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CRS Reports & Analysis


Legal Sidebar


President Trump's Withdrawal from the Paris

Agreement Raises Legal Questions: Part 1

06/09/2017



On June 1, President Trump announced his long-antiCipated decision to withdraw the United States from the Pari
Agrtment-an international agreement intended to reduce the effects of climate change by maintaining global
temperatures well below 2C above pre-industrial levels[.] As analyzed in this earlieport and liveCRS eminar,
historical practice suggests it is within the President's constitutional authority to withdraw from the Paris Agreement
without first receiving congressional or senatorial approval. However, legal questions remain as to how the Trump
Administration will implement the withdrawal and what role the United States will play in future international climate
meetings. This two-part Sidebar series analyzes legal questions arising from the President's announcement.

Will the United States Follow the Multi-Year Process for Withdrawal in Article 28?

Aicle 28 1 of the Paris Agreement specifies the procedure for withdrawal, stating: any time after three years from the
date on which this Agreement has entered into force..., [a] Party may withdraw from this Agreement by giving written
notification to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Further, under ArLicle 28 2, a notice of withdrawal does not
become effective until one year after the Secretary-General receives written notification. Because the Paris Agreement
did not enter into force until Novembe,-r 4 2016, the United States could not fully withdraw under the Article 28 process
until November 4, 2020, the day after the next U.S. presidential election. President Trump did not mention Article 28
during his June 1 st announcement, but many   r hab as u =d that the Trump Administration intends to follow
the multi-year withdrawal process, and one Trump Administration official is reportd to have confirmcd that the United
States will do so.

Can the United States Immediately Withdraw from the Paris Agreement?
International law, as described in the VieQnna_ Cnv nin on th L  f Trei (to which the United States is not a

party, but which many conid-er to r  c   ma   ine rn tiona 1l), does not provide a general right to withdraw
from an international agreement at any time. Instead, parties may withdraw in onformitvy with the provision  f ihe
[agremnt1 or by the consent of all the parties after consultation with the other contracting States. Because it does
not appear that the United States sought or obtained the consent of the other 147 parties to the Paris Agreement, exiting
the Agreement without following Article 28's multi-year process would have an uncertain legal effect in international
law. Some have argued that withdrawal outside the Article 28 process coul be considered a breach of the Agreement,
but this position depends on whether Article 28 and the Paris Agreement as a whole are understood to be legally binding
-an issue discussed below.

To What Extent Does the Trump Administration Consider the Paris Agreement Binding Under International
Law?

As discussed in          pdu    , the bama Administration injetd the Paris Agreement to contain a mix of
legally binding and nonbinding provisions. Most notably, the prior Administration understood the Agreement to create
binding obligations to formulate plans to address greenhouse gas emissions, known as Nationall4 Determined
Cntribu~ion, (NDCs). But Obama Administration officials 5ir r prd to have i ted that AjL     of the Paris

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