Paving the Way for U.S. Climate Leadership: The Case for Executive Agreements and Climate Protection Authority
The United States should classify new international agreements to protect the Earth’s climate system as executive agreements rather than as treaties. Unlike treaties, which require the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate, executive agreements are entered into either solely by the President based on previously delegated constitutional, treaty, or statutory authorities, or by the President and Congress together pursuant to a new statute. The President and Congress should handle the most significant climate change agreements as congressional–executive agreements, which require approval by a simple majority of both houses of Congress. Handling climate agreements as congressional–executive agreements would speed the development of a genuinely bipartisan U.S. climate change foreign policy, improve coordination between the executive and legislative branches, strengthen the hand of U.S. climate negotiators to bring home good agreements, increase the prospects for U.S. participation in those agreements, protect U.S. competitiveness, and spur international climate action. More specifically, Congress should enact “Climate Protection Authority,” which would define U.S. negotiating objectives in a statute and require the President to submit concluded congressional–executive agreements to Congress for final approval. This approach should apply both to the new global climate change agreement being negotiated in the United Nations by the United States and the rest of the international community and to other future arrangements with a smaller number of major emitting nations.
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