Legal Issues Related to the Paris Agreement

In the debate over continued U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement on climate change, questions have arisen as to the agreement’s potential legal implications for U.S. policymaking. Attention has focused on two issues in particular:

  • Whether a party legally has discretion to weaken the nationally determined contribution (NDC) it has submitted under the agreement; and
  • Whether the agreement legally precludes a party from altering domestic policies related to the achievement of its NDC – such as, in the case of the United States, withdrawing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

This brief explains why, in both cases, the provisions of the Paris framework preserve national discretion over both a Party’s international target and its domestic policymaking.