Why Paris worked: A different approach to climate diplomacy


David Victor writes: Why did Paris work when almost everything before it failed? The central answer lies in a new style of international cooperation, one that has enabled 195 countries to formally adopt an agreement that is likely to have a real impact on the emissions that cause climate change, as well as on how societies adapt to the big shifts in climate that are coming.

The contrast of Paris with the past could not be starker. The 1992 Rio framework to get serious climate diplomacy going was the right approach, but diplomats and climate activists steered that framework off the rails, and for 23 years — until now — they achieved very little. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol was so riddled with flaws that it had essentially no impact on emissions. The 2009 climate negotiations in Copenhagen ended in acrimony and recriminations.

Now, instead of setting commitments through centralized bargaining, the Paris approach sets countries free to make their own commitments. These “nationally determined contributions” are a starting point for deeper cooperation that will unfold over time. Once the Paris agreement enters into force and is fully in motion, around the year 2020, each nation will be expected to adopt a new pledge every five years in tandem with periodic overall efforts to take stock of how the group of nations is doing. [Continue reading…]

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