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By withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement, President Donald Trump may have avoided myriad legal efforts to force the administration to restrict fossil fuel development and use in the United States.
A United Nations Environment Programme report released in late May argues the agreement can be used by environmental non-governmental organizations and state parties to the agreement to force countries “that have adopted climate-oriented laws to implement them.”
The report says litigation “has arguably never been a more important tool to push policymakers and market participants” to fight climate change.
The report notes hundreds of climate-related lawsuits have been filed, including many in the United States, “to compel governments to impose regulations, assign damages to emitters, and stop projects that could increase emissions.”
Even before the Paris climate agreement was adopted, Dutch activists successfully sued the Netherlands in 2015 for not doing enough to fight climate change, with the court ordering “the Dutch state to limit GHG emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020,” UNEP reported.
Since adoption of the Paris climate agreement: “Swiss environmentalists filed a petition in 2016 making arguments similar to Dutch activists, but this time they buttressed their claims with the Paris Agreement; Austrian activists used the Paris Agreement to argue against expanding the Vienna airport; Norwegian campaigners used the Paris Agreement to bolster their legal challenge of lease sales to explore for offshore oil and sell a coal mine instead of decommissioning it; [and] Swedish activists challenged the sale of coal mines and plants in Germany under the Paris Agreement.”
The Daily Caller reports a memo obtained from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman circulated among fellow Democratic AGs in 2016 said they should work together to “ensur[e] that the promises made in Paris become reality.”
If nothing else, Trump may have dodged years of costly climate litigation by withdrawing from the agreement.