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The Paris Climate Agreement

By:
Edward A. Reid Jr.
Posted On:
Jul 4, 2017  at  at 7:23 AM
Category
Climate Change

The Paris Agreement “entered into force on 4 November 2016”. A total of 197 “parties” have “ratified” the Agreement. Ratification of the Agreement is voluntary. Establishment of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Agreement is voluntary. The form and magnitude of the NDCs are voluntary. Achieving the NDCs is voluntary. Continued participation in the Agreement is voluntary. Participation in the Climate Fund is voluntary.

Ratification of the Agreement and performance under the Agreement is voluntary because the United States insisted that it be voluntary if the US were to participate. The US took this position because a requirement for mandatory participation and/or mandatory performance would have made the Agreement a “Treaty” under US law, which would have required ratification by a two thirds majority of the US Senate. The US Administration of President Obama considered Senate ratification extremely unlikely.

The US Administration of President Trump has now decided to withdraw the US from the Agreement. The Agreement permits withdrawal with one year advanced notice. Withdrawal can be initiated by the Executive Branch of the US government, since the Agreement was entered into by the Executive Branch. Withdrawal from the Agreement ends any voluntary US commitments under the Agreement, regarding both NDCs and contributions to the Climate Fund.

The Trump Administration had already halted contributions to the Climate Fund. The Administration’s proposed 2018 budget does not include funding for the Climate Fund. The Administration is also attempting to reverse the EPA Clean Power Plan (CPP), which was the primary vehicle for achieving the CO2 emissions reductions committed to by the Obama Administration under the Paris Agreement. The Administration is also questioning the 2009 EPA Endangerment Finding regarding CO2, which underlies the entire US climate change effort.

The Administration decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement does not prevent other parties which ratified of the Agreement from pursuing their pledges under the Agreement. It also does not halt the ongoing decline in US CO2 emissions, though it might result in a slowing of the rate of decline. However, US withdrawal will have a major impact on the Climate Fund, since the US was expected to be the largest contributor to the Fund.

The Administration decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement does not necessarily affect any existing or proposed new US efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. It does not affect US climate research efforts. However, the Administration has made it quite clear that US climate change efforts will be significantly changed in the future, both in scope and direction.