Congress must demand it gets say on Paris climate change agreement

It probably will require weeks of examining and analyzing the Paris climate change agreement for Americans to understand fully what it means to us.

At first glance, however, the pact appears to set the groundwork for devastating our economy even as we help “developing” countries build up theirs.

Representatives of nearly 200 countries agreed to the pact, announced Saturday at the site of the talks in Paris. Supporters hailed the deal because, they said, it is the first time nearly all the world’s nations have come to a substantive agreement on climate change.

But they have not. The pact was sealed by only a few thousand negotiators for their respective governments – not by bodies within those governments, such as parliaments, that make major policy decisions.

Here, it does not mean that the roughly 320 million Americans have agreed to the scheme. Because negotiations on this country’s behalf were carried out by members of the executive branch of government, it means only one person, President Barack Obama, has agreed to pursue the Paris arrangement.

Given the nature of what was done in France, Congress should insist on reviewing the agreement and ratifying it as it would any other treaty. Obama has said he will not allow that.

What, in effect, does the agreement do?

The headline explanation is that the pact binds signatories to take action to keep world temperatures, on average, from rising more than 2 degrees. More than that, a deadline of 2050 is set for participating countries to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to a level trees and oceans can absorb.

That is a tall order – requiring that virtually all use of coal, oil and natural gas cease within 35 years.

It cannot happen. But some countries – including, quite possibly, ours – may enact laws aimed at outlawing use of fossil fuels. Obama’s new Environmental Protection Agency regulations are a start in that direction.

Not all nations will participate. Those without industrialized economies are being told merely to do what they can. They will be held to no specific emissions targets.

And all the while they will receive massive aid from developed countries, including the United States. Transfers in excess of $100 billion a year are being viewed as just a start.

Yes, Congress should demand to review the accords, and should make it clear to other Paris signatories that this country is not yet a dictatorship – and that the people demand our elected representatives ratify – or reject – the pact.