Guest essay by Eric Worrall
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has signed a document presented at a meeting of Arctic nations, which affirms the need to support the Paris Agreement, and take action on Climate Change. In doing so, Tillerson may have harmed US Arctic energy exploration interests.
Tillerson, at Arctic meeting, signs document affirming need for action on climate change
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signed his name Thursday to a document that affirms the need for international action against climate change, adding further uncertainty to the direction of climate policy under the Trump administration.
The document, signed by Tillerson and seven foreign ministers from Arctic nations meeting this week in Fairbanks, Alaska, says the participants concluded their meeting “noting the entry into force of the Paris agreement on climate change and its implementation, and reiterating the need for global action to reduce both long-lived greenhouse gases and short-lived climate pollutants.”
Called the Fairbanks Declaration, the document says the leaders signed it “recognizing that activities taking place outside the Arctic region, including activities occurring in Arctic states, are the main contributors to climate change effects and pollution in the Arctic, and underlining the need for action at all levels.”
After vowing that the U.S. would “continue to be vigilant in protecting the fragile environment in the Arctic,” Tillerson said this about current U.S. climate policy:
“In the United States, we are currently reviewing several important policies, including how the Trump administration will approach the issue of climate change. We’re appreciative that each of you has an important point of view and you should know that we are taking the time to understand your concerns. We’re not going to rush to make a decision. We’re going to work to make the right decision,” he added, pausing ever so briefly before ending with the phrase, “for the United States.”
A video showed at the meeting before his remarks that was produced by the State Department referred to “ecological change,” not climate change.
The following is the Fairbanks Declaration signed by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson;
The first page of the Fairbanks Declaration affirms the need to support the Paris Agreement.
Actions have consequences.
One of the reasons given for tearing up the Paris Agreement is a centuries old precedent, which allows US courts to defer to international law, even if those laws are not on US statute books.
The Centuries-Old Legal Doctrine Looming Over Trump’s Paris Climate Decision
by Jennifer A Dlouhy
3 May 2017, 13:09 GMT+10 4 May 2017, 05:04 GMT+10
If the U.S. withdraws from the Paris climate accord — an option gaining favor among top White House advisers — Charming Betsy may be partly to blame.
Or, more specifically, the Charming Betsy doctrine. That’s a legal principle stemming from a 213-year-old case involving a schooner of the same name. It says that federal policies should be interpreted, when possible, so they don’t conflict with international laws.
The doctrine has emerged as a major point of contention in White House debates over continued membership in the international climate pact. At issue is whether staying in the accord could legally oblige President Donald Trump to preserve carbon-cutting policies that he is moving to jettison.
The White House counsel’s office warned Trump administration officials in a meeting Thursday and in a separate memo that if the U.S. stays in the global accord, it could arm environmentalists with legal ammunition for lawsuits challenging the president’s domestic regulatory rollbacks.
While the Paris Treaty Agreement was never formally recognised as US Law, the advice of the White House counsel is that it could still impact the decisions of US courts when considering vexatious legal challenges to oil and gas drilling activities brought by environmental activists.
In my opinion, Rex Tillerson’s actions in signing the Fairbanks Declaration, with its affirmation of the need to take action to prevent climate change, and the need to support the Paris Agreement, likely worsens the legal environment for resource companies attempting to drill in the arctic, by providing additional ammunition for activist legal challenges.