U.S. environmental lawsuit targets Trump administration for 1992 UN treaty breach

Updated 2018-03-18 13:41:00 Xinhua

An influential U.S. environmental group has recently launched a lawsuit against U.S. President Donald Trump's administration for its violation of a historic global agreement, calling on 197 parties worldwide to join them.

The lawsuit was triggered by Trump Administration's officials who ignored a Jan. 1 filing deadline set by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992, which later created the framework for the 2008-2012 Kyoto Protocol, the 2010 Cancun agreements, and the 2015 Paris Agreement.

"It is the first time in 26 years that a U.S. administration has failed to comply with the treaty," said attorney Jean Su with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), who filed against the U.S. Department of State Tuesday for its violation of the agreement.

The CBD, an Arizona-based non-profit organization with approximately 1.1 million members and online activists, is known for protecting endangered species and environmental causes.

The State Department, whose head Rex Tillerson was fired by President Donald Trump Tuesday, did not comment on the filing.

"We are hoping the international community will pressure the Trump Administration into compliance," said Su, adding "the UNFCCC treaty is the mother of the climate control movement today and lays out the principles to have collective action against states to combat global warming."

Environmental groups have filed hundreds of lawsuits against Trump in the 14 months since he took office, among which the CBD alone filed 60, according to Su.

Tracked through data, the accord's non-binding goal to keep the global temperature rise "well below" 2 degrees Celsius has been ignored by America, the largest producer of harmful carbon dioxide gasses.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt indicated that the administration is not about to listen to anyone about harmful vehicle emissions standards, especially the State of California.

"California is not the arbiter of these issues," Pruitt said in an interview with Bloomberg news. The state "shouldn't and can't dictate to the rest of the country what these levels are going to be."

The EPA head indicated he's ready to fight California over the amount of allowable emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from cars - to ease up on restrictions, thus helping automakers.

"It is another Trump far-reaching slippery maneuver -- meant to appease corporate oil and auto manufacturers and out of step with every other country and most people in America when it comes to scientific data on the environment," said Richardson, a Seattle-based attorney.

The UNFCCC treaty is the foundational agreement created to monitor greenhouse gas emissions and was adopted by all United Nations (UN) members almost 30 years ago. As of November 2016, 175 of the 197 countries had ratified the agreement.

U.S. President Donald Trump said last June that he would pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, a landmark global pact to fight against climate change.

"If Trump doesn't withdraw the United States from the 1992 UNFCCC, we remain a party to it and would still have to meet our obligations under the treaty, including providing data about our greenhouse gas emissions," Ann Carlson, Professor of Environmental Law at UCLA said last year.

The emission data sought by the UN is critical to measure how much a member's emissions have abated in the last two years to make sure other parties are on track, which affects the plannings in the future, especially financing to developing countries, Jean Su said.

Calling the recent American non-compliance an "unprecedented breech of their treaty obligations," Su expected the administration to delay a legal response and try to drag the case out of the U.S. courts.

"All countries agreed on a set of transparency instruments, and when you have collective action, these become bedrock of what an agreement is made of," Su said of the 26-year-old treaty.

A relevant note from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, an environmental nonprofit organization based in Arlington, Virginia, said "unlike the Paris Agreement, which former U.S. President Barack Obama accepted under his executive authority, the UNFCCC was ratified by former U.S. President George H.W. Bush after receiving the Senate's consent."

"In practice, however, it is very unlikely that the legality of a decision by the president, to withdraw from the UNFCCC, could be successfully challenged," the note wrote.

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