The last-minute “correction” that might have saved the Paris climate accord

Back in March, in connection with the then-not-finalized Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iranian nuclear capabilities, Jack Goldsmith and I explained the critical constitutional difference between nonbinding and binding international agreements. (I elaborated further in this post, and in this post, after the JCPOA was finalized.)

It’s not quite directly related to national security matters, but Just Security readers might be interested to know that, just as with the Iran deal, the United States delegation in Paris for the historic climate-change negotiations this past week was committed to reaching a nonbinding accord, because neither two-thirds of the Senate nor majorities of both congressional Houses are inclined to support the agreement (even though the entire world has now agreed to it).

A last-minute typo threatened to render a central provision of the accord binding as a matter of international law — which would have caused the U.S. delegation to have to back away from it, thereby possibly scuttling the historic multilateral effort. Secretary Kerry and the U.S. delegation, however, insisted upon a fix at the last minute that appears to have saved the day.

I offer further details of the last-minute save at Balkinization. 

About the Author(s)

Marty Lederman

Professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. He was Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Office of Legal Counsel from 2009-2010, and Attorney Advisor at the Office of Legal Counsel from 1994-2002. Member of the editorial board of Just Security. You can follow him on Twitter (@marty_lederman).