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AMBITION AND DIFFERENTIATION IN THE 2015 PARIS AGREEMENT: INTERPRETATIVE POSSIBILITIES AND UNDERLYING POLITICS

  • Lavanya Rajamani (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

The 2015 Paris Agreement represents a historic achievement in multilateral diplomacy. After years of deeply discordant negotiations, Parties harnessed the political will necessary to arrive at a climate change agreement that strikes a careful balance between ambition and differentiation. The Paris Agreement contains aspirational goals, binding obligations of conduct in relation to mitigation, a rigorous system of oversight, and a nuanced form of differentiation between developed and developing countries. This article will explore the key building blocks of the Paris Agreement—ambition and differentiation—with an eye to mining the text of the Agreement for its interpretative possibilities and underlying politics.

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References
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1 ‘COP21: UN chief hails new climate change agreement as ‘‘monumental triumph’’’ (UN News Centre, 12 December 2015) <http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=52802#.Vrh45fl96Uk>.

2 150 Heads of State and Government attended the leaders event, see ‘Leaders Event and High Level Segment’ (Paris COP Information Hub) <http://newsroom.unfccc.int/cop21parisinformationhub/cop-21cmp-11-information-hub-leaders-and-high-level-segment/>.

3 Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (adopted 10 December 1997, entered into force 16 February 2005) FCCC/CP/1997/7/Add.1 (Kyoto Protocol) art 3.

4 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (adopted 29 May 1992, entered into force 21 March 1994) 1771 UNTS 107 (FCCC).

5 UNFCCC, ‘Decision 1/CP.17 Establishment of an Ad Hoc Working Group on a Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, 2011’ (15 March 2012) FCCC/CP/2011/9/Add.1 (Durban Platform).

6 Rajamani L, ‘The Durban Platform for Enhanced Action and the Future of the Climate Regime’ (2012) 61(2) ICLQ 501; and see also, D Bodansky, ‘The Durban Platform Negotiations: Goals and Options’ (Harvard Project on Climate Agreements, Massachusetts July 2012) <http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/bodansky_durban2_vp.pdf>.

7 Durban Platform (n 5) para 2.

8 ibid.

9 Rajamani L, ‘The Devilish Details: Key Legal Issues in the 2015 Climate Negotiations’ (2015) 78(5) MLR 826.

10 Durban Platform (n 5) para 5.

11 UNFCCC, ‘Decision 1/CP.19 Further Advancing the Durban Platform’ (31 January 2014) FCCC/CP/2013/10/Add.1 (Warsaw Decision) para 2(b).

12 ibid, para 2(c).

13 UNFCCC, ‘Decision 1/CP.20 Lima Call for Climate Action’ (2 February 2015) FCCC/CP/2014/10/Add.1 (Lima Call for Climate Action) para 11.

14 ibid, para 14.

15 ibid, para 16.

16 ibid, Annex: ‘Elements for a draft negotiating text’.

17 UNFCCC, Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, Second session, part eight, Geneva (8–13 February 2015) Agenda item 3: Implementation of all the elements of decision 1/CP.17 Negotiating text (25 February 2015) FCCC/ADP/2015/1 (Geneva Negotiating Text).

18 See eg Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, ‘Non-paper: Note by the Co-Chairs’ (5 October 2015) ADP.2015.8.InformalNote; and Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, ‘Non-paper on elements for a draft negotiating text: Updated non-paper on Parties’ views and proposals’ (11 November 2014) ADP.2014.11.NonPaper.

19 See UNFCCC, Synthesis report on the aggregate effect of the intended nationally determined contributions: Note by the secretariat (30 October 2015) FCCC/CP/2015/7. ‘INDCs as communicated by Parties’ <http://www4.unfccc.int/submissions/indc/Submission%20Pages/submissions.aspx>.

20 Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, Draft agreement and draft decision on workstreams 1 and 2 of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action Work of the ADP contact group (6 November 2015, reissued on 11 November 2015) ADP.2015.11. InformalNote.

21 UNFCCC, ‘Decision 1/CP.21 Adoption of the Paris Agreement’ (29 January 2016) FCCC/CP/2015/10/Add.1, Annex (Paris Agreement) art 2(1).

22 See G Ananthakrishnan, ‘1.5°C target is a tall order’, The Hindu, 9 December 2015.

23 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 4(1).

24 See Informal note (n 20) art 3.

25 See, K Levin, J Morgan and J Song, ‘Insider: Understanding the Paris Agreement's Long-term Goal to Limit Global Warming’ (World Resources Institution, 15 December 2015) <http://www.wri.org/blog/2015/12/insider-understanding-paris-agreement%E2%80%99s-long-term-goal-limit-global-warming>.

26 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 4(19).

27 ibid, art 7(1).

28 See Submission by Swaziland on behalf of the African Group on adaptation in the 2015 Agreement (8 October 2013) <http://unfccc.int/files/documentation/submissions_from_parties/adp/application/pdf/adp_african_group_workstream_1_adaptation_20131008.pdf>.

29 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 14.

30 See contra, R Falk, ‘‘‘Voluntary’’ International Law and the Paris Agreement’ (16 January 2016) <https://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2016/01/16/voluntary-international-law-and-the-paris-agreement/>.

31 Paris Agreement (n 21) arts 3, 4(1), 4(2), 4(8), 4(13), 4(15), 4(16), 4(19) 5(1), 5(2), 6(1), 6(3), 6(8), 7(2), 7(4), 7(5), 7(6), 7(7), 8(1), 8(3), 9(2), 10(1), 10(2), 11(4), 12, and 14(4).

32 ibid, arts 4(2), 4(5), 4(8), 4(9), 4(13), 4(15), 4(16), 4(17), 7(9), 7(13), 9(1), 9(7), 10(2), 10(6), 11(4), 12, 13(7), 13(9), 13(11), 13(13) and 13(14).

33 The comma ensures that the final clause modifies Parties who ‘pursue’ those measures rather than the measures themselves. Thus the ‘with’ functions not as a preposition qualifying ‘measures’ but as a conjunction qualifying ‘pursue’.

34 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 13(7)(b).

35 ibid, art 13 (11).

36 eg United States’ Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (31 March 2015), all INDCs at <http://www4.unfccc.int/submissions/indc/Submission%20Pages/submissions.aspx>.

37 India's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (2 October 2015) 28–9. In addition to quantitative emissions intensity targets, India's INDC identifies qualitative objectives such as to ‘propagate a healthy and sustainable way of living based on traditions and values of conservation and moderation’.

38 Arguably India's. See India's INDC, ibid.

39 eg Brazil's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (28 September 2015) 2. It is worth noting that Parties considered the possibility of requiring all contributions to be unconditional. No agreement proved possible on this in Paris, but the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) has been tasked with developing further guidance on ‘features’ of nationally determined contributions for consideration and adoption by the CMA. See Decision 1/CP.21 (n 21) para 26.

40 ibid, art 4(12).

41 Decision 1/CP.21 (n 21) para 29.

42 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 4(11).

43 ibid, art 4(9).

44 ibid, art 4(8).

45 ibid, art 4(9).

46 ibid, art 4(8).

47 This is the decision accompanying the Paris Agreement.

48 These decisions are to be negotiated in the next few years and adopted after the Paris Agreement enters into force.

49 See eg for a similar provision, Agreement for the Implementation of the Provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982 relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks (adopted on 4 August 1995, entered into force 11 December 2001) A/CONF.164/37, art 10(c).

50 Decision 1/CP.21 (n 21) para 27.

51 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 4(13). See also Decision 1/CP.21 (n 21) paras 31 and 32. It is worth noting that the guidance on accounting applies only to second and subsequent contributions, although Parties could choose to apply it before.

52 COP decision may be considered as a ‘subsequent agreement between the Parties regarding the interpretation of the treaty or the application of its provisions’, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (adopted 23 May 1969, entered into force 27 January 1980) 1155 UNTS 331 (VCLT) art 31(3)(a). See Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v. Japan: New Zealand intervening) (Judgment) [2014] ICJ Rep 226, 248 (para 46).

53 The enabling clause in the relevant treaty may authorize a COP decision to be binding as in the case of Article 2(9), Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (adopted 16 September 1987, entered into force 1 January 1989) 1522 UNTS 3, or explicitly require further consent for it to be binding, as for example in the case of art 18, Kyoto Protocol, see Brunnée J, ‘COPing with Consent: Law-Making under Multilateral Environmental Agreements’ (2002) 15 LJIL 1, 24.

54 See, Brunnée (n 52) 32.

55 FCCC (n 4) art 4(1).

56 Art 7(1) read with art 7(4), Kyoto Protocol, and Decision 15/CMP.1. UNFCCC, ‘Decision 15/CMP 1 Guidelines for the preparation of the information required under Article 7 of the Kyoto Protocol’ (30 March 2006) FCCC/KP/CMP/2005/8/Add.2.

57 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 4(3).

58 Lima Call for Climate Action (n 13) para 10.

59 See ‘Views of Brazil on the Elements of a New Agreement under the Convention Applicable to All Parties’ (6 November 2014) <http://www4.unfccc.int/submissions/Lists/OSPSubmissionUpload/73_99_130602104651393682-BRAZIL%20ADP%20Elements.pdf>.

60 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 3.

61 ibid, art 4(2).

62 ibid, art 7(9).

63 ibid, art 9(1).

64 ibid, art 7(10) read with art 13(8).

65 ibid, art 7(7).

66 ibid, art 8(3).

67 ibid, art 13.

68 ibid, art 13(11).

69 Communication of Information under FCCC (n 4) Article 12, and UNFCCC, ‘Decision 1/CP.16 The Cancun Agreements: Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention’ (15 March 2011) FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.1 (Cancun Agreements (LCA)) paras 40 and 44 (Annex I Parties) and paras 60 and 63 (non-Annex I Parties).

70 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 13(1) and 13(2).

71 The LMDCs are a coalition of developing countries comprising Bolivia, China, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, India, Iran, Iraq, Malaysia, Mali, Nicaragua, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Venezuela.

72 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 13(5).

73 ibid, art 13(6).

74 Decision 1/CP.21 (n 21) para 90.

75 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 13(7)(a).

76 ibid, art 13(7)(b).

77 ibid, art 13(8).

78 ibid, art 13(9).

79 ibid, art 13(10).

80 ibid, art 13(11), read with Decision 1/CP.21 (n 21) paras 97 and 98.

81 ibid, art 13(12).

82 ibid, art 13(11).

83 Kyoto Protocol (n 3) art 8.

84 Cancun Agreements (LCA) (n 68) paras 44 and 63.

85 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 13(12).

86 ibid, art14.

87 Decision 1/CP.21 (n 21) paras 99–101.

88 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 14(1).

89 ibid.

90 Art 2 is identified as the ‘purpose’ of the Agreement by art 3, ibid.

91 ibid, art 4(1).

92 ibid, art 7(1).

93 The transparency system does not assess adequacy either.

94 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 7(14)(d).

95 ibid, art 9(6).

96 ibid, art 10(6).

97 ibid, art 13(5) and 13(6).

98 Decision 1/CP.21 (n 21) para 99 identifying sources of input ‘including but not limited to’.

99 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 14(1).

100 See, Submission by Swaziland on behalf of the African Group Under Workstream I of the ADP (8 October 2013) <https://unfccc.int/files/documentation/submissions_from_parties/adp/application/pdf/adp_african_group_workstream_1_20131008.pdf>.

101 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 14(3).

102 See also ibid, art 4(9).

103 ibid, art 14(2).

104 Decision 1/CP.21 (n 21) para 20.

105 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 15(3), and Decision 1/CP.21 (n 21) paras 102 and 103.

106 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 15(2).

107 Durban Platform (n 5) para 5.

108 FCCC (n 4) preambular recital 3.

109 See ibid, art 4 read with Annex I and II.

110 Durban Platform (n 5) para 5.

111 ibid. It is worth noting that until the final days of the Paris negotiations, China continued to urge Parties to title the 2015 Agreement, the ‘Paris Agreement under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’.

112 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 2(1) chapeau.

113 FCCC (n 4) art 2.

114 The Umbrella Group usually includes Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Kazakhstan, Norway, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the US.

115 See eg Paris Agreement (n 21) arts 1, 4(14), 5, 7(7), 9(1), 9(8) and 9(10).

116 ibid, preambular recital 2.

117 FCCC (n 4) arts 2, 7(2) and 14(2).

118 For instance the financial mechanism of the Convention serves as the financial mechanism of the Agreement, Paris Agreement (n 21) art 9(8).

119 VCLT (n 51) art 31(1).

120 ibid, art 31.

121 International Law Commission, Fragmentation of International Law: Difficulties Arising from the Diversification and Expansion of International Law (13 April 2006) A/CN.4/L.682, 25 (noting ‘a strong presumption against normative conflict’ in international law and that ‘treaty interpretation is diplomacy, and it is the business of diplomacy to avoid or mitigate conflict’.).

122 Durban Platform (n 5) para 2.

123 See UNFCCC, ‘Decision 1/CP.18 Agreed outcome pursuant to the Bali Action Plan’ (28 February 2013) FCCC/CP/2012/8/Add.1, recital to Part I; and Warsaw Decision (n 11) preambular recital 9.

124 Lima Call for Climate Action (n 13) para 3.

125 See the White House, US-China Joint Announcement on Climate Change, Beijing, China, 12 November 2014 (Office of the Press Secretary, 11 November 2014) para 2.

126 Paris Agreement (n 21) preambular recital 3.

127 ibid, art 2(2).

128 ibid, art 4(3).

129 ibid, art 4(19).

130 ibid, art 2(2).

131 As reflected in Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, Draft Paris Outcome: Revised draft conclusions proposed by the Co-Chairs (5 December 2015) FCCC/ADP/2015/L.6/Rev.1 .

132 As reflected in the Non-paper of 5 October 2015 (n 18).

133 Paris Agreement (n 21) preambular recital 3, arts 2(2), 4(1) and 14(1).

134 ibid, preambular recital 8, arts 2(1), 4(1), 6, 7(1), 8(1) and 10(5).

135 ibid, preambular recital 8.

136 ibid, preambular recital 8, arts 2(1), 4(1) and 6(8).

137 ibid, preambular recital 13.

138 FCCC (n 4) preambular recital 21.

139 ibid, art 4(7).

140 See eg Paris Agreement (n 21) arts 2(1), 4(1) and 6(8).

141 See Warsaw Decision (n 11) para 2(b).

142 See text accompanying nn 30–32.

143 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 4(4) and 4(19).

144 ibid, art 4(3).

145 See text accompanying nn 56–66.

146 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 4(19).

147 ibid, art 4(4).

148 J Vidal, ‘How a ‘typo’ nearly derailed the Paris climate deal’ (The Guardian, 16 December 2015) <http://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2015/dec/16/how-a-typo-nearly-derailed-the-paris-climate-deal>.

149 D Bodansky, ‘Legal Options for U.S. acceptance of a new Climate Change Agreement’ (Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions, May 2015).

150 ibid, 3–4.

151 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 13(1) and (2).

152 ibid, art 13(7) and (8).

153 ibid, art 13(9) and 13(10), and text accompanying nn 77–78.

154 ibid, art 13(11).

155 ibid, art 13(12).

156 ibid, art 13 (14).

157 ibid, art 13(15).

158 FCCC (n 4) art 12; and Cancun Agreements (LCA) (n 68) para 40 (Annex I Parties) and para 60 (non-Annex I Parties).

159 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 9(1).

160 ibid, art 9(3).

161 Decision 1/CP.21 (n 21) para 53.

162 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 9(5).

163 ibid, art 9(6).

164 See FCCC (n 4) art 4(3).

165 Paris Agreement (n 21) art 9(2).

166 ibid.

167 ibid, art 9(5) and 9(7).

168 Informal note (n 20) art 6, option 1.

169 See eg Paris Agreement (n 21) art 4(5), 7(13), 10(6) and 13(14).

170 ibid, art 4(5).

171 ibid, art 3.

172 Draft Text on COP 21 agenda item 4 (b) Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (decision 1/CP.17)

Adoption of a protocol, another legal instrument, or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties, Version 1 of 9 December 2015 at 15:00, Draft Paris Outcome, Proposal by the President <http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/da01.pdf> fn 7.

I am grateful to Jacob Werksman and Harald Winkler who over the years have fundamentally shaped both the climate regime and my thinking. I am also grateful to Andrew Higham, Jutta Brunnée and Michael Zammit Cutajar for valuable feedback; to Jonathan Gil Harris for his grammatical insights on curious commas, vexing verbs and ‘stray relative referential constructions’ in the Paris Agreement; and, to Shibani Ghosh for her eternal good cheer, keen eye for detail and excellent assistance. I formed a part of the UNFCCC Secretariat core drafting and advisory team at the Paris negotiations, but the views expressed in this article are personal.

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