibility that the terms of the treaty will not comport with U.S. national interests.” Moreover, a post-Kyoto treaty’s “intrusive compliance and enforcement mechanisms; the inability to submit reservations, understandings, or declarations to its terms” are all reasons that legitimize Senator Webb’s concerns.
You can read the rest of Groves’ paper, “The “Kyoto II” Climate Change Treaty: Implications for American Sovereignty” and the rest of Heritage’s work on Copenhagen here.