The hysteria about Trump’s repudiation of the Paris Agreement obscures the vital Constitutional issue at stake and the important lesson we can learn from other democracies (journalists hide this from us). Nobody else allows one man to make great commitments for the nation. We should not, either.
The Left loudly asserts that the Paris Agreement was a major agreement, whose provisions were essential to save the Earth. But they also say it is not a treaty, and so does not require Senate ratification. The former is debatable. The latter is wrong; it clearly contradicts the Constitution.
For another perspective, how have our peers — the other developed nations — ratified the Paris Agreement? It is an important decision. The developed nations will pay for the Paris Agreement, both by cutting their CO2 emissions and funding the Green Climate Fund. They required either approval of the legislature or the Cabinet (a formal executive body in many governments). No other developed nation with a democracy allows one man to make such commitments. We are exceptional in this respect, exceptionally stupid. It’s a vital truth, one journalists hide from us.
It’s good news and bad news. While our Republic appears to be decaying fast (see Death of the American Constitution), democracy thrives in other lands.
Nations who ratified it with only approval of the Cabinet
Some governments of developed nations approved it without approval of the legislature — legally (unlike America). Israel ratified it on November 22, after approval by the Cabinet on November 14. The Knesset’s approval is not required. Among the large less-developed nations, India ratified it on October 2, after approval by the Union Cabinet (parliament’s approval not required for treaties).
In these, like most nations in which executive branch can ratify treaties, agreements signed by the executive have no domestic effect except by legislation approved by the legislature.
Nations whose legislatures approved the Paris Agreement
See the dates of ratification at the UN website. The approval dates are from news reports.
- France ratified it on June 15, after Parliament approved it on May 17.
- Norway ratified it on June 20, a week after Parliament approved it.
- Iceland ratified it on September 21, a few days after the Alþingi approved it.
- New Zealand ratified it on October 4, after Parliament recommended approval.
- The EU ratified it on October 5, after Parliament approved it on October 4.
- Germany ratified it on October 5, after both houses of the Bundesrat approved it on September 22 and 23.
- Canada ratified it on October 5, after Parliament approved it on October 5.
- Sweden ratified it on October 13, after the Riksdag approved it on October 12.
- Ireland ratified it on November 4, after the Dáil Éireann approved it on October 27.
- Japan ratified it on November 8 after both houses of parliament approved it.
- Australia ratified it on November 9, after Parliament recommending approval on November 7.
- Italy ratified it on November 11, after the Senate approved it on October 27 (the House approved it the week before).
- Finland approved it on November 14, after Parliament approved it on October 25.
- Britain ratified it on November 16. Parliament had a 21 day period to review and object to it.
Most of the less-developed nations also followed the rule of law
We can learn from these nations about how to run a democracy. For example…
- Brazil ratified it on September 21, after their Senate approved it on August 11.
- China ratified it on September 3, after Parliament approved it on September 3.
- India ratified it on October 2, after approval by the Union Cabinet (no parliamentary approval required).
- Ukraine ratified it on September 19, after Parliament approved it on July 14.
Some have not ratified the treaty
Another detail journalists don’t tell us.
How much would the Green Fund contributions called for by the Paris Agreement have cost the US? This large and open-ended obligation was one reason Trump gave for withdrawing from the Agreement. Here is India’s estimate of what they would be due from the developed nations, from their October 2015 statement of “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” (see an explanation of that language). Red emphasis added.
“India’s climate actions have so far been largely financed from domestic resources. A substantial scaling up of the climate action plans would require greater resources. … a preliminary estimate suggests that at least USD 2.5 trillion (at 2014-15 prices) will be required for meeting India’s climate change actions between now and 2030.”
It is a sad day when we can take lessons from China in best practices of a Republic.
The Constitution is all we have. Without it America is just a collection of people living together, many of whom don’t like each other. No matter how serious the issue, we cannot afford to fight it by burning strips of the Constitution.
Should the US ratify the Paris Agreement? That is a separate question. See yesterday’s post, The cold facts about the Paris Agreement, global warming, & the Constitution.
For More Information
- Important: Forecast: Death of the American Constitution.
- Conservatives tells us not to worry about the Constitution’s death.
- We’ve worked through all 5 stages of grief for the Republic. Now, on to The New America!
- The Barons of England warn us not to throw away what they gained in Magna Carta.
- The GOP might impeach Trump, changing our politics forever – for the better.
Recommended books about the Republic.
The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic by Eric Posner. He advocates smiling while we slide to tyranny, and console ourselves with illusions. See this from the publisher. …
“Ever since Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. used ‘imperial presidency’ as a book title, the term has become central to the debate about the balance of power in the U.S. government. Since the presidency of George W. Bush, when advocates of executive power such as Dick Cheney gained ascendancy, the argument has blazed hotter than ever. Many argue the Constitution itself is in grave danger. What is to be done?
“The answer, according to legal scholars Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule, is nothing. In The Executive Unbound, they provide a bracing challenge to conventional wisdom, arguing that a strong presidency is inevitable in the modern world. Most scholars, they note, object to today’s level of executive power because it varies so dramatically from the vision of the framers. But there is nothing in our system of checks and balances that intrinsically generates order or promotes positive arrangements. In fact, the greater complexity of the modern world produces a concentration of power, particularly in the White House.
“The authors chart the rise of executive authority straight through to the Obama presidency. Political, cultural and social restraints, they argue, have been more effective in preventing dictatorship than any law. The executive-centered state tends to generate political checks that substitute for the legal checks of the Madisonian constitution.”