Cancel the Paris climate agreement

"We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.”

Cancel the Paris climate agreement

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The election of Donald Trump has heated up climate change debate, as many of his promises look to roll back environmental regulations.

Perhaps the most notable of these promises was Trump’s oft-repeated campaign pledge to cancel U.S. participation in the Paris climate agreement — an international accord negotiated by almost 200 countries aimed at curbing climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

On the campaign trail, Trump took a hard stance against the Paris climate agreement and vowed to pull the United States out of it. Since then, however, Trump has signaled he might back off of his promise, telling a New York Times reporter in late November, “I’m looking at it very closely. I have an open mind to it.”


Trump has championed slashing environmental regulations so he can increase drilling and energy production in the United States.

Trump also griped about the financial impact of the Paris agreement and Obama’s actions to get it passed. In September 2016, Obama ratified the deal without the approval of Congress, which was criticized by Republican lawmakers for pushing constitutional limits.

“This agreement gives foreign bureaucrats control over how much energy we use right here in America,” Trump said “We’re going to cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.”


There are a few formal options Trump could go about in order to cancel the Paris agreement. The slowest option would be withdrawing from the agreement. Under article 28.1 of the agreement, countries can withdraw by giving one year’s notice, starting three years after the Paris agreement takes force.

The Paris Climate Accords started on Nov. 4, 2016, so in early November 2019, Trump could give written notice and be withdrawn from the agreement the following year.

Trump also could withdraw from its parent agreement, called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Josh Howe, a environmental science professor at Reed College, said it's unlikely Trump will take the above options. 

Article 28.3 of the Paris agreement says that “any party that withdraws from the Convention shall be considered as also having withdrawn from this Agreement.” Trump would need Senate approval to withdraw from the convention.

Ann Carlson, an environmental law professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, said there are informal options Trump could take, too.  He could simply say that the United States will not meet its obligations under the agreement and allow us to be in violation of international law.

He also could argue that the United States will meet obligations set forth by the Paris agreement without relying on the Clean Power Plan, which is the centerpiece of the United States’ Nationally Determined Commitment.

“With trends in the electricity sector in the U.S. moving us away from coal and toward natural gas and renewables, we will probably meet our mid-term obligations for the electricity sector even without the CPP,” Carlson said.

Howe echoed Carlson’s point, and added that the Pairs agreement has no formal enforcement mechanism.

And as for diplomatic concerns, we can only speculate at this point what the effects will be.


Depending on the route Trump takes, it could take anywhere between a year and four years to withdraw from the agreement formally.