Sen. Inhofe: Paris Climate Deal Devoid of Substance

Environment and Public Works Committee chair calls agreement ‘just a bunch of pledges’

Representatives of environmental groups gather near the Eiffel Tower during climate talks in Paris / AP
December 16, 2015

Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.) described the final deal reached over the weekend during climate talks in Paris as devoid of substance on a press call with reporters Wednesday.

Inhofe, who chairs the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, said that the agreement amounts to "nothing" because it has no enforcement or funding mechanisms. He further called it "just a bunch of pledges."

President Obama has described the agreement, reached Saturday at the COP21 meeting of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, as potentially "a turning point for the world."

"The Paris agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis," the president said shortly after the final deal was reached between delegates from nearly 200 countries. "It creates the mechanism, the architecture, for us to continually tackle this problem in an effective way."

Inhofe and other critics have argued that the agreement does not contain specific details on how various provisions will be enforced or how improvements will be measured.

The agreement limits average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial temperatures through the year 2100 and sets a further goal of limiting it to 1.5 degrees Celsuis (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). It does not, however, prescribe how much each country should reduce greenhouse gas emissions, instead allowing each nation to set its own goals and explain how it will achieve that goal.

The White House, for example, has said that the United States will commit to "reduc[ing] carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by 2030," a goal already presented with Obama’s Clean Power Plan in August.

Inhofe said Wednesday that the Paris deal did little but demonstrate Obama’s "commitment" to the 26-28 percent emissions reduction target, which the Oklahoma lawmaker argued will drive U.S. companies overseas to countries that do not have such strict greenhouse gas emissions restrictions.

"China is just chomping at the bit for us to pass emissions restrictions that are very stringent," Inhofe stated, also mentioning India and Mexico as other nations that would benefit if the United States enacts such restrictions.

China participated in the climate talks in Paris, but the individual countries involved must now each approve the agreement. In addition to the limits on increasing temperatures, the deal also requires certain countries, including the United States, to raise upwards of $100 billion each year to help developing nations address climate change.

While the agreement also asks for an expert committee to be created to "facilitate implementation" of the plan, this committee will not have the authority to punish countries who violate the agreement.

Still, the president has called the deal "the best chance we have to save the one planet that we’ve got."

Inhofe expanded on what he called the EPA’s failure to provide details on how the 26-28 percent emissions reduction will be achieved by 2025. The senator said that his committee called on representatives from the agency to testify about the subject ahead of the Paris talks, but they declined.

"They refused to do it," Inhofe said. "They know it can’t happen."

He added later that the issue was never addressed in Paris during the climate talks.

Both the House and Senate have passed resolutions to block the EPA from implementing the administration’s plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions, though the White House has promised to veto them.