For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Kevin Bundy, (415) 436-9682 x 313,

Report: Obama Has Authority to Commit in Copenhagen Without Congress

WASHINGTON - The Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute released a report
today demonstrating that President Obama has clear legal authority to commit the
United States to reducing greenhouse gas pollution. The report, titled Yes, He Can: President Obama’s Power to Make
an International Climate Commitment Without Waiting for Congress, concludes
that the President need not wait for Congress to act before taking strong action
to reduce U.S. emissions.

The report
will be released in Copenhagen this evening at a side event hosted
by Greenpeace.

Where: Niels

Tuesday, 8 December, 21:00-21:30 (Copenhagen time)

Obama’s hands are not tied
by Congress’s lack of action or the grossly inadequate cap-and-trade bills
currently under debate. President Obama can lead, rather than follow, by using
his power under the Clean Air Act and other laws to achieve deep and rapid
greenhouse emissions reductions from major polluters,” said Center
attorney Kevin Bundy, the report’s lead author. “Obama can use his authority to make
a binding
agreement in Copenhagen without additional action from
Congress. The Constitution and existing domestic environmental laws give
President Obama all the power he needs to join with other nations in making a
real commitment to solve the climate crisis.”


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The report
cites prominent legal scholars and U.S. Supreme Court opinions recognizing the
President’s broad power to make binding international agreements that do not
need to be ratified by a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate. For example,
the President could enter into either a “congressional-executive” agreement
under authority already granted by Congress, or a “sole executive” agreement
based on his own constitutional powers.

The report
also details the President’s broad authority to reduce domestic greenhouse gas
emissions under existing environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, Clean
Water Act, Endangered Species Act, and National Environmental Policy Act. The
release of the report follows yesterday’s important finding by the Environmental
Protection Agency that greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare. That
decision will facilitate comprehensive measures to curb greenhouse gas pollution
under the Clean Air Act.

President has the ultimate responsibility for enforcing domestic environmental
laws, and those laws give him a wide variety of options for reducing greenhouse
gas pollution,” said Bundy. “All he has to do is promise the international
community to use the authority he already has.”

“It simply
isn’t true that President Obama cannot make a commitment in Copenhagen. Yes, he can,
and if the world is to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, he

Click here to read the report.


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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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