What can be done if a future US President withdraws from, or attempts to undermine from within, the Paris Climate Agreement? It is a question that has tragically become all too important with the election of Donald Trump. It is a critical question for an agreement which relies on universal participation for legitimacy and to create a ‘market signal’. The US can, and likely will, withdraw from either the Paris Climate Agreement (4 years) or the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, 1 year). For now, the Paris Agreement is vulnerable to the recalcitrance of the US, or any other major party. It possesses no non-party measures or effective compliance mechanism, although it can be amended to remedy this Achilles heel. Through amendments to Article 6 a market link between subnational states in the US and international carbon markets could be created. Ideally, a more semi-global approach with punitive trade measures could be taken to help US-proof an alternative climate agreement or ‘climate club’. The Paris Agreement will be vulnerable to a renegade US unless amendments to the treaty are made or outside actions are taken. Relying on the good will of a single president is short-sighted. Longer-term climate governance needs to take seriously the threat of non-parties, particularly if they are superpowers.
Dr Luke Kemp, Australian National University
Luke is a lecturer in climate and environmental policy at both the Fenner School of Environment and Society and Crawford School of Public Policy at the ANU. He holds both a doctorate in political science (2016) and a bachelor of interdisciplinary studies with first class honours from the ANU (2011). His thesis research used systems dynamics to analyse the role of the US and potential for semi-global agreements in international environmental governance.
Luke is a freelance consultant with Vivid Economics. He had worked with clients such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He is a regular media commentator with the Conversation and his work has been covered by international outlets such as the Washington Post.