Obama to join Paris climate pact ‘as soon as possible’

Source: By Timothy Cama, The Hill • Posted: Wednesday, August 31, 2016

President Obama is planning to formally join the Paris climate agreement “as soon as possible,” a top adviser said.

Brian Deese gave the update Monday at a White House briefing with reporters in advance of Obama’s trip this week and next to Asia and other locations.

Deese said climate change will be a top agenda item in discussions with Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping, but he did not say whether Obama will sign the agreement on this trip.

“We’ve made the commitment that we will join in 2016. And we’ve made the commitment to do that as soon as possible this year,” Deese said.

“With respect to exactly when, I don’t have any announcements on that front. But we’ve committed, and we’ve been working on that issue.”

Deese’s comments came after a recent report in the South China Morning Post that said Obama and Xi are planning to announce ratification together before the G20 summit that China is hosting. The report said the announcement would likely come Sept. 2.

A White House spokesman declined to comment on the South China Morning Post report, instead referring to Deese’s Monday comments.

Obama worked to structure the Paris deal so that it would not be defined as a treaty requiring a two-thirds vote of the Senate for ratification. The pact also would not require legislative approval in some other countries.

That has invited criticism from congressional Republicans and their allies, who say Obama evaded Congress in committing the United States to major greenhouse-gas emissions cuts.

The pact commits the United States to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions 26 percent to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. But none of the emissions targets for any country are binding.

Deese said the administration is thoroughly reviewing the pact before Obama approves it.

“There’s a whole process of how the U.S. enters into executive agreements, which involves a legal component, a legal analysis of the agreement, as well as a review by executive branch agencies and otherwise,” he said. “That’s a process that has been underway since the Paris Agreement.”

Nearly 200 countries came to the agreement in December on what would be the first international climate agreement on emissions cuts from the world’s developed and developing countries.