Leaving Paris Climate Agreement Harms Environment, U.S. Credibility and Economy; But U.S. Never Formally Part of Treaty

Article ID: 675750

Released: 1-Jun-2017 1:05 PM EDT

Source Newsroom: Northwestern University

Expert Pitch
  • Credit: Northwestern University

    David Dana

  • Credit: Northwestern University

    Nancy Loeb

  • Credit: Northwestern University

    Eugene Kontorovich

EVANSTON, Ill. --- If President Trump withdraws the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement as expected, negative consequences will occur on multiple fronts domestically and abroad, two Northwestern University environmental law and policy experts say. However, another law professor says the U.S. was never formally a part of the Paris agreement based on U.S. constitutional and international law.

Nancy Loeb, David Dana and Eugene Kontorovich, all from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, are available to speak to media upon request. Media may contact Loeb, Dana and Kontorovich directly.  

See their contact information and expert commentary below.

Nancy C. Loeb
director, Environmental Advocacy Clinic
assistant clinical professor of law
Email: n-loeb@northwestern.edu
Phone: 312-503-0052 (office, preferred); 773-569-6050 (mobile)
Research topics: Energy law and policy; the intersection between economics and environmental law; regulatory strategies; environmental justice

Environmental consequences and America’s negotiating power
“Withdrawal from the Paris agreement is a tragedy for the environment, the world and the United States. The agreement is premised on every country in the world stepping up to address a global issue, and withdrawal by the U.S. is an invitation to all countries to step back from meeting their targets to reduce contributions to climate change when faced with economic or political challenges. Actions have consequences, and this action by the U.S. will seriously impair global cooperation on an issue that cannot be wished away.”

“A key part of the Paris agreement is that signatories meet every five years to assess the state of climate change and make adjustments to targets if necessary. Scientists are already telling us the goals adopted under the Paris agreement are unlikely to be sufficient to fully address the climate threat. By withdrawing now, the U.S. walks away from input into those critical future discussions. The U.S. needs a seat at this table.”

Effect on U.S. economic prosperity and competitiveness
“Withdrawal from the Paris agreement is economic nationalism with extraordinarily harmful long-term consequences for the U.S. economy. Not only will we lose the long-term manufacturing jobs and innovation leadership directly associated with clean energy manufacturing in solar, wind and energy storage — which, without doubt, are the future — but we will also become dependent on other countries to supply clean technology. As a result, our fossil fuel-dependent manufacturing base will become even less competitive around the world.

“U.S. businesses are not going to walk away from the opportunity to compete in a future dependent on clean energy. In the short term, it may be possible for the U.S. to get close to its Paris agreement goals via private-sector advances in energy efficiency and adoption of renewable technologies. But it is a huge mistake to ignore the role government can play in fostering U.S. manufacturing and innovation leadership in these areas, and therefore, the longer-term ability of the U.S. to remain competitive globally."

Immigration and migrant crises exacerbated by climate change
“Leaving the Paris agreement is especially short-sighted in light of the Trump administration’s concerns about immigration. Hundreds of millions of people will likely be displaced in some of the poorest countries in the world, generally in the Southern Hemisphere. Flooding in desperately poor, low-lying countries will lead to massive migrations and water shortages in the Middle East and Africa, which, in turn, worsen existing conflict in those regions.”

Eugene Kontorovich
professor of law
Email: e-kontorovich@law.northwestern.edu
Phone: 323-443-8591 (mobile)
Research topics: International law; law and economics; constitutional law

An excerpt from Professor Kontorovich’s June 1 Washington Post op-ed “President Trump is expected to announce today that the United States will not be party to the Paris agreement on climate change. What he should say is that the United States never properly joined the accord: It is a treaty that requires the advice and consent of the Senate. Instead, President Barack Obama chose to “adopt” it with an executive order last September.

“Two features cut heavily against it being treated as the kind of arrangement that can be entered into by a president on his own authority. First, it has a four-year waiting period for withdrawal, quite unlike traditional executive agreements. Second, it is a large multilateral deal, and the other parties apparently believe it requires domestic ratification. Whatever that means for U.S. constitutional purposes, it does suggest that other countries should hardly protest if Trump merely follows their example to seek domestic ratification.”

David Dana
Kirkland & Ellis professor of law
Email: d-dana@law.northwestern.edu
Phone: 312-503-0240 (office)
Research topics: Environmental law; property law; land use; professional responsibility 

Impact on poor countries most affected by climate change
“It is important to help poor countries adapt to climate change by shoring up the international climate fund to which the United States committed to contribute. By pulling out, the U.S. is not just backing away from mitigation and clean energy commitments, but also financial commitments to poor countries that lack resources to adapt to climate change.”


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