Recent media reports suggest a conflict within the Trump White House over whether to keep the president’s campaign promise “to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement,” the successor to the rejected Kyoto Protocol. President Trump also promised to roll Barack Obama’s controversial and harmful climate agenda back, yet the Paris agreement, signed in September 2016 just before the presidential election, is the capstone of that agenda, committing us to keep the agenda in place, and forever tighten it.
Rescinding the policies but promising to continue them are irreconcilable. Such baby-splitting would create not just a glaring policy conflict in the Trump White House, but would have lasting repercussions.
The pro-Paris camp seems unaware that the agreement promised much more than the Obama climate rules that Mr. Trump is rescinding. Its signature, cynical hook was also a promise to make such American laws ever more stringent, every five years, in perpetuity.
Clearly, the Paris agreement is a treaty not just by custom and practice but by its own terms. It thereby requires Senate ratification, which Mr. Trump can seek — and should — if he does not simply renounce the purported commitment.
For the same reason the Paris treaty is the sort of long-term commitment requiring Senate approval, the principal threat against Mr. Trump if he follows through on his promise — diplomatic blowback — makes absolutely no sense. With its escalator clause requiring promises of more stringent cuts every five years the Paris treaty deliberately engineered a recurring threat of diplomatic repercussions unless we adopt devastating policies. If we do not abandon the Paris treaty now, but simply claim we will not abide by it, both Mr. Trump and his successors will face the same threat not once, but every five years, until we relent.