The post below addresses the legality of the  expected withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change by the United States under the next Administration.

The White House characterized the Paris Agreement on climate change as an “executive agreement” that was adopted upon signing by the President, and as such a subsequent President can terminate it.  Under the US Constitution, the difference between an executive agreement and a treaty is that a treaty must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate, which is a process President Obama did not initiate.

As reflected in Article 15 of the Paris Agreement, the agreement has no penalty for withdrawing from (or ignoring) it: “A mechanism to facilitate implementation of and promote compliance with the provisions of this agreement is hereby established.  [That] mechanism … shall consist of a committee that … shall function  in a manner that is … non-adversarial and non-punitive.” 

The Paris Agreement is like several neighbors agreeing that they will each try to lose five percent of their body weight and to regularly report their progress to one another.  The expected withdraw by the United States from the Paris Agreement is similar to one of the neighbors announcing “I no longer care what I weigh.” The only consequence is that the other neighbors will discuss that neighbor, but their manner must be “non-adversarial and non-punitive.”  One difference is that obesity is only a health risk to the particular individual, while emissions from fossil fuels harm offending and non-offending nations

Given the Paris Agreement’s lack of meaningful enforcement mechanism, the agreement was not influencing economic behavior in the United States.  Therefore, it is my expectation that the withdrawal by the United States will not affect renewable energy investment in the United States.

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