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Defining the Paris Agreement:

A Study of Executive Power and Political Commitments


Jessica Durney

President Barack Obama signed the Paris Agreement on 29 August 2016 without the consent of Congress—a move that this article will argue was an expression of his Executive Power in the form of a political commitment. This action, while enabling President Obama to sidestep an uncooperative Senate, also allowed the Trump Administration to unilaterally withdraw from the Agreement on 1 June 2017. This article will first address the questions of whether the Agreement is a treaty, and if the signing of the Agreement without the consent of Congress was a breach of the Separation of Powers doctrine. In concluding that the Agreement is a political commitment, the following parts of this article will address the avenues for withdrawal and the subsequent repercussions of such an action through the lens of international relations. Ultimately, this article is asserting that the Paris Agreement is a legally non-binding political commitment from which the new Trump Administration can unilaterally withdraw.

Jessica Durney is a JD Candidate, class of 2018, at University of California, Hastings College of the Law, USA. For correspondence: <>.DOI: 10.21552/cclr/2017/3/16


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