Environment & Climate Change World Politics & Affairs

Should the United States Exit the Paris Climate Agreement?

The consequences outweigh the benefits by far too much.

The Paris Agreement (French: Accord de Paris) is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020.

I will explore two possible scenarios.

  1. USA (informally) stops completing its obligations under the agreement but still stays as an official member.
  2. USA formally exits the agreement.

Unlike its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol, which sets commitment targets that have legal force, the Paris Agreement, with its emphasis on consensus-building, allows for voluntary and nationally determined targets.

There will be only a “name and shame” system or as János Pásztor, the U.N. assistant secretary-general on climate change, told CBS News (US), a “name and encourage” plan

As the agreement provides no consequences if countries do not meet their commitments, consensus of this kind is fragile.

So if USA informally stops completing its responsibilities, there will be no consequences. (unless you count condemnations by other countries.)

However, if USA exits the Paris Agreement formally, things start to get complicated.

According to a conservative lawyer who is part of Trump’s transition team, the fastest way to exit the Paris Agreement is to “ simply exit the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

If USA abandons the UNFCCC, all agreements it made would automatically be terminated. These include the Bali Action Plan (2007),the Copenhagen Accord (2009), the Cancún agreements (2010), and the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (2012).

Realistically, exiting UNFCCC is the fastest and easiest way to exit the Paris Agreement.

Exiting only the Paris Agreement would take about 3–4 years in total and would under shadow Trumps big plan to get rid of the “climate change hoax”

.According to Brian H. Druzin in the Fordham Law Review, “A trickle of nations exiting the agreement may trigger the withdrawal of more governments, bringing about a total collapse of the agreement.”

Other major lawyers, environmental protectionists, international relations experts and journalists have stated the same. After USA withdraws one can expect the to see the withdrawal of its less politically active allies soon. Countries like Slovenia, Slovak Republic, Timor Leste, Luxembourg would probably be the first to terminate their membership to their agreement. More such countries would follow soon. Perhaps even some bigger countries such as Norway, Finland, Singapore or Paraguay could follow however this seems unlikely.

Also, the Paris Agreement would be getting a lot of coverage in mainstream media.

Most importantly, USA would no longer be subject to Article 13 of the Paris Agreement which articulates an “enhanced transparency framework for action and support” that establishes harmonized monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) requirements.

This is basically the crux of the deal. While each Party’s NDC is not legally binding, the Parties’ are legally bound to have their progress tracked by technical expert review to assess achievement toward the NDC, and to determine ways to strengthen ambition.

Since USA would no longer have international actors keeping a check on its internal environmental policies and progress, the Trump administration possibly could, in theory, release exaggerated reports of carbon emissions and related specifics. This is practically unlikely, though.

There may or may not be an effect on the American economy.

American relations with closer allies (such as India, Canada, France, and the UK) would deteriorate. USA would face a radical increase in condemnations by relatively hostile countries like Russia, China and even North Korea.

In all likelihood, relations with countries which are not heavily dependent economically on the United States would worsen.

Carbon emissions, in general, would increase and so would air pollution.

If this escalates, bigger nations (India, France, UK, Russia, China, Australia) would start to decrease trade with the US and boost economic stability between each other.

While this happens, the Democratic party would be using facts, statistics and predictions to show the damage it has caused to USA both externally and internally.

In the long run, USA’s actions would be seen as having detrimental effects to its foreign relations. Exiting such a large community such as the UNFCCC would essentially be the first step in USA’s abandoning of its multilateral-ism policy.

In conclusion, USA leaving the the UNFCCC would be probably be much more detrimental to itself than otherwise.

By Manas Chawla

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