As officials from almost 200 nations gather in Marrakech, Morocco, for the first major climate summit since the talks in France last December, the future of the Paris climate treaty is likely to figure prominently in their discussions. The reason — Donald Trump’s surprise victory Wednesday in the U.S. presidential elections.
Trump, who is now the president-elect of the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, has described climate change as a hoax and has also vowed to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord — a historic agreement that aims to stave off a catastrophic rise in global temperatures.
“President Obama entered the United States into the Paris Climate Accords – unilaterally, and without the permission of Congress. This agreement gives foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use right here in America,” Trump said during a speech in North Dakota in May. “We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.”
The question is, can Trump fulfill his pledge of exiting the Paris accord?
The answer, for all intents and purposes, is yes.
According to legal experts cited by Climate Central, there are three ways Trump can do this:
The first and the most aggressive option would be to withdraw the U.S. from the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — the international treaty under whose framework the Paris accord was negotiated. Under Article 25 of the treaty, any country can, one year after notification, withdraw from the convention. And, if it does so, it “shall be considered as also having withdrawn from any protocol to which it is a Party” — which, in this case, would be the Paris climate accord.
Trump can do this — even though it is likely to provoke fierce international condemnation from governments and climate activists — without congressional approval.
The second option is to withdraw from the Paris accord itself. Under the terms of the deal, however, this can only be done three years after a country formally joins the agreement. Again, this can be done without consulting the Senate.
The third, and perhaps the most likely alternative, would be to abandon the emissions reduction commitments the U.S. has made without formally withdrawing from the accord. This is anyway likely to happen if Trump lives up to his campaign promise of scrapping the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, expanding offshore drilling, getting rid of the EPA entirely, increasing natural gas production, and ending what he has termed “wasteful” federal spending on climate change.
Under the Paris climate accord, which has so far been ratified by 103 nations, the United States — which accounts for 13 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions — pledged to slash its emissions by up to 28 percent of its 2005 levels by 2025. Given that the U.S. and China — cumulatively accounting for nearly 40 percent of the world’s emissions — led the ratification of the accord, the former’s withdrawal may cause other countries to follow suit.
This would mean that global emissions of greenhouse gas, which were projected to keep rising even if all the signatories to the Paris deal stuck to their pledges, would continue to skyrocket unabated, all but ensuring that the target of keeping the rise in average global temperatures “well below” 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial levels is not met.
“Since Paris doesn't commit people to much of anything anyway, it would be stupid beyond belief for him to withdraw — and there wouldn't be much reason for people to try to save it,” Dale Jamieson, a professor of environmental studies and philosophy at New York University, told Climate Central.