Wednesday, 2 March 2016

The Paris Climate Change Agreement: text and contexts

by Adrian Macey, New Zealand’s former Climate Change Ambassador and a Senior Associate of the Institute for Governance and Policy Studies.

When French foreign minister Laurent Fabius brought down the gavel on the Paris Agreement on 12 December 2015, the international community reached a goal that had eluded it for six years: an updated and universal climate change agreement. It owed much to France’s diplomacy over the preceding 12 months, together with efficient, firm and innovative handling of the conference itself.

Fundamental to the success of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) was the commitment at all levels from President Hollande down to engage with the broadest range of parties and non-state actors. The fruits of France’s engagement were nowhere more apparent than in the small island states’ comment in the final plenary that this was the first time they felt they had been listened to at a COP.

Other factors contributing to the success of COP21 were the lessons that had been learned from the failures at Copenhagen in 2009, and, even more important, a much evolved international context, which the presidency shrewdly brought to bear on the negotiations.

Reactions to COP21 have ranged from jubilation – displayed by Ban Ki Moon, the French leaders and UNFCCC head Christiana Figueres on the podium – to dismay at yet another inadequate effort by the international community. But the Paris Agreement cannot be assessed independently of its contexts, both domestic and international.

For more of Adrian's thoughts see the rest of this article at Policy Quarterly.

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