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World Environment Day 5 June 2017

President Announces Plan to Withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement

Torrence_jpgBy Allison A. Torrence

UNFCCCOn Thursday, June 1, President Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris Agreement on Climate Change. As we previously reported, the Paris Agreement was adopted on December 12, 2015, at a meeting of the 195 parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The historic Paris Agreement is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both developed and developing nations. Specifically, governments must take actions to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to strive to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement also requires developed countries fund investments to assist developing countries meet the Agreement’s goals and adapt to climate change impacts.

The United States and over 150 other countries signed the Paris Agreement at ceremony at United Nations headquarters in New York on Earth Day, April 22, 2016. The Paris Agreement entered into force on November 4, 2016, after being ratified by more than 55 countries, accounting for 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, per the terms of the Agreement. The Paris Agreement entered into force less than a year after it was adopted, a very quick schedule for a large and complex international treaty. At least one driver in that speed was the desire to have the Paris Agreement in force before the 2016 United States presidential elections, in light of the fact that then-candidate Trump had vowed to pull out of the Paris Agreement if elected.

President Trump is making good on that election promise to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. However, because the international community ratified the Paris Agreement so quickly, it went into full force before President Trump took office. The terms of the Paris Agreement do not allow a party to the agreement to withdraw immediately. Instead, the earliest a party can withdraw from the Paris Agreement is four years after it entered into force.

Specifically, Article 28 of the Paris Agreement states that:

At any time after three years from the date on which this Agreement has entered into force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from this Agreement by giving written notification to the Depositary.

Any such withdrawal shall take effect upon expiry of one year from the date of receipt by the Depositary of the notification of withdrawal, or on such later date as may be specified in the notification of withdrawal.

Thus, the earliest that the United States can notify the UNFCCC that it will be withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is November 5, 2019. If the United States notifies the UNFCCC on that date, the withdrawal will take effect on November 5, 2020. Notably, the next presidential election will take place on November 3, 2020.

Although the United States can’t withdraw immediately, President Trump stated yesterday that the United States will not be following or implementing the Paris Agreement.

As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country. This includes ending the implementation of the nationally determined contribution and, very importantly, the Green Climate Fund, which is costing the United States a vast fortune.

World leaders have responded to the President’s decision to abandon an international agreement signed by every country in the world other than Syria and Nicaragua. President Trump indicated that he wants to renegotiate a new climate deal, but Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron rebuked President Trump in a rare joint statement:

We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies.

In the United States, many businesses, cities and states have reacted to the President’s announcement by pledging to meet the United States’ emissions reductions targets under the Paris Agreement. As reported by various news outlets, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is coordinating a group of 30 mayors, three governors, dozens of university presidents and over 100 businesses, which want to submit a plan to the UNFCCC documenting efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.