By Sen. John Barrasso M.D. Published April 21, 2016
Representatives from more than 130 countries will gather at the United Nations in New York on Friday to sign the climate change pact written in Paris last December. They should be aware that the money the Obama administration has promised for these efforts just hit a major legal roadblock.
This week, 28 U.S. senators wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry demanding that U.S. law be followed and U.S. contributions to the climate fund cease.
The issue revolves around the U.N.’s recent embrace of the “State of Palestine” as a full member of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The White House unilaterally pledged $3 billion for international climate change as part of the Paris deal. The administration wants these U.S. taxpayer funds to go to the Green Climate Fund.
The UNFCCC is the foundation for funding the climate change agreement. The United States is a member and provides funding for the UNFCCC yearly. Despite Congress not appropriating money specifically for the Green Climate Fund, President Obama recently transferred $500 million to it.
President Obama’s climate-change payoffs ran into trouble on March 17 when the “State of Palestine” became a full member of this United Nations agency.
The 1994 Foreign Relations Authorization Act prohibits Washington from giving money to “any affiliated organization of the United Nations” that grants the Palestinians membership as a state.
The president wants to give the UNFCCC $13 million for its operational budget in the fiscal year that begins this October, along with another $750 million for the Green Climate Fund.
Once this U.N. climate-change organization recognized the “State of Palestine” as a full member, U.S. law prohibits the administration from sending them another dime.
The UNFCCC and its related entities are clearly affiliated with the United Nations. The U.N. general secretary appoints the agency’s executive secretary. It declares that it is “institutionally linked” to the U.N. – wording that remains on its website today. The UNFCCC secretariat offices are even part of the U.N.’s campus in Bonn, Germany.
Likewise, the Green Climate Fund says that it is “an operating entity of the Financial Mechanism” of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The U.S. law that bars contributions to these organizations was written for a good reason. Congress wanted to make sure that Israel and the Palestinians negotiate directly, free from outside interference. One of the issues in the negotiations has always been recognition of a “State of Palestine.” If other countries or groups intervene on that point, it changes the negotiations dramatically.
The U.S. law simply affirms what the Israelis and the Palestinians have agreed on themselves. The Oslo II Agreement, Wye River Memo, and Sharm el-Sheikh Memo all prohibit either party from “chang[ing] the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip” prior to reaching a permanent agreement.
The Palestinians have a history of ignoring these prohibitions and trying to seek statehood recognition from the international community. In 2012, they gained status as a non-member observer state in the U.N. General Assembly. Today, they have the same status as the Holy See.
The Palestinians used this status to sign letters of accession to 15 international treaties and conventions in 2014. At the beginning of last year, they joined the International Criminal Court and another 17 treaties and conventions. Now, they are part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
When the U.N. recognizes the “State of Palestine,” it inserts itself into negotiations and makes a peace agreement more difficult. It puts a thumb on the scale, to the detriment of our ally Israel.
The Obama administration must hold the Palestinians accountable for their efforts to use the United Nations to skirt the peace process. Additionally, the administration must now tell the U.N. that it is unlawful for America to make any contributions to the UNFCCC and its related entities.
President Obama has shown that he is willing to turn his back on Israel. He has also shown an obsession with the political theater of international climate change. The only question now is whether the president of the United States will follow the law.
Republican John Barrasso represents Wyoming in the U.S. Senate. He serves in the Senate as a member of both the Energy and Environment Committees. Follow him on Twitter@Sen.JohnBarrasso.