Corker Presses Kerry for Details on Paris Plans

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By Anthony Adragna

Sept. 28 — Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asked Secretary of State John Kerry for details on how the U.S. intends to approach international negotiations on climate change later this year in Paris and whether the final product from those talks will be a formal treaty requiring Senate approval.

“Longstanding Constitutional precedent as well as current law requires the Executive branch to engage in meaningful consultations with the Senate on the form that a significant and far-reaching international agreement such as the Paris agreement will take,” Corker wrote in the letter obtained Sept. 28 by Bloomberg BNA.

Corker's letter is one of the first formal pushes from Senate Republicans to insert themselves into the Paris negotiations process.

Other questions Corker asked Kerry were:

• Will the agreement be legally binding or a “non-binding political document”?

• Does President Barack Obama's administration believe it has the existing statutory authority to fully implement the agreement?

• Will additional legislation be necessary to implement the accord?

• Will the agreement supersede the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol legally?

• Does the administration believe any international climate agreement will preempt current or future regulatory actions on carbon emissions?


In addition, the Tennessee Republican asked the administration whether it had yet consulted with the Senate on the form of the agreement and if it plans to going forward.

A State Department spokeswoman told Bloomberg Sept. 28 the department received the letter and “looks forward” to responding.

Agreement Expected in December 

Negotiators from around the world are expected to reach an agreement at the end of the December talks in Paris that will be less of a binding treaty and more a hybrid agreement containing binding and non-binding elements.

Nations are expected to offer emissions reduction pledges—backed by domestic policies or laws—that would be subject to binding measurement and verification requirements to ensure they are reducing greenhouse gases.

A key player in the upcoming talks, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, said in June he expects the final accord to be designed so as not to require U.S. congressional approval. 

“We have to find a formula that is valuable for everybody without requiring approval of Congress,” Fabius said before a round of climate talks in Bonn.

Multiple senators told Bloomberg BNA in May that they were still mulling what sort of role the chamber would take in overseeing and influencing the climate accord process.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anthony Adragna in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at