Analyst: US Senate Should Unilaterally Refuse to Ratify Paris Climate Treaty

“The Senate leadership does not want an institutional fight,” but after cedingits institutional prerogative to President Obama over the Iran nuclear deal, it can and should reclaim its constitutional role by unilaterally refusing to ratify theParis climate change treaty, saysChristopher Horner, an attorney and senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

“Although the Senate’s treaty function has been greatly diminished, refusing to ratify sends a statement to the world that this agreement should be regarded as a promise, not a commitment. But not doing anything is, in fact, a commitment,” Horner told

“The ball really is in the Senate’s court,” he continued. “Obama knows that if the Senate says something, his signed pledge will be under a cloud. But if the Senate lets this go, there is no middle ground.”

All signatory nations have between April 22, 2016 and April 21, 2017 to “deposit their respective instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession” to their “voluntary participation” in the United Nations’ attempt to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement will not go into effect until 55 nations, accounting for 55 percent of total global greenhouse emissions, ratify it.

There is historical precedent for the Senate refusing to ratify an international agreement signed by the president, Horner said.

The “Kyoto [Protocol] was signed, but never ratified,” he pointed out. “The Senate was a necessary part of the process, and until it gave its consent, no one could view it as a binding treaty.”

However, he added that there’s no historical precedent for the president to sign a treaty and then bypass Congress by refusing to send it to the Senate for ratification.

“We have no precedent, and the only reason we don’t is that we’ve never had a chief executive saying that our constitutional system is such a problem that I’m going around it, and I dare the Senate and the courts to do anything about it,” Horner told

In 1992, the Senate ratified the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty signed by the U.S. in Rio de Janeiro with an explicit pledge from then President George H.W. Bush that any future agreements involving “targets and timetables” would be sent to the Senate for ratification.

“The fact that [Senators] George Mitchell (D-ME) and Clayborne Pell (D-RI) said that any future agreements involving targets and timetables needed to be sent to the Senate for ratification means nothing to this crowd if it stands in their way,” Horner said.