What Happened to Byrd-Hagel? Its Curious Absence From Evaluations of the Paris Agreement

By Susan Biniaz

In the midst of the negotiations leading to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, the U.S. Senate adopted the “Byrd-Hagel Resolution,” co-sponsored by Senators Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. Passed by a vote of 95-0, it reflected the Senate’s view that the international climate change agreement then being negotiated by the Clinton Administration was not on the right track.  Specifically, it signaled dissatisfaction with an agreement that would contain legally binding greenhouse gas emissions commitments for developed countries without such commitments in the same time period for developing countries.

By its terms, the Byrd-Hagel Resolution applied not only to the Kyoto Protocol but also to any subsequent climate agreement. It influenced the approaches of the Clinton, Bush, and Obama Administrations to the Kyoto Protocol and international climate policy. Curiously, however, it did not appear to play a role in the evaluation, including by the Trump Administration and the Senate, of whether the United States should continue to participate in the Paris Agreement.

Susan Biniaz, formerly a long time U.S. Department of State lawyer, is on the adjunct faculty of Columbia Law School and is a David Sive Visiting Scholar at the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. In her latest paper, she explores the role that the “Byrd-Hagel Resolution” played in the climate agreements.

Read her paper here.