A new congressional report lays out the various ways President Trump could withdraw the U.S. from a United Nations agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) found Trump may “unilaterally withdraw” from the so-called Paris agreement “without seeking approval from the legislative branch. Then-President Barack Obama signed the agreement in 2016, pledging to cut U.S. emissions 26 to 28 percent.
The Paris agreement went into force last year, and it commits countries to keeping future global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. There are doubts if Paris would actually be able to accomplish that goal, and some experts say it could cost $12.1 trillion.
Trump is expected to withdraw from the agreement, but it’s unclear how exactly he would do it.
CRS laid out three main ways Trump can nullify the Paris agreement:
1. Wait Two Years
The Paris agreement does not allow parties to withdraw until three years after it goes into force. CRS notes the “agreement entered into force in November 2016, the right of withdrawal would not be available until November 2019.”
The Obama administration considered the Paris agreement to be an “executive agreement” that did not need Senate approval. Trump could unilaterally withdraw from the treaty should he decide to wait.
2. Repeal Obama-Era Regulations
Trump doesn’t need to formally withdraw from the Paris agreement, he can just undo Obama’s so-called “Climate Action Plan” — the key policies Obama crafted to meet his U.N. emissions pledge.
CRS notes that “[b]ecause the emissions targets themselves are not binding under this interpretation, it may be possible to repeal or revise the domestic regulations that the Obama Administration sought to utilize to meet its emission reduction targets in the United States’ NDC without withdrawing from or violating a legal obligation in the Paris Agreement.”
Trump already plans on eliminating the “Climate Action Plan,” and has issued an executive order that federal agencies repeal two regulations for every new one issued. So, until Trump makes a formal decision on Paris, he’ll likely continue down this path.
3. Burn The Whole House Down
If Trump doesn’t want to wait until 2019 to formally withdraw from the Paris agreement, he can try and pull out of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) — Paris’s parent treaty.
“If the Executive sought to pursue such a course of action and effectuate such a withdrawal, it would need to provide written notice to the U.N. pursuant to the terms of the UNFCCC,” CRS reported. “Withdrawal from both the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement would become effective one year later.”
There’s just one problem. The Senate ratified the UNFCCC in 1992, and there’s limited precedent for how the U.S. actually goes about withdrawing from a congressionally-ratified treaty.
CRS says “it is unclear whether the Executive would be required to receive congressional or senatorial approval should it decide to withdraw from the UNFCCC.” Congress could sue Trump for trying to pull out of the UNFCCC.
Though, Republicans control both chambers of Congress, so pulling out of the UNFCCC may not be completely out of the question.
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