June 2, 2017


Trump's So-Called Withdrawal from Paris: Far From Over (Harold Hongju Koh, Dena Adler, Joanna Dafoe, Peter Posada, Conor Dwyer Reynolds and Eugene Rusyn, June 2, 2017, jUSTlAW)

On Thursday, President Trump announced his intent that the United States "withdraw" from the Paris Agreement, the landmark climate change treaty that establishes national greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. If the United States were actually to exit the Agreement, it would not only jeopardize humanity's best chance at preventing global climate disaster, but also disadvantage the United States' status in the international economic order. Thankfully, President Trump's rhetoric launched little meaningful legal action--for the simple reason that we're still a part of the Paris Agreement until after the next presidential election.

International law makes clear that U.S. presidents cannot simply delete signatures like the one on the Paris Agreement. The U.S. entered into the Paris Agreement under the full force of the law, and the global community can only recognize withdrawal under the terms specified in the agreement text. Article 28.1 of the Paris Agreement states a party cannot give notice of withdrawal to the U.N. Secretary General until "three years from the date on which this Agreement has entered into force." Since the Paris Agreement entered force on November 4, 2016--mere days before Trump's election--the earliest date that the U.S. could even give such legal notice would be November 4, 2019. That notification would then take a year to enter into effect, meaning that Trump cannot legally withdraw the U.S. from the Agreement until November 4, 2020, the day after the next U.S. presidential election.

In the meantime, it is not clear what legal meaning Trump's withdrawal announcement really has. [...]

Businesses have also seized the important opportunity to address climate change and support the Paris Agreement. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, pioneered by Bill Gates, will invest $1 billion in companies that provide affordable clean energy. Through the We Mean Business Coalition, 471 companies with over $8 trillion in market capitalization have undertaken more than 1000 climate action commitments. For this same reason, hundreds of major companies and investors, including DuPont, eBay, Nike, Unilever, Levi Strauss & Co., Hilton, Adobe, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Hewlett Packard have publicly urged President Trump to remain in the Paris Agreement. Even oil and gas companies--including Shell and Exxon Mobil--have endorsed remaining in the agreement. President Trump claims his job is to give America "a level playing field" and that the Paris Agreement would provide other countries with "an economic edge" over the United States, but business leaders have agreed that future economic prosperity is best advanced by remaining in the Paris Agreement.

These actions are real while Trump's Rose Garden speech yesterday has as much legal force as one of his tweets. 

The agreement will be obsolete by then.

Posted by at June 2, 2017 7:01 AM