On November 4th, 2019, the United States submitted a formal notification to the United Nations that it intended to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. That day was the first day that the U.S. was permitted to submit such notice under the Agreement’s rules governing withdrawal. It begins a process that will culminate in actual withdrawal after one year, or on November 4th, 2020—one day after the U.S. presidential election. This means that should a Democratic candidate be elected to the presidency in 2020 with a perceived mandate to join the international community in acting to stave off climate change, they will have to affirmatively rejoin the Paris Agreement after they take office in January 2021.
Adopted by consensus of attendees of the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2015, the Paris Agreement took effect three years ago on November 4, 2016. The Agreement is non-binding, which means that nothing will functionally change for the United States when it leaves in a year’s time. However, observers worry that the United States’ departure will sap the Agreement’s momentum, leaving European countries on the front lines, alone, to push other countries to signatories to continue to take the actions necessary to mitigate global warming.