Paris Agreement FAQ

We’ve put together some common questions on a Paris pullout:

How would the U.S. withdrawing from the Paris Agreement work?

1) While the administration can announce an intent to withdraw at any time, it cannot begin the formal process until 3 years after the Agreement entered into force (i.e., November 2016). As such, the U.S. will not be eligible to withdraw from the Agreement until November 2019 (per Article 28 of the Agreement).

2) In November 2019, the Administration may formally notify the UN depository that the U.S. intends to withdraw. This notification will specify when the withdrawal will take effect, as long as it’s at least one year or longer.

3) Assuming the minimum one-year period (and no more) is observed, the Administration would formally withdraw in November 2020.

If they withdraw from the Paris Agreement, would the U.S. still participate in the UNFCCC process?

Even if the U.S. withdraws from Paris, the U.S. will be a party to the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change, as well as a signatory to the 2009 Copenhagen Accord (and the non-binding emissions targets included therein). As such, the U.S. would still need to make periodic submissions to Framework Convention on its greenhouse gas emissions and other matters, and would likely still send delegations to the Conference of the Parties (COP) meetings. It’s worth noting that, while the U.S. was not a party to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (CMP), the U.S. nonetheless exercised its status as an “observer” to the Protocol to attend its meetings and convenings.

Could the Paris Agreement survive if the U.S. withdraws?

Yes. This Agreement is far bigger than the U.S. In Paris, all of the world’s countries arrived at the meetings having pre-committed to taking steps to cut carbon emissions and develop clean economies. This unlocked progress, and it’s why the agreement is more robust and would be able to survive even the exit of the world’s second-biggest emitter. 190 countries have submitted NDCs (climate targets) that cover 98.9% of global emissions. Climate action is now bigger than any one country.

Paris also provides a goal and framework that empowers non-state actors like cities, companies, regions and investors to showcase their progress on climate action, collectively raise ambition and demand more from their governments. This is why even if the US federal government is unsupportive, climate action will continue at every level of US politics – state, city, local and community.

Why should other countries remain in Paris?

190 countries have submitted NDCs that cover 98.9% of global emissions. In every country, taking on climate change saves lives, saves money and creates jobs. The agreement in Paris provides a set of organizing principles for the clean revolution. What’s driving progress in climate politics is the sense that a decarbonized global economy is now a more tangible and realistic prospect. The U.S. making any retreats when it comes to emissions reductions targets is certainly a blow to domestic US climate action, but on a global scale, and in the context of falling costs of renewable power, it’s more of a wobble.

Is this another Kyoto situation?

No. Paris was built in a fundamentally different way compared to Kyoto, which only covered richer countries and therefore pitted nations against one another.

In Paris, all of the world’s countries arrived at the meetings having pre-committed to taking steps to cut carbon emissions and develop clean economies. This unlocked progress, and it’s why the agreement is more robust and would be able to survive even the exit of the world’s second-biggest emitter.

Paris also provides a goal and framework that empowers non-state actors like cities, companies, regions and investors to showcase their progress on climate action, collectively raise ambition and demand more from their governments. This is why even if the US federal government is unsupportive, climate action will continue at every level of US politics – state, city, local and community.

Would withdrawing from the Agreement be good for the U.S. economy?

No. The global economy is clearly moving away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. There are more solar jobs than coal jobs and the most common new job in the U.S. is “wind farm technician.” Pulling out of Paris would send signals that could damage that growth.

What would this mean for the United States?

A pull-out from the treaty that the US helped craft would damage its respect and credibility around the world. It would mean its economy is less certain to take full advantage of the renewable energy transition and the jobs and economic growth it promises to bring over the coming decades. It would mean citizens of the United States are more at risk of the health impacts of polluted air and a warming planet than they were before a decision from President Trump to walk away from Paris.

What comes next?

Innovation and investment need to keep emissions going down while the pressure on the United States and the rest of the world needs to go up. Through innovation, investment and action there’s a path to avoid catastrophic climate change. What role the U.S. plays in that and what impacts it faces because of its decision on Paris, remain to be seen.

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