By Kevin Mooney
The Natural Resources Defense Council held close ties to the Obama administration, providing advice on joining the Paris Agreement while simultaneously maintaining ties to China, according to attorneys and policy analysts who have reviewed email records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.
While many of the emails are heavily redacted, they provide insight into how the NRDC, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, and its close associates in Beijing, sought to maneuver the United States into an international climate change accord that has all the “hallmarks of a treaty” without the “advice and consent” of the Senate, Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, explained in an interview.
The United Nations’ Paris Agreement, which took shape in December 2015, figures prominently in emails between Jake Schmidt, the NRDC’s director of international programs, and several State Department officials including Todd Stern, who was a special envoy for climate change at the time of his correspondence with Schmidt in 2014 and 2015.
Cohen calls the agreement “an instrument to redistribute wealth, through higher energy prices, from middle- and lower-income people to well-heeled renewable-energy providers and investors in developed countries, while spreading some largesse to elites in poorer countries via the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund.”
President Obama took executive action to have the United States become part of the international agreement in September 2016, which requires participating countries to establish their own “nationally determined contributions” toward what the U.N. describes as a “global response to the threat of climate change.” The nationally determined contributions (NDCs) detail how much each country plans to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. In June 2017, President Trump announced during a White House ceremony that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement. The president said the treaty was unfair to American workers and taxpayers.
Chris Horner, an attorney with Government Accountability and Oversight, a nonprofit, public interest law firm, said he would still like to see the White House submit the agreement to the Senate as a treaty in need of ratification.
“Paris is a treaty according to all historic and common-sense considerations,” Horner said in an email to the Free Beacon. “The ‘legal form’ stunt pretending otherwise that the Obama administration pulled satisfied a publicly stated priority of the French hosts of the Paris talks, of the Obama White House and State Department, and of NRDC which, emails suggest, was the State Department’s adviser on that issue.”
“Behind that move lies a ‘Circular 175 memo,’ which is required prior to the U.S. entering any agreement and which must address that very question of ‘legal form,'” Horner explained. “Whatever that memo said, it reflected NRDC’s role and input and served as the justification for the Obama claim that an obvious treaty—adopted by all of our supposed models under their procedures for treaties, as opposed to ‘agreements’—was actually not a treaty for U.S. purposes.”
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