Senators move to block Paris deal in latest threat to Obama's climate agenda

Madeleine Cuff
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Senators demand Congressional vote on any UN climate deal and threaten to block $3bn in climate aid

Three senators have issued formal objections of the UN climate talks taking place in Paris later this month, demanding US congress vote on any deal before it takes effect on US policy or spending.

In a resolution submitted yesterday the three senators - Republicans Jim Inhofe and Roy Blunt, and Democrat Joe Manchin - demanded the Senate be allowed to "exercise its constitutional control" over US involvement in any international climate agreement.

"The international community needs to be aware that US Congress and the American people do not support President Obama's international climate agenda," Inhofe said in a statement. The senator, who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, is well-known for his climate-sceptic views.

The resolution demands the deal be put to the Senate regardless of its legal form if it is found to include: mitigation efforts that put US industry at a disadvantage to other countries, financial commitments that would need to be passed by Congress, an agreement to have US action on mitigation or adaption overseen by an international body, or a ratchet mechanism to review ambition at regular intervals.

The White House insists there will be no need for Congressional ratification of any agreement, as the US will oppose any attempt to deliver a legally binding treaty. It is keen to avoid any climate package reaching Congress, where it would likely be rejected by a hostile Republican majority.

Last week Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters a Paris deal was "definitively not going to be a treaty", prompting EU officials to insist the deal would be legally binding.

However, even if the US avoids the agreement being classified as a treaty it is likely to include funding commitments and international pledges to review emissions reductions.

The resolution is the latest in a series of attempts this week by Senators to block Obama's climate agenda. Separately, 37 Republican senators, led by Inhofe, wrote to the White House on Wednesday expressing their opposition to Obama's $3bn climate aid commitment, which will be discussed at the UN summit.

The senators warned they would move to block Obama's budget requests for the Green Climate Fund if the Senate is not given an opportunity to vote on an overall climate deal coming out of Paris.

The latest move also comes just two days after the Republican-controlled Senate voted to repeal a central plank of Obama's Clean Power Plan. The resolution, which passed 52 votes to 46, would scrap the requirement on US power stations to cut their carbon dioxide emissions.

Obama said he would veto any legislation attempting to roll back the scope of the Clean Power Plan, which is a central element of his climate legacy.

This article is part of BusinessGreen's Road to Paris hub, hosted in association with PwC.

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