President Trump is expected to make a decision after the impending G7 summit regarding whether the U.S. will remain a party to the Paris Climate Agreement. For weeks, the President has been formerly considering whether America should withdraw from the Paris Agreement signed in 2015 and ratified by his predecessor, President Obama, last year. Under the Agreement, the U.S. committed to an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to reduce emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. Once in effect, terms of the Agreement state a party cannot withdraw for at least 3 years and must wait an additional year after notification of withdrawal to finalize the process.
One issue appears to be whether Article 4.11 of the Agreement allows a party to weaken its INDC. The Article states, “A party may at any time adjust its existing nationally determined contribution with a view to enhancing its level of ambition.” Critics argue that the U.S. should exit the treaty, as the administration would otherwise be committed to highly ambitious and potentially unachievable emissions reductions.
Another option may be to interpret Article 4.11 to allow the U.S. to remain in the Agreement, but adjust commitments downward. A challenge is that the language is, at best, debatable, and could lead to controversy and litigation. Proponents of this option believe the U.S. will be able to adjust its emissions commitment downward, citing legal opinions from a number of State Department lawyers directly involved with negotiations. With the option of reduced ambition, the U.S. would not necessarily need to leave the Agreement, but rather renegotiate. Advocates of Paris say that renegotiation for less ambitious targets is legally sound, as the targets are not legally binding and there are no sanctions for failing to meet them.