Pulling the rug on Paris

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche

11 February 2016


It may be off the radar of those whose main interest is the shipping industry but on Tuesday an important legal decision in the US Supreme Court may well have an impact on the COP21 Paris Climate Agreement. When the agreement was made last year, each nation made pledges on the level of cuts they expected to make in CO2 emissions through to 2030. The US plans put forward at Paris by President Barack Obama hinged on his Clean Power Plan for the US which envisaged a switch from coal and oil towards renewable and was designed to cut US emissions by 32% by 2030. Introduced by the president last August, the plan set carbon reduction goals for each state and it was up to the states themselves to come up with proposals to meet those goals. Some 27 states along with utility companies and coal miners argued that the plan infringed state’s rights and carry an enormous cost burden and put legal proceedings in place to challenge it. An initial attempt to halt the implementation of the plan until legal challenges were heard was thrown out by a US appeals court in Washington in January. However the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to suspend the plan pending the outcome of the litigation. Effectively this will mean that the Plan will be on hold until Obama leaves office and could be dropped altogether if a Republican president is elected later this year. If so the ruling could mean that the Paris agreement is in tatters just a few months after it was made. With few observers believing that China and other nations have real intentions of meeting their pledges, the fact that shipping was not included separately in the agreement might now be seen as a relief even by those that supported its inclusion. If leading nations have no intention of treating it seriously, why should shipping be so committed.