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The United States Climate Alliance is an effort by state governments to support the Paris Climate Accord and help reduce emissions in the United States. There is however a constitutional problem with this organiazation as it may qualify as an interstate compact which is expressly forbidden by the US constituion without consent from congress.

No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

(US constition Article 1 clause 3)

This leads to an interesting situation. Congressional Republicans aren't generally in favor of big actions to fight climate change, but they are generally in favor of empowering local and state government; what they view as proper federalism. From the GOP platform:

We pledge to restore the proper balance and vertical separation of powers between the federal government and state governments — the governments closest to, and most reflective of, the American people. We encourage states to reinvigorate their traditional role as the laboratories of democracy, propelling the nation forward through local and state innovation.

Have congressional Republicans taken a position (or taken action) on whether they will give "consent" to the United States Climate Alliance as an interstate compact?

  • Hm, “or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay”... I'd be inclined to invoke that line here! – leftaroundabout Dec 20 '18 at 1:23
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    @leftaroundabout I'd love to see if there is any precedent around abusing that line! – lazarusL Dec 20 '18 at 1:36
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No, but there's really no need for them to do so either. Remember, The Paris Accords were largely a do-it-yourself framework

Here’s how the game works: The negotiating framework established at a 2014 conference in Lima, Peru, requires each country to submit a plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, called an “Intended Nationally Determined Contribution” (INDC). Each submission is at the discretion of the individual country; there is no objective standard it must meet or emissions reduction it must achieve.

So if a dozen states decide that they will make their own standards and live by them, that doesn't bind any other state or the Federal government. California, for instance, has long had its own air pollution standards that exceed those imposed by the EPA. That's how Federalism works. If California decides to live by standards that it negotiates with other states, that doesn't affect states not party to that agreement.

In other words, the Republican Party is living by its own ideals by NOT addressing this with legislation.

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    As long as its not an "interstate compact" then sure, there's no need for them to do anything. But if it is, then it would be illegal until they specifically allowed it. – mbrig Dec 19 '18 at 20:22
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    @mbrig As long as there's no formal treaty (which a former US president said it wasn't), it's more or less an agreement between states to try and live environmentally conscious. – Machavity Dec 19 '18 at 20:25
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    Bad example. California's automobile air pollution standards are explicitly grandfathered in by the Clean Air Act. States may only choose between California and Federal emissions. If not, they'd be preempted by Federal regulation since it affects interstate commerce, specifically the specification of vehicles being sold across state lines. There is talk about revoking this exemption. – user71659 Dec 19 '18 at 23:36
  • I'm accepting this answer (partially because of the very good article on the Paris Accord). If anyone else finds evidence the United States Climate Alliance is taking more formal action either with foreign powers or between states and there is a real constitutional question, please share that information in another answer. – lazarusL Dec 20 '18 at 21:39

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