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Presidential Power: Climate Change

We have the University of Washington School of Law to thank for parts of this outstanding review of Presidential power.

Domestic Policy & the Clean Power Plan

For a reminder of why coming together to address climate change is a bigger challenge than simply explaining the science or implementing regulations; of why calls for collective action are generally complicated in a divided culture: 

For a basic introduction to the Clean Power Plan, pending litigation, and how President Trump could rollback climate initiatives:

For a sense of other impact litigation strategies that have been used to prod government action or market responses to climate change, please read: 

  • American Electric Power Co., Inc. v. Connecticut, 564 U.S. 410 (2011). This opinion provides some background on the regulatory history following Mass v. EPA and leading up to the Clean Power Plan (pp. 10-11).  In reading this, pay particular attention to the Court's explanation (p. 12) of the circumstances under which a common law theory might become live again.
  • Juliana v. United States, (D. Ore. Nov. 10, 2016). (Judge Aiken)gon).

For information on how States can independently act to reduce GHG emissions, read: 

For President Obama's perspective on the momentum in the private markets for a clean energy economy, see this post-election article:

The Paris Agreement

What is the Paris Agreement?

These two short readings outline key terms of the Paris Agreement:

Is it binding?

The Treaty clause, in Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, which defines "treaties" under U.S. law.

For the definition of "treaties" under international law, see Article 2.1(a) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969).

For an explanation of the different ways the Constitution and Congress empower the Executive to make international law, please review the following two articles:

How do these rules apply to the Paris Agreement?

Can Trump withdraw?


Additional Resources

  • American Society of International Law, International Law and the Trump Administration: A Live Online Briefing, Feb. 1, 2017. Features John Bellinger, who was Legal Advisor in the Department of State and the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration, and Catherine Amirfar who was the Counselor on International Law to the Legal Adviser during the Obama administration.

The video briefing reviews questions about the continuity of U.S. commitments to various treaties and international agreements now in place, including the Iran nuclear agreement (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the North Atlantic (NATO) Treaty, and the Paris Agreement on global climate change, and, more broadly, about what role the United States will play over the next four years in advancing and maintaining the international legal architecture that successive administrations put in place.