Annotating the Paris Agreement

Essay by Henrique Schneider*

This article was first published at TheMarketForIdeas.com. It explains in broad strokes the content of the Paris Agreement and the Decision by which it was adopted. It, then, annotates them and complements the annotations by asking further questions. This article serves as institutional memory – it has been written by an active negotiator of the Agreement. It will be especially useful to judge the direction the Agreement will implement in comparison to the discussions at its adoption. The implementation of the Agreement starts in 2020 – but is delayed because of the global pandemic.

“The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Additionally, the Agreement aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. To reach these ambitious goals, appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity building framework will be put in place, thus supporting action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries, in line with their own national objectives. The Agreement also provides for enhanced transparency of action and support through a more robust transparency framework.”

While this official definition of the Paris Agreement and its contents is concise, let it not be forgotten that in 2020, even 5 years after its adoption, the whole framework to the Agreement has not been fully negotiated yet. True: only one article remains to be set up, article 6, or the items of international cooperation. But this delay shows that, while the Agreement may be concise, its interpretation is open-textured. It is, therefore, useful to annotate the Agreement – and also ask questions about it – from the perspective of an agent who negotiated the Agreement itself and parts of its implementation …

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*Henrique Schneider is a professor of economics at the Nordkademie University of Applied Sciences in Elmshorn, Germany and chief economist of the Swiss Federation of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises in Bern, Switzerland.