Can Trump undo the UN climate change agreement (Paris Agreement)?
Trump has just won the elections. Can he somehow stop the US from participating in the UN COP21 climate change agreement (which was already signed formally by the US)?
Also I've read here that
To take effect, the Paris Agreement needs formal ratification by 55 countries that account for 55 percent of global emissions.
If the US can still bail out, would it also be possible that these critical thresholds are not reached?
No, Trump cannot undo the UN climate change agreement. All he can do is isolate the USA from participating in it.
The USA signed the Paris Agreement on 22 April 2016, and became a formal Party to it on 3 September 2016. John Kerry and his team put a lot of work into word-smithing it to ensure it could be agreed by the US president, without the Senate.
It has now passed the two hurdles of at least 55 countries, and countries that represent at least 55% of global emissions, so it has already formally entered into force, as of earlier this month (Nov 2016). At time of writing, it had 103 parties representing 73.38% of global emissions; without the USA, this would be 102 parties representing 55.49% of global emissions, so still exceeding the twin hurdles which were needed for it to enter into force in the first place.
Trump, when president, could withdraw the USA's commitment to the Paris Agreement. However, the Agreement has already entered into force internationally, and all the remaining participants will continue to implement it. So Trump cannot undo the Paris Agreement. All he can do is isolate the USA from participating in it.
Note that the 55-country, 55%-emissions thresholds are not ongoing criteria; instead, they are thresholds that need to be met once for the Paris Agreement to enter into force (article 21 para 1, pdf p49):
This Agreement shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.
That has already happened, so there is no further legal significance attached to those thresholds.
Article 28 (pdf p51, ibid) deals with Parties withdrawing from the agreement:
- 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.
- Any Party that withdraws from the Convention shall be considered as also having withdrawn from this Agreement.
Many, many problems with this answer. The USA wouldn't be isolated. There is no reason to believe so. The answer doesn't even try to address. The USA didn't sign it, Barack Obama's administration did. It was not presented to the Senate, much less voted on, so it has no force in America. And it's extremely doubtful that once the US pulls out all other country would remain in it. Calls for a future conclusion
I think you need to address if Trump can *indirectly* undo the Paris Agreement if he starts the first in a series of countries reneging the Agreement (e.g. what if China and India withdraw)
@NickT I've edited the answer to cover what the Agreement says about withdrawal. I suspect that this doesn't directly address what you ask, but it's the best I could do without speculating about a myriad of possible futures.
I guess my question is that it doesn't seem like the Paris Agreement is a formal treaty like NAFTA (presumably Canada has some legal recourse if the US were to violate it), so would it be binding in any way? International law seems super murky...
@NickT the first negotiations by the Parties on the specifics of implementation (CMA1) are starting now in tandem with COP22, in Marrakech. Once those are done, we'll *start* to get an idea of the direction that's taking; further clarity may take a few years. After that, one possible route to recourse will be via trade sanctions: as those sanctions were backed by a UN treaty, the WTO wouldn't have much to say against them.
To take this even further, there are no enforcement mechanisms in the treaty. So the idea that it even will be followed is laughable.