It appears that the US is not the only nation forced to tiptoe around a blundering, blockading Republican-dominated Congress. In fact, the monumental COP21 climate talks in Paris were forced to create an agreement that was crafted to specifically leave them out of the equation.
The result is an agreement signed by some 186 nations that is partially legally binding, and half comprised of empty, aspirational goals that hold no legal grounding – the political equivalence of a secret club wagging its fingers at those who don’t cooperate.
While a five-year check-in, contributions from each nation of their INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions), and the transparency of those documents are all mandatory elements, the enforcement of reaching the emission reduction targets are not. The $100 billion annual payments from developed nations to the most catastrophically effected nations will also not be legally enforced, according to the document. The goal to bring the global temperature down to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels is also not legally binding, despite being the very purpose of the talks. Neither are any legal liabilities for the largest emitters of GHGs (greenhouse gases) to the nations they have helped to bring to ruin.
The reason? Yours truly, the Republican Congress.
It appears the historically inactive Congress (who passed only 13 more bills in its 2014 version than the devastating results of its 2012 activity, which was decidedly the least productive year since records started being kept in 1947) was one of the major reasons that the COP21 agreement holds so little legal weight. In order for the agreement to bypass Congress, it was created as to not resemble a treaty – and that meant no legally binding sections pertaining to finance or emission targets.
It’s no secret what Congress’ motives are, given the funding of $2,167,385 from the oil conglomerate Koch brothers in the 2014 cycle.
That isn’t to say the climate talks were a failure; contrary to the hurdles surrounding the tedious agreement, it marks the start of an ambitious pact to start phasing out of fossil fuel energy initiatives. It is the first agreement that unanimously (with the voluntary support of some of the world’s biggest superpowers, as well as some of the worlds smallest nations) recognizes that climate change is not only real, but a top priority – a far cry from the failures of the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen agreement.
Within days after the closing of the COP21 talks, Republican backlash is already on the rise. As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has recently stated, “The president is making promises he can’t keep, writing checks he can’t cash, and stepping over the middle class to take credit for an ‘agreement’ that is subject to being shredded in 13 months.”
And shred he will.
Today, as government funds are debated to create a spending bill that will expire in less than 72 hours, there is a highly probably chance of another government shutdown. And anyone who looks back at the disastrous 2013 standstill, which lasted a total of 16 days, knows all too well the infantilism regarding the art of compromise that plagues our Congress. Back then, it had to do with Republican attempting to delay the Affordable Care Act.
But today, the reasons hold to be rather ironic given the history-marking COP21 agreement.
The $1.1 trillion omnibus has already passed a 5-day extension past its December 11 time limit, due to two political agendas: the Democrats, hoping to lift the two-decade long ban on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct a study on the impact of gun violence; and the Republican plan, to lift the four-decade long ban on exporting American crude oil.
Some officials have surmised of a “trade” allowing both bans to be lifted, as an option to abstain from the typical political Western-showdown stand-off.
But immediately taking measures to expand a fossil fuel industry, directly following a historical agreement to end such methods would be nothing short of ridiculous.
Then again, thanks to our Congress, who would be there to hold us accountable if we did?