International Environmental Law Exam
It is May 2, 2017, and you have just started as a new attorney at Exxon Mobile Corp. You have just been tasked to provide an analysis and recommendations to
senior management on the following issue.
Just a couple of weeks, a group of European countries proposed a new article 30 as an amendment to the Paris Climate Agreement. The text of article 30 reads
Amendment to the Paris Agreement:
1. Any party that fails to fulfill the commitments communicated as its nationally determined contribution (NDC) under article 4.2 shall be in breach of this
Agreement. In the event of such a breach, any other party is authorized to impose a 50% tariff on goods that have been produced with the use of fossil fuels and that
are imported from the party in breach.
2. Any state that is not a party to this Agreement shall be the subject of an equivalent 50% import tariff, as provided for in paragraph 1.
3. Notwithstanding the provisions of article 28, no party may withdraw from this Agreement before January 20, 2021.
The proposed amendment has found widespread support among the Paris Agreement parties, with the exception of the United States. From the international discussions on
the amendment, it is apparent that the new article 30 is directed at the United States. Article 30 anticipates the failure of the US to meet its emission reduction
pledge set out in its nationally determined contribution (NDC). Article 30 is also designed to make it more difficult for the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris
agreement. It is expected that the other Paris
Agreement parties will unanimously vote to adopt this amendment and ratify it. (It is also expected that the U.S. will vote against the amendment.)
Senior management has asked for your analysis of the issues and recommendations on what Exxon Mobile should do with respect to the proposed amendment. The
company stays in regular contact with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former Chief Executive of Exxon Mobile, and thus expects to have a sympathetic ear within
the Trump Administration for its views and concerns. Your supervisor has reminded you that the analysis should not only consider issues of treaty law and potential
implications with respect international trade law but also the fundamental question of whether the amendment should be of concern to Exxon Mobile interests.
For your reference, the Paris Agreement is available on the Camino course website. The
NDC (nationally determined contribution) submission of the US is attached.
Please make sure that your total exam answer does not exceed 3000 words. You must provide a word count at the end of the exam.
The United States is pleased to communicate its intended nationally determined contribution, as well as information to facilitate the clarity, transparency, and
understanding of the contribution.
The United States is strongly committed to reducing greenhouse gas pollution, thereby contributing to the objective of the Convention. In response to the request in
Lima to communicate to the secretariat its intended nationally determined contribution towards achieving the objective of the Convention as set out in its Article 2—
the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system—the
United States intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 per cent below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best
efforts to reduce its emissions by 28%.
The target is fair and ambitious. The United States has already undertaken substantial policy action to reduce its emissions, taking the necessary steps to place us on
a path to achieve the 2020 target of reducing emissions in the range of 17 percent below the 2005 level in 2020. Additional action to achieve the 2025 target
represents a substantial acceleration of the current pace of greenhouse gas emission reductions. Achieving the 2025 target will require a further emission reduction of
9-11% beyond our 2020 target compared to the 2005 baseline and a substantial acceleration of the 2005-2020 annual pace of reduction, to 2.3-2.8 percent per year, or an
Substantial global emission reductions are needed to keep the global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, and the 2025 target is consistent with a path to deep
decarbonization. This target is consistent with a straight line emission reduction pathway from 2020 to deep, economy-wide emission reductions of 80% or more by 2050.
The target is part of a longer range, collective effort to transition to a low-carbon global economy as rapidly as possible.
The target reflects a planning process that examined opportunities under existing regulatory authorities to reduce emissions in 2025 of all greenhouse gases from all
sources in every economic sector. A number of existing laws, regulations, and other domestically mandatory measures are relevant to the implementation of the target,
which we detail in the information provided.
Party:United States of America
Intended nationally determined contribution
The United States intends to achieve an economy-wide target of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 26%-28% below its 2005 level in 2025 and to make best efforts
to reduce its emissions by 28%.
Information provided in order to facilitate clarity, transparency, and understanding
Scope and coverage:
The U.S. target covers all greenhouse gases included in the 2014 Inventory of United States
Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), sulfur hexafluoride
(SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).
The U.S. target covers all IPCC sectors.
Percentage of total greenhouse gas emissions:
The United States intends to account for 100 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and removals for the base year 2005 as published in the Inventory of United
States Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, on a net-net basis.
Quantifiable information on the reference point, time frames, assumptions and methodological approaches including those for estimating and accounting for anthropogenic
greenhouse gas emissions and removals:
Timeframe and reference point:
The U.S. target is for a single year: 2025. The base year against which the target is measured is 2005.
Accounting approach for land sector:
The United States intends to include all categories of emissions by sources and removals by sinks, and all pools and gases, as reported in the Inventory of United
States Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks; to account for the land sector using a net-net approach; and to use a “production approach” to account for harvested wood
products consistent with IPCC guidance. The United States may also exclude emissions from natural disturbances, consistent with available IPCC guidance.
There are material data collection and methodological challenges to estimating emissions and removals in the land sector. Consistent with IPCC Good Practice, the
United States has continued to improve its land sector greenhouse gas reporting, which involves updating its methodologies. The base year and target for the U.S. INDC
were established on the basis of the methodologies used for the land sector in the 2014 Inventory of United States Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks and the United
States 2014 Biennial Report.
The United States intends to use 100-year global warming potential (GWP) values to calculate CO2 equivalent totals. The United States intends to report emissions
totals using Fourth Assessment Report values, and will consider future updates to GWP values from the IPCC.
Use of markets:
At this time, the United States does not intend to utilize international market mechanisms to implement its 2025 target.
Domestic laws, regulations, and measures relevant to implementation:
Several U.S. laws, as well as existing and proposed regulations thereunder, are relevant to the implementation of the U.S. target, including the Clean Air Act (42
U.S.C. §7401 et seq.), the Energy Policy Act (42 U.S.C. §13201 et seq.), and the Energy Independence and Security Act (42 U.S.C. § 17001 et seq.).
Since 2009, the United States has completed the following regulatory actions:
• Under the Clean Air Act, the United States Department of Transportation and the United States Environmental Protection Agency adopted fuel economy standards
for light-duty vehicles for model years 2012-2025 and for heavy-duty vehicles for model years 2014-2018.
• Under the Energy Policy Act and the Energy Independence and Security Act, the United States Department of Energy has finalized multiple measures addressing
buildings sector emissions including energy conservation standards for 29 categories
of appliances and equipment as well as a building code determination for commercial buildings.
• Under the Clean Air Act, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has approved the use of specific alternatives to high-GWP HFCs in certain
applications through the Significant New Alternatives Policy program.
At this time:
• Under the Clean Air Act, the United States Environmental Protection Agency is moving to finalize by summer 2015 regulations to cut carbon pollution from new
and existing power plants.
• Under the Clean Air Act, the United States Department of Transportation and the United States Environmental Protection Agency are moving to promulgate post-
2018 fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles.
• Under the Clean Air Act, the United States Environmental Protection Agency is developing standards to address methane emissions from landfills and the oil and
• Under the Clean Air Act, the United States Environmental Protection Agency is moving to reduce the use and emissions of high-GWP HFCs through the Significant
New Alternatives Policy program.
• Under the Energy Policy Act and the Energy Independence and Security Act, the United States Department of Energy is continuing to reduce buildings sector
emissions including by promulgating energy conservation standards for a broad range of appliances and equipment, as well as a building code determination for
In addition, since 2008 the United States has reduced greenhouse gas emissions from Federal Government operations by 17 percent and, under Executive Order 13693 issued
on March 25th 2015, has set a new target to reduce these emissions 40 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
Relationship with inventory:
This approach, and the definitions and metrics used, are fully consistent with our greenhouse gas inventory. The United States intends to continue to improve its
greenhouse gas inventory over time, and may incorporate these improvements into its intended nationally determined contribution accordingly. Additional information on
the greenhouse gas inventory, including calculations, models, data sources, and references can be found here: