President Donald Trump opted on June 1, 2017, to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. As President George W. Bush before him, who did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, Donald Trump felt such a global agreement would interfere with national policy. Since this website focuses on San Francisco Bay Area land use issues, what does the Paris Agreement have to do with it? The connection can be gleaned by perusal of the “Background” and “Globalization” sections of this website. However, we would like to offer a more succinct relationship between our key objections to the central planning embodied in Plan Bay Area and the reasons Messrs. Bush and Trump opted against the Kyoto and the Paris agreements respectively.
It is unlikely that anyone wants to breathe bad air or have his home swallowed up by rising seas. The challenge is that bad actors do pollute and seas do rise – independently or otherwise. The challenge then becomes how to deal with those twin dangers. California legislators, city council members and other officials tell us there is only one way: severely restrict housing development to densely-populated transit corridors, declare vast areas off limits to housing, and pour enormous amounts of money subsidizing the resulting increases in housing costs. Additionally, and most importantly, the fourth strategy is to remove voters’ ability to do away with the first three objectives. As residents become accustomed to the drumbeat of central planning and overwhelmed by the volume of legislation curbing their abilities to exercise choices, they quietly settle for the prescribed modus operandi. No further word is said about alternatives, such as excellent transit systems that can automatically reduce the number of cars on the road, or consumer pressure on corporate polluters, or satellite modest-income neighborhoods that can house job-creating emerging technologies.
Going back to the subject of the Paris Agreement, we offer the following two illustrations how the nation is lulled into abdicating its choice to operate independently:
* There used to be a distinction between the words “treaty” and other covenants such as “agreement” or “accord.” The reason for the distinction is that Article II, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution states that the President "shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur.” A treaty requires that the direct representatives of the people concur. No other forms of covenant require such concurrence.
Today, the media uses the terms treaty, agreement, etc. interchangeably, and the U.S. State Department’s website says, “Treaties in Force uses the term ‘treaty’ in the generic sense as defined in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, that is, an international agreement ‘governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation.’ So, a single individual, the President, is able to commit and un-commit a whole nation to serious global obligations.
* Supporters of the Paris Agreement imply that the U.S. has turned its back on Mother Earth. Again, the question remains whether joining a global agreement is the only way to love Mother Earth. What keeps voters from choosing solutions domestically? How about technology to make solar panels really cheap, wind turbines for backyards, or economical hybrid cars?
Picking industry winners and losers may not be a good idea (who gets to pick and why!). However, if we are all so concerned about lowering carbon emissions, we could consider investing in domestic production of environmental-friendly technology rather than contributing to the Green Climate Fund – established under the 2009 Copenhagen Accord – which to date has received from the U.S. $1 billion out of a total pledge of $3 billion.
Voluntary cooperation at all level -- global, national, and local – is desirable. The Nine-County Coalition’s concern is top-down undemocratic mandates in the name of achieving objectives.