Right-Wing Media Baselessly Warn Of International Climate Change Court That Would Punish U.S.

Conservative media are baselessly fearmongering that the upcoming climate change negotiations in Paris will create a United Nations “court” with the power to punish the U.S. for its “climate debt” and implement a massive redistribution of wealth from the U.S. and other wealthy nations to developing countries. These media figures are referring to a proposal by Bolivia to establish an “International Tribunal of Climate Justice” to deal with countries that fail to comply with an international climate change agreement, but the Tribunal is reportedly “a non-starter with almost every other country going to the Paris talks,” and experts believe there are more feasible methods along the lines of nuclear non-proliferation treaties for ensuring countries meet their climate-related commitments.

Bolivia Proposed “International Tribunal Of Climate Justice” Ahead Of UN Climate Summit

Bolivia Proposes “International Tribunal Of Climate Justice” In Negotiations Leading Up To Paris Climate Summit. During the United Nations' Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) session held in October, Bolivia proposed establishing an International Tribunal on Climate Justice “to address cases of non-compliance of the commitments of developed country Parties on mitigation, adaptation, provision of finance, technology development and transfer and, capacity-building, and transparency of action and support, including through the development of an indicative list of consequences, taking into account the cause, type, degree and frequency of non-compliance.” [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 10/19/1510/23/15]

Proposal To Establish Tribunal Widely Rejected By Countries Participating In Paris Talks

Reuters: Tribunal Proposal A “Non-Starter With Almost Every Other Country” Attending Paris Talks. In an October 12 article, Reuters reported that Bolivia's proposal to establish an International Tribunal of Climate Justice with powers to penalize countries that break commitments “is a non-starter with almost every other country going to the Paris talks, from Nov. 30-Dec. 11.” Reuters added that "[b]oth China and the United States, the two top carbon emitters crucial to any effective agreement, made clear from the start of the current negotiations they would not agree to any form of international oversight." [Reuters, 10/12/15]

UN, Outside Experts Say Climate Deal Will Focus On Incentives And Public Pressure Rather Than Sanctions, Punishment

UN Climate Chief: Member States Support Deal That Is “More Collaborative Than Punitive.”  According to Reuters, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said the “overwhelming view” among member states is that the climate agreement reached in Paris “has to be much more collaborative than punitive.” Reuters further noted that Figueres believes it “can serve countries' economic self-interests” to cut emissions, and added that the negotiations include “carrots for participation by developing nations”::

Critics say that simply shaming outliers will not ensure compliance and that, unless there are costs for non-compliance, any country can share in the global benefits of reduced temperature rises while leaving the hard work of emissions cuts to others.

But Figueres, the U.N. climate chief, believes that cuts in greenhouse gases can serve countries' economic self-interests. China, for instance, can improve the health of millions by shifting from coal-fired power plants that cause air pollution.

And sharp falls in the costs of solar and wind power also mean that greener technologies can help, rather than hinder, economic growth, benefits that were not so evident under [the 1997] Kyoto [Protocol], she said.

The Paris accord also holds out carrots for participation by developing nations, including a new mechanism to fund loss and damage from hurricanes, droughts or rising sea levels. [Reuters, 10/12/15]

Experts: Sanctions Not Likely To Be Part Of Climate Deal. Reuters quoted Nick Mabey of the E3G think-tank in London stating that a Paris deal is likely to resemble international agreements on nuclear non-proliferation rather than World Trade Organization accords that allow for sanctions. The article also reported that Yvo de Boer, the United Nations' former top climate official, believes that “the principle of sanctioning countries for non-compliance [is] dead”:

Negotiators have several terms for the way they plan to enforce any deal reached at global climate talks in Paris this December. “Peer pressure” and “cooperation” are a couple. “Race to the top” is the American buzzword.

What you won't hear mentioned is the word “sanctions”. Or “punishment”.


Nick Mabey, chief executive of the E3G think-tank in London, says a Paris deal is likely to be more like international agreements limiting nuclear weapons than accords under the World Trade Organization, which can impose sanctions.

A watchword of nuclear non-proliferation - “trust but verify” - could be the basis, he said. [Reuters, 10/12/15] 

NYU Professors: “Pledge And Review” System Is “Likely Outcome” From Paris Talks. Writing in Grist, New York University Environmental Studies professors Jennifer Jacquet and Dale Jamieson stated that "[t]he likely outcome in Paris is an international agreement that incorporates national pledges to reduce emissions and provides mechanisms for reviewing the parties' progress in keeping their pledges. Under this pledge-and-review approach, parties make voluntary commitments, and other countries, civil society, and the public at large hold them accountable." [Grist, 10/13/15]

Nonetheless, Right-Wing Food Chain Fearmongers About A UN Climate Court That Would Punish U.S.

The New American: UN Tribunal Would Judge U.S. For “Climate Debt.” In an October 31 article headlined, “STEALTH AGENDA: New UN Tribunal to Judge US for 'Climate Debt,'” the right-wing website The New American claimed that a draft text of the treaty for the UN Climate Summit “proposes to establish a global Supreme Court that would rule on issues such as 'climate justice,' 'climate finance,' 'technology transfers,' and 'climate debt.'” The New American quoted Craig Rucker, the executive director and co-founder of the fossil fuel-funded Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, stating that the intention of the tribunal was to bring about a “massive redistribution of wealth from developed to poor nations.” [The New American, 10/31/15Media Matters7/7/14]

Citing New American, World Net Daily Declares: “U.N. Planning Court To Judge U.S. For 'Climate Justice.'” On November 1, the right-wing website World Net Daily published an article alleging that “participating nations have prepared a treaty that would create an 'International Tribunal of Climate Justice' giving Third World countries the power to haul the U.S. into a global court with enforcement powers.” The article heavily quoted Rucker and falsely claimed that China and India were “behind the move” to establish the Tribunal. [World Net Daily, 11/1/15]

Drudge Report Picks Up World Net Daily Story. On November 2, the Drudge Report highlighted and linked to the World Net Daily article under the headline, “UN planning court for 'climate justice'...” [Drudge Report Archives, 11/2/15]

Drudge Report Front Page  

Reading From World Net Daily, Rush Limbaugh Declares Tribunal Is “A Way To Find Us Guilty Of Crimes” And Make The U.S. “Pay Up.” On the November 2 edition of The Rush Limbaugh Show, Limbaugh read at length from the World Net Daily article and asserted that the move to establish the Tribunal was evidence of “yet another technique, opportunity for [the] United Nations to fleece the United States after proclaiming the United States guilty of immorality and injustice”:

And this, by the way, we find out why the hoax of global warming will not die. Because all it is is yet another technique, opportunity for the United Nations to fleece the United States after proclaiming the United States guilty of immorality and injustice. The result of which was being a superpower. It's time to cut the United States down to size. The difference this time is that we've elected a president who agrees that the United States is guilty of injustice and immorality and has been since its founding, has not been deserving of its superpower status. We have a president, a Democrat Party which believes that the United States of America and its capitalist economy is the greatest contributor to destructive climate change. We have elected a Democrat president and a supporting Democrat Party which believe the United States needs to be cut down to size for all the transgressions it has committed since its founding.

And the global warming hoax is a mechanism by which the United Nations and the rest of the world can point to America and say “Guilty. It's time to pay up. The rest of the world is poor and impoverished because of you. You are not a superpower because there isn't anything great about you. You are a superpower because you are a robber baron, you have stolen what you have from indigenous peoples all over the world, and it's time now for them to get it back.” And so they're going to set up a court -- based on page, it's 19, page 19 of a 34-page document: “An International Tribunal of Climate Justice is hereby established to address cases of non-compliance of the commitments of developed countries, parties on mitigation, adaptation...” It's a way to find us guilty of crimes. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show11/2/15]

Wash. Times: Tribunal Would Allow “Deadbeat Countries ... To Nibble At The Sovereignty Of Their Betters.” In a November 2 column, editor-in-chief emeritus of The Washington Times Wesley Pruden wrote, “The wise men of the world, the leaders of governments and a clutch of double-dome prelates and other academics, have prepared a treaty to create an International Tribunal of Climate Justice, with enforcement powers, to enable the deadbeat countries of the third world to nibble at the sovereignty of their betters, and to hail [sic] the United States into kangaroo courts to take up American violations of 'climate justice,' 'climate finance,' 'climate debt' and 'technology transfers.'” [The Washington Times11/2/15]

The Daily Mail: Countries That Fail To Comply With Climate Deal Could Be Brought To Court Under Tribunal. On November 2, The Daily Mail alleged that “The United Nations may launch an International Tribunal of Climate Justice which could see states who fail to uphold the international deal to tackle climate change brought before a court.” [The Daily Mail11/2/15]