The Paris Commitments and What to Expect

Figure 1 – IEA-projected impact of the Paris Agreement on the global energy sector

The Paris Agreement, negotiated at the end of 2015, is the current anchor of global efforts to mitigate anthropogenic contributions to climate change (December 14, 2015 blog). The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently outlined the agreement’s impact on the global energy sector. Figure 1 illustrates those projections for the year 2040.

Here is the most recent status (March 9, 2017) of the agreement, as reported by the IPCC:

The Paris Agreement  entered into force on 4 November 2016, thirty days after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55 % of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession with the Depositary.

It’s been almost two months since President Trump’s inauguration. He’s been busy on many fronts; climate change is obviously not at the top of his agenda. Scott Pruitt and Rick Perry are his head of the EPA and energy secretary as of February 2nd and March 2nd, respectively. In spite of their short time in office, there are clear trends. Here are some climate-change-related actions that the new government has already taken:

President Donald Trump signed executive orders backing the construction of two unnecessarily controversial energy infrastructure projects: the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access pipeline.

Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, is expected to announce as early as this week the reopening of a review of the rules that were set by the Obama administration for the 2022-2025 period.

Automakers say the changes, which would raise the fleet average fuel efficiency to more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025 from 27.5 mpg in 2010, will impose significant costs and are out of step with consumer preferences. They argue they need more flexibility to meet the rules amid low gas prices.

President Trump on Thursday signed legislation ending a key Obama administration coal mining rule. The bill quashes the Office of Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule, a regulation to protect waterways from coal mining waste that officials finalized in December.

  • Restructuring of the EPA (Scott Pruitt seems intent on building an EPA leadership that is fundamentally at odds with the officials who carry out the agency’s missions):

In the days since, Mr. Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general who built a career out of suing the agency he now leads, has moved to stock the top offices of the agency with like-minded conservatives — many of them skeptics of climate change and all of them intent on rolling back environmental regulations that they see as overly intrusive and harmful to business.

Mr. Pruitt has drawn heavily from the staff of his friend and fellow Oklahoma Republican, Senator James Inhofe, long known as Congress’s most prominent skeptic of climate science. A former Inhofe chief of staff, Ryan Jackson, will be Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff. Another former Inhofe staff member, Byron Brown, will serve as Mr. Jackson’s deputy. Andrew Wheeler, a fossil fuel lobbyist and a former Inhofe chief of staff, is a finalist to be Mr. Pruitt’s deputy, although he requires confirmation to the position by the Senate.

Top Trump advisers are split on the Paris Agreement

WASHINGTON — The White House is fiercely divided over President Trump’s campaign promise to “cancel” the Paris agreement, the 2015 accord that binds nearly every country to curb global warming, with more moderate voices maintaining that he should stick with the agreement despite his campaign pledge.

Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s senior adviser, is pressing the president to officially pull the United States from the landmark accord, according to energy and government officials with knowledge of the debate. But, they say, he is clashing with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who fear the move could have broad and damaging diplomatic ramifications.

Meanwhile, Tillerson’s reluctance to show himself, much less comment or answer questions publicly, makes him practically invisible as well as nearly impossible to pin down. Our fate, as well as that of, our children, grandchildren, and fellow citizens of the world, seems to rest on the beautiful shoulders of Ivanka Trump. I wish the best to all of us.

Here are the Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) of the individual countries to the Paris Agreement.

The US commitments are summarized in the figure below.

Figure 2

Here is what the US will need to do if the new administration decides to withdraw from the agreement:

WITHDRAWAL UNDER THE TERMS OF THE PARIS AGREEMENT As a matter of both international law and U.S. law, the president could withdraw from the Paris Agreement pursuant to Article 28.1, which allows a party to withdraw by giving one year’s written notification to the Depositary (i.e., the U.N. Secretary-General), beginning three years after the Paris Agreement’s entry into force for that party. A party need not provide any reason or justification for withdrawing; the only limitations imposed by the Paris Agreement relate to timing. The Paris Agreement will come into force on November 4, 2016. This means that starting on November 4, 2019, the president could give written notice of withdrawal, and the withdrawal would take effect one year later, on November 4, 2020.

WITHDRAWAL FROM THE UNFCCC A second option, which would enable the president to withdraw from the Paris Agreement more quickly, would be to withdraw from its parent agreement, the UNFCCC. Article 25.1 of the UNFCCC allows parties to withdraw by giving one year’s notice. Article 28.3 of the Paris Agreement further provides that “any party that withdraws from the Convention shall be considered as also having withdrawn from this Agreement.” Thus, a president could withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement in only a year, by giving notice of withdrawal from the UNFCCC.

We will keep watching.

About climatechangefork

Micha Tomkiewicz, Ph.D., is a professor of physics in the Department of Physics, Brooklyn College, the City University of New York. He is also a professor of physics and chemistry in the School for Graduate Studies of the City University of New York. In addition, he is the founding-director of the Environmental Studies Program at Brooklyn College as well as director of the Electrochemistry Institute at that same institution.
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