A Layman's Guide to withdrawing from the Paris Agreement

What is Article 28 of the Paris Agreement, and why does it matter?

Article 28 of the Paris Agreement describes the process through which Parties may withdraw from the agreement. To withdraw, a Party must give written notification and may do this no earlier than three years after the Agreement entered into force for the Party. Additionally, the withdrawal does not take effect until one year after notice. Any Party withdrawing from the UNFCCC will also be automatically withdrawn from the Paris Agreement.

How does this affect the United States?

So far, the United States is the only UNFCCC member who has declared its intent to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. President Donald Trump’s stated intent to withdraw makes the content of Article 28 important in the next few months. President Trump made this declaration in June of 2017 and lack of public familiarity with the details of the Paris Agreement and incomplete reporting may have led many to believe that around that time, the Agreement no longer applied to the United States. However, since the Agreement did not go into effect until November 4, 2016, the earliest the United States could completely withdraw is November 4, 2020. The next United States presidential election takes one day earlier, November 3, 2020, so should President Trump not be reelected, there will be no official international change with regard to the Paris Agreement throughout most of the Trump presidency.

Does President Trump have the authority to withdraw the United States?

There are multiple pathways through which the United States can enter into or withdraw from international agreements. While treaties require approval from two-thirds of the Senate in accordance with Article II of the United States Constitution, lower level agreements may be entered into through approval of the President alone, which is called an executive agreement. This is the method through which President Barack Obama entered the United States into the Paris Agreement and while this interpretation of the Constitution is debated by strict constructionists, it is unlikely President Trump would be prevented from following the same process to withdraw from the Agreement.

Written by Sydney Welter, a COP24 Delegation Candidate with Care About Climate