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Annotating the Paris Agreement

Annotating the Paris Agreement

This article 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.[1] 

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.

The Paris Agreement is the sum of a decision and an agreement within the scope of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).[2] The Agreement was negotiated during the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP 21) of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015. The President of the COP 21, France’s foreign-minister Laurent Fabius, said this “ambitious and balanced” plan was a “historic turning point” in the goal of reducing “global warming”.[3]

As of October 2020, of 197 Parties to the Convention, 189 Parties have ratified it. The Paris Agreement entered into force on 4 November 2016, thirty days after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession with the Depositary.[4] 

The Agreement 

The Agreement itself is an annex to the Decision on Agenda item 4 (b) of the COP 21.[5] While the Decision can be taken by the parties’ (i.e., countries’) delegates present at the COP, the Agreement must be ratified by the sovereign organs of the state of the respective countries. Therefore, it cannot be part of the Decision. 

Preamble 

The Agreement’s lengthy preamble tries to amalgamate different, often contradictory principles. For example, “common but differentiated responsibilities” denotes the common goal of all parties to reduce climate change but at the same time implies that some (i.e., the industrialized world) must do more than others (i.e., developing countries). At the same time and in the same sentence, the principle of equity is being held as an objective of the Agreement. So, at the same time, agents are supposed to have common goals and be equal in their rights, however, some agents are supposed to have more duties than others.

The differentiation between industrialized and developing parties was one of the main topics during the COP 21. Industrialized countries did not want to repeat a Kyoto-Protocol wording where there is a bifurcation of the world in those countries that combat climate change and those that do not (Annex I countries and non-Annex I parties). On the other hand, developing countries consistently made their position clear that fighting poverty, enhancing their development and creating working economies are more important to them than dealing with climate change. A compromise – at least in wording – could be reached in Paris. Its results are the different formulae in the preamble recognizing the role of different facets of development and linking these to curbing climate change. Another result is the rather magnanimous financial commitments (see further below).

Also, many issues that can best be considered of particularistic nature are in the preamble. Examples of such are the inclusion of language such as “Mother Earth”, “climate justice”, “sustainable lifestyles” or “gender equality”. By just figuring in the Preamble, these expressions have no substantive consequence for the Agreement. They were, inserted, however, in order not to make relatively unimportant issues too controversial. Note that this does not mean that the issues denoted by the wordings are not important, but, as they are mentioned just in the Preamble, it is their position within the document – their morphological locus – that makes them unimportant. This, too, shows the uneasy compromise that the Agreement is: these issues were considered important to consider (otherwise, controversies would arise), but not sufficiently important to be part of the Decision. 

The Aims of the Agreement 

The aims of the Agreement are stated in its Article 2, paragraph 1: 

(a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change; (b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production; (c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.” 

Paragraph 2 states: 

This Agreement will be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances.” 

With this second paragraph in Article 2, the bifurcation of the world is, at the same time, prevented in its hard wording and accepted in a softer way. Although all countries should work towards a common emission reduction goal and curb climate change, some will have to take stronger efforts than others. It remains to be seen how the differentiation of efforts will be measured. Technically, there are different ways of differentiating. The slope of the abatement cost curve of an individual country could be such a guideline, but also its carbon intensity, its human development index, its sustainable development program, its interconnectedness in the global supply chain, its allocation of budgetary means, just to name some. As this brief list of examples suggest, there are different technical criteria for differentiating efforts. Therefore, it will be, again, a political discussion which criterion to apply, if any. The “hard”, or Kyoto-style, bifurcation of the world, however, could be fended off. Differentiated efforts still means that every country is supposed to contribute, while in the Kyoto wording, only Annex I countries are supposed to take mitigation efforts.

Concerning the goals, it is the first time a global Agreement has such strong language. Also, Article 4, para. 1, resolves to peak global greenhouse-gas emissions as soon as possible. Then, after 2050, it says that all anthropogenic emissions should be balanced with “removal by sinks.” This is essentially a net-zero goal.[6] Whether the common but differentiated efforts agreed upon here are sufficient for achieving the 2 or 1.5 degree, or even the net-zero goals, must remain open. These goals themselves are not mandatory in the sense of there being no mechanism in the Agreement envisaging action in case the goal is not reached (further below). 

Mitigation 

The types of efforts to be taken regarding climate change in general can be grouped into three. The first is mitigation and means the actual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The most important way of reducing the emissions – according to the Agreement – is the “nationally determined contribution NDC” as stated in Article 4. The Agreement requires NDCs to be “ambitious” and set “with the view to achieving the purpose of this Agreement”. The contributions should be reported every five years and are to be registered by the UNFCCC Secretariat, according to Article 14. Each further ambition should be more ambitious than the previous one. Countries can cooperate and pool their nationally determined contributions.

The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (see below) pledged during the COP 21 serve – unless provided otherwise – as initial NDC. It is important to note that the level of emission targets set by each country will not be binding. There will be no mechanism to force a country to set a target by a specific date and no enforcement if a set target is not met. Also, there is no sanction mechanism. But there is the commitment towards common – and possibly even guided – transparency in Article 13. Some analysts speak about a “name and shame”, others of a “name and encourage” system.

Under the UNFCCC, parties will have different means of achieving their NDCs or emission reduction targets. Apart from or in addition to domestic policies, there are international market-based mechanisms, called cooperative approaches and not limited to offsetting (Art. 6, para. 1-7); a non-market-based mechanism of international cooperation (Art. 6, para. 8-9; see also part 4 of this brief);[7] the yet little understood co-benefits of adaptation to climate change (Art. 4 para. 7); sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases (Art. 5), or the forestry sector (Art. 5). It is important to remark that these instruments are under the UN framework. Parties can still – alone or in cooperation with others – develop own instruments outside of this framework. For many parties, setting up the instruments under the UNFCCC was important in order to achieve common rules, modalities and procedures.

If instruments of international cooperation were to be developed outside of the UNFCCC, they could follow different principles and rules. This would, again, carry the danger of bifurcation. With the actual wording, there will be instruments under the UNFCCC’s umbrella. And it is the task of the further COPs to develop the common rules, modalities and procedures governing them. Many delegates expect that while there will be mechanisms outside this umbrella – for example the Japanese Joint Crediting Mechanism or the international linking of Emission Trading Schemes – these mechanisms will be encouraged to draw their own rules, modalities and procedures close to those under the UNFCCC’s.

As of 2020, article 6 and the interplay between the different mitigation mechanisms are still to be negotiated. 

Adaptation, Finance and Institutions 

The second type of effort that can be taken to curb climate change is adaptation. This involves questions of how to maintain social resilience in face of climate change, or, how to eradicate poverty and develop a growth-oriented economy despite of greenhouse gas reduction, among others. Article 7 deals with adaptation. Its main instruments are sharing information among countries and between governments and the civil sector, capacity building, and access to scientific knowledge among others (Art. 7, para. 7). Technology transfers also play an important role. Therefore, the Agreement foresees the establishment of an institution aiming at organizing the transfer of knowledge and know-how from developed to developing economies (Art. 10). Last but not least, there is financial aid, which is dynamic, since every second year, developed countries will have to report how much they aided and how they intend to scale up their aid (Art. 9, esp. para. 5 and 7).[8]

Article 9 of the Agreement stresses that “developed country Parties should continue to take the lead in mobilizing climate finance from a wide variety of sources, instruments and channels (Art. 9.3).” This follows the Convention’s principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, as also reiterated in the Agreement (Art. 2.2). Which country should take on what responsibility, and how this relates to the annual USD 100 billion target by 2020 is left open and will be based on self-assessment and determination. At the same time, reflecting the demise of the formal distinction between Annex-1 and non-Annex-1 countries pursuant to the Annexes of the UNFCCC, the Agreement also encourages developing countries to provide financial support on a “voluntary basis” (Art. 9.2). This reference was included as a result of developed nations stressing the point that certain developing countries are also in the position to contribute international climate funding.

The Agreement further notes the “significant role of public funds” (Art. 9.3), which are to be mobilized beyond previous efforts. So far, all pledges received by the Green Climate Fund represent public funds. However, the fund is open to non-public allocations and plans to include innovative ways to accept contributions from private entities and individuals. The fund is in the process of setting up the Private Sector Facility with the objective to mobilize private capital flows by tapping into international businesses and capital markets. Finally, the Decision also encourages non-Party stakeholders to scale up their climate actions “including those of civil society, the private sector, financial institutions, cities and other subnational authorities” (para. 134).

The Agreement has strengthened the case for equal allocation of future climate funding between mitigation and adaptation action. Financial resources are encouraged to be “a balance between adaptation and mitigation, taking into account country-driven strategies, and the priorities and needs of developing country Parties, especially […] least developed countries and small island developing States” (Art. 9.4). This is in recognition of the fact that the bulk of investments to date have been dedicated to mitigation measures globally. The requirement to take into account broader sustainable co-benefits of supported mitigation and adaptation action also comes back in the Agreement’s text, which calls for the promotion of “sustainable development and environmental integrity” (Art. 6.1).

The Agreement does not go into specifics concerning the actual design of possible funding mechanisms. However, clear reference is made to the role of results-based payments as a possible funding scheme for incentivizing emission reductions from deforestation and forest degradation as well as related co-benefits (Art. 5.2).

The third type of effort in dealing with climate change is called loss and damage, as stated in Article 8: “averting, minimizing and addressing loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change, including extreme weather events and slow onset events, and the role of sustainable development in reducing the risk of loss and damage.” For this, the Paris Agreement foresees financial aid (in addition to adaptation): “Early warning systems; Emergency preparedness; Slow onset events; Events that may involve irreversible and permanent loss and damage; Comprehensive risk assessment and management; Risk insurance facilities, climate risk pooling and other insurance solutions; Non-economic losses; Resilience of communities, livelihoods and ecosystems (Art. 8, para. 4).” However, paragraph 52 in the Paris Decision – the other part of the document – lets developed countries recognize the importance of funding for loss and damage without being liable for climate reparations. This was a major issue for different countries (see further below).[9]

These three areas of action are complemented by different common intentions regarding e.g., capacity building (Art. 11), cooperation (Art. 12), transparency (Art. 13), and an institutional framework. The COP will continue to meet at least yearly and will serve as meeting of parties signatories to the Agreement (Art 14). Also, today’s bodies under the COP, the subsidiary body for implementation SBI and the subsidiary body for scientific and technological advice SBSTA will continue to exist (Art. 18). Finally, there will be a mechanism for implementation of the Agreement (Art. 15). With these institutions, together with the possible mechanism for international markets, the possible mechanism for non-market approaches, the facility for technology transfer, the facility for loss and damage and the facility for financial aid (possible in addition to the actual Green Climate Fund), the Paris Agreement creates a plethora of additional institutions in international climate change administration. 

The Decision 

While the Agreement still has to be ratified by the participating countries, the Decision is the actual outcome of the COP 21 and entered immediately into force under the UNFCCC. While the Agreement is the work program for after the year 2020, the Decision focusses on work that has to be started in the year of 2016 and finished by 2020 in order to bring the Agreement to fruition, if it is ratified. Note, however, that the Decision only decides matters concerning the UNFCCC’s bodies. It cannot decide over parties; it only encourages, recommends or requests parties to take action.

Elements of the Decision are commending the work that has been done so far under the UNFCCC / COP, intended nationally determined contributions to mitigation, decisions to give effect to the Agreement, enhanced actions prior to 2020 and the efforts by non-party stakeholders. Especially in its 3rd part (the decisions to give effect to the Agreement), the Decision is extremely technical. The idea behind it is to prepare the rules, modalities and procedures for all bodies, provisions, facilities and mechanisms foreseen in the Agreement. Therefore, the Decision is the operationalization of the work stream on the Agreement.

Central questions here include avoiding double counting, defining the content of additionality, specifying the difference between capacity-building-finance and results-based-finance, among other things. Note however, that these matters are not being decided in the Decision, but they constitute the objects of the workstream on how to decide them. In order to repeat this point of importance: the Decision does not say how to implement the Agreement, it only tells the bodies under the UNFCCC on what to work in the next four years. 

100 billion USD per year 

There is, however, a peculiar provision in this third part of the Decision; it is about finance (para. 54): “Also decides that, in accordance with Article 9, paragraph 3, of the Agreement, developed countries intend to continue their existing collective mobilization goal through 2025 in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation; prior to 2025 the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement shall set a new collective quantified goal from a floor of USD 100 billion per year, taking into account the needs and priorities of developing countries.”

This is not a decision binding the parties, but one about the goal of the whole body. And it is a decision that purposefully blurs the line between pre and post 2020. Until 2025, developed parties are requested to destine 1 trillion USD to development aid. Let it be noted that this type of financial aid cannot be tied to its use or even results. The recipient countries can use the means as they deem fit, including other areas than climate change. This is due to the principle of the local-ownership of aid. 

Other peculiarities 

Apart from this peculiar paragraph, there are two more noteworthy passages in the Decision. The first is para. 17. It notes that even if all actual intended nationally determined contributions are achieved, the 2-degrees Celsius goal itself will not be achieved. It reads: “17. Notes with concern that the estimated aggregate greenhouse gas emission levels in 2025 and 2030 resulting from the intended nationally determined contributions do not fall within least-cost 2 ˚C scenarios but rather lead to a projected level of 55 gigatonnes in 2030, and also notes that much greater emission reduction efforts will be required than those associated with the intended nationally determined contributions in order to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2 ˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing emissions to 40 gigatonnes or to 1.5 ˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing to a level to be identified in the special report referred to in paragraph 21 below.”

This is relevant for the Agreement, as it states that a 1.5-degree goal is more important that the 2-degrees target and if not stated otherwise the actual intended nationally determined contributions will be automatically treated as NDCs. From a logical standpoint, this is contradictory. Parties might be engaging in an Agreement knowing that its means cannot achieve its goals. That is why the Agreement foresees a global stock-take in order to reassess the goals and NDCs (see below).

The second is the fifth part of the Decision, the one about non-party stakeholders. Here, for the first time in this process, the efforts of civil society and the private sector are being recognized. It is also here, in para. 137, that the role of carbon pricing is explicitly recognized. Recognizing the role of carbon pricing was an important issue for the larger multinational companies present at the COP. Through the non-governmental organizations that they sponsor (for example the international emissions trading association IETA or the world business council on sustainable development WBCSD), these agents lobbied heavily for the inclusion of the expression “carbon pricing”. This can be explained: many multinational companies do have an interest in recognizing carbon pricing in order to lower their adaptation costs to different domestic legal environments and, since most of them have implemented pricing systems within their business plans, to gain an advantage over those that have not done so yet. 


General Annotations 

Financial Accord. First and foremost, the Paris Agreement with its Decision are considered by many, especially developing countries, financial accords. If all the finance provisions are scaled up as recommend by the Decision, at least 1.5 trillion USD will be destined to development aid (the 1 trillion USD of para. 54 and another 500 million USD in para. 115). In addition to those flows, there are other already existing financing instruments through the Green Climate Fund, the Clean Development Mechanism, among others, that will be continued. Note that these financial flows, as well as those elements under the Decision, are not part of the Paris Agreement. Parties are encouraged to partake in them, even if they don’t ratify the Agreement and even if the Agreement is not ratified at all. Many observers interpret the financial aid as the price tag for non-bifurcation – i.e., instead of having some 100 parties blocking the Agreement and Decision text in postulating a hard differentiation between developed and developing parties, they were promised at least 1.5 trillion USD to accept the text; so, financial aid is not the price of the Paris Agreement, it is the price of a non-bifurcated text (one could contend, the price of the Agreement will be much higher).

Little understood content. Many provisions of the Agreement are yet little understood. Since they are fruit of compromise, it is difficult to assess if they have meaning at all. One example is Article 4’s “to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.” While some experts see “net zero emissions” being stated here, others take the term “balancing” as the most important in the sentence, accepting, thus, offsetting by forests and other sinks. Other such under-determined contents are, for example, the different versions of share of proceeds, if differentiation also differentiates between the developing countries, or the role of the UNFCCC itself.

Historical debt. Not all little understood concepts entered the Agreement. Historical debt was such one. Under this convoluted term, many developing countries insisted in seeing in the development of industrialized countries a reason for making them liable for emissions past. The climate-debt concept incorporates two distinct elements, The first is Adaptation debt, which represents the compensation owed to the poor for the damages of climate change they have not caused. The second is Emissions debt, which is compensation owed for their fair share of the atmospheric space they cannot use if climate change is to be stopped. This idea did not enter the Paris Agreement. Even “Loss and Damage” – a natural hook for it – dismissed it by explicitly stating that there is no liability for loss and damage.

Global stock-take. Since it is known that within the climate change model adopted by the UNFCCC the NDCs as they stand now will not suffice for achieving the Agreement’s goal, two rounds of global stock-take are planned. In 2018, nations held a “facilitative conference” to revisit some of the emissions reductions ideas. Then, in 2023, the world will meet again where countries are supposed to announce new and improved emission-reduction plans. Rich countries may also announce more monetary help for poor ones at these events. And every five years after that, indefinitely, the world will meet again to discuss its renewed plans to decarbonize. This carries three risks. First, actions can be delayed until each of these conferences. Second, the bifurcation of the world can happen again and again at each of these conferences (meaning: even more financial aid will have to be stockpiled for the developing world’s participation in any serious efforts of mitigation). And third, the meaning as well as instruments, mechanisms, facilities and other institutions of the Agreement can become the object of bargain anytime, thus making the Agreement less stable and consistent.

No immediate action. Such an agreement almost ever leads to immediate action; especially if the Agreement is as full of compromises as this one. It is wrong, thus, to interpret these accords as the milestone for the salvation of the world from climate change. The Agreement as such has no direct link to domestic policies or their implementation. It is each country’s sovereign decision if and how to deal with climate change, if or which policies to set up and if or how these domestic policies correspond to the Agreement. Nonetheless, the Agreement is the first stance of a global declaration – and for the moment it is little less than one – on how to deal with climate change.

The French Handwriting. France’s presidency of the COP 21 did not let any doubt surface: there was going to be an accord at the end, no matter what. Therefore, all negotiations were result driven. And results were compromises. So, the text is full of compromises, especially favoring a differentiation on the duties of countries, assessing climate change in the context of other policy areas such as development, and providing for magnanimous financial aid. France’s presidency was willing to accept any price for an accord, as it did. However, France was also interested in positioning itself as an ally to its former colonies. The generous financial aid is just one and the most immediate example. In the text of the Decision, there are other examples like the explicit mentioning of Africa in its preamble and the many implicit references to the Caribbean. 

Further Questions 

One a more general level, there are at least three different sets of questions that directly arise from the Paris outcome. It does not mean that these are the only questions regarding climate change or agreements on climate change. These three sets of questions are directly linked to the Paris Agreement. They are:

The Aim of Mitigation and (Sustainable) Development. As some developing countries openly defied the precedence of mitigation over their own development, this might be the most pressing set of questions. As evidence suggests, human development is energy intensive. For example, over the course of time in which South Korea’s level of human development rose from about the level of Central American countries to the level of Northern European countries, its per capita greenhouse-gas emissions quadrupled. Such growth in energy consumption is typical of human development advances. The International Energy Agency has launched the Energy Development Index (EDI), which measures a country’s use of modern energy. When countries’ ranks on the EDI are plotted against their rank on the Human Development Index, there is a strong correlation. As energy use and access expands, a country’s human development improves. Intuitively, this is not a surprising result. Energy consumption is, after all, the means by which agriculture is modernized, exports for international trade are manufactured, and roads, hospitals, and schools are built.

Although an international mitigation regime should aim for a rapid transition to a zero-carbon global economy, at least, according to the Agreement, it is reasonable to expect it do so in a way that is consistent with not slowing the morally obligatory project of eradicating global poverty. Agreement and Decision do affirm the importance of the right to sustainable development. There are two reasons to think that the distribution of the costs of climate change mitigation among states should conform to the requirements of sustainable development. First, any cooperative project – like mitigating climate change – should allow for its parties to be able to do what they are otherwise morally obliged to do. Poverty eradication is a moral obligation of the international community and a required aim of national development strategies. Recognizing the right to sustainable development protects states seeking to develop economic strategies that aim to eradicate poverty. Second, in agreeing to the UNFCCC document, which expressly recognizes the right to sustainable development, member states of the UNFCCC have assumed a promissory obligation to respect it. The architecture of the assignment of responsibility in an international mitigation regime, then, should ensure that developing and least developed states are able to exercise their rights to sustainable development.

Given the need for increased energy consumption to pursue human development, the right to sustainable development establishes a justified claim for increased energy consumption in developing and least developed countries. If that is correct, two options seem available. If increasing energy consumption in the developing world were to involve the increased consumption (over the short term) of fossil fuels, which remain the least expensive and densest form of energy, then developed countries would need to reduce their emissions enough to offset the emissions increase since the mitigation aim requires an overall reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions. Alternatively, if the increased consumption is to be of renewable energy (assuming that no climate impact exists from the process of their setup and exploitation), then developed countries would be required to subsidize the purchase of that energy as long as fossil fuels remain cheaper, since assuming the burden of mitigation should not slow the process of poverty eradication.

Loss and Damage and how to measure it. If it is true that climate change wrongs others – and therefore entitles these others to justice –, it is important to measure the wrongdoing. Yet owing something to another generally involves specific relational content as well. Often integral in the conceptions of owing a duty to another is a specific duty bearer or bearers, specific duty content, and a specific individual or individuals to whom a duty is owed. Typically, these two elements of owing something to another are found together. When Avdyl makes a promise to Ljube, for example, Avdyl has a directed duty to Ljube to do as he promised and if he fails to keep this particular promise, he does not merely do wrong; he wrongs Ljube. The world is often aligned, however, such that owing a duty to another in the former sense does not entail owing a duty to another in the latter. In the case of climate change, any claims those harmed may have are not connected to the duties of even the most profligate emitters in the way Ljube’s claims are to Avdyl’s duties. Given the voluntary nature of the Paris Agreement, even with a “great unexpected breakthrough,” those wronged by climate change will still not be able to demand as their due duties with specific content that are by themselves sufficient to prevent the wrongs done to them.

One solution to this incongruity is to contend that there is a necessary connection between the potential for wronging and the existence of a specific and specifically addressed duty, but that connection is normative rather than descriptive. Just as duties “call out” to be fulfilled (i.e., duties normatively require fulfillment) even when they are violated, being the potential subject of moral wrongs ought to engender directed obligations on the part of others, but it need not currently do so in order to be properly analyzed as something owed to them. Owing something to another requires fulfillment. But there is also another possibility to examine: is someone wronging others if one prevents others from engaging in meaningful second personal exchanges about what is rightfully their due? This latter wrong is easy to overlook or to deem as less significant. After all, the failure to fulfill the content of a duty or a right might seem much more important than the failure to allow one to complain or seek redress when those duties are violated. Yet time and again, the inability to engage, to complain, and to seek redress is often taken to be as dehumanizing, if not more so, than the original injustice.

Collective action and climate ethics. Some philosophers, especially in Europe, have become interested in climate ethics. There is little question that by changing the climate, human action is causing harm to humans and other organisms, but there is little agreement about whether and how the traditional concepts of moral philosophy (e.g., duty, responsibility, blame, and so on) can be applied in this domain. Climate change may involve the world’s biggest collective action problem, but it is far from clear that philosophers’ notions such as cumulative or threshold responsibility have much application when assessing the behavior of someone who emits carbon driving their kids home from soccer practice. This is an area where it is not easy to figure out what to make of the tidy concepts and idealizations of philosophers when they collide with the real world. While philosophical reflection on climate change is generally neglected, one area that is especially rich and especially neglected is political philosophy[10]

Notes:

[1] UNFCCC (2020), https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement (accessed October 11th 2020).

[2] Adoption of the Paris Agreement, UNFCCC/CP/2015/L.9. All quotations in the text henceforth are from this document, unless otherwise mentioned.

[3] Reuters (Dec. 12th 2015): With landmark climate accord, world marks turn from fossil fuels; http://www.reuters.com/article/us-climatechange-summit-idUSKBN0TV04L20151212#gVKudBATCD0EGdxL.97.

[4] UNFCCC (2020), https://unfccc.int/process/the-paris-agreement/status-of-ratification (accessed October 11th, 2020).

[5] 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.

[6] “In order to achieve the long-term temperature goal set out in Article 2, Parties aim to reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that peaking will take longer for developing country Parties, and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century, on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.”

[7] This convoluted Article reads as follows: „Article 6

  1. Parties recognize that some Parties choose to pursue voluntary cooperation in the implementation of their nationally determined contributions to allow for higher ambition in their mitigation and adaptation actions and to promote sustainable development and environmental integrity.
  2. Parties shall, where engaging on a voluntary basis in cooperative approaches that involve the use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes towards nationally determined contributions, promote sustainable development and ensure environmental integrity and transparency, including in governance, and shall apply robust accounting to ensure, inter alia, the avoidance of double counting, consistent with guidance adopted by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement.
  3. The use of internationally transferred mitigation outcomes to achieve nationally determined contributions under this Agreement shall be voluntary and authorized by participating Parties.
  4. A mechanism to contribute to the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable development is hereby established under the authority and guidance of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement for use by Parties on a voluntary basis. It shall be supervised by a body designated by the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement, and shall aim:

(a) To promote the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions while fostering sustainable development;

(b) To incentivize and facilitate participation in the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions by public and private entities authorized by a Party;

(c) To contribute to the reduction of emission levels in the host Party, which will benefit from mitigation activities resulting in emission reductions that can also be used by another Party to fulfil its nationally determined contribution; and

(d) To deliver an overall mitigation in global emissions.

  1. Emission reductions resulting from the mechanism referred to in paragraph 4 of this Article shall not be used to demonstrate achievement of the host Party’s nationally determined contribution if used by another Party to demonstrate achievement of its nationally determined contribution.
  2. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement shall ensure that a share of the proceeds from activities under the mechanism referred to in paragraph 4 of this Article is used to cover administrative expenses as well as to assist developing country Parties that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change to meet the costs of adaptation.
  3. The Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement shall adopt rules, modalities and procedures for the mechanism referred to in paragraph 4 of this Article at its first session.
  4. Parties recognize the importance of integrated, holistic and balanced non-market approaches being available to Parties to assist in the implementation of their nationally determined contributions, in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, in a coordinated and effective manner, including through, inter alia, mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology transfer and capacity-building, as appropriate. These approaches shall

aim to:

(a) Promote mitigation and adaptation ambition;

(b) Enhance public and private sector participation in the implementation of nationally determined contributions; and

(c) Enable opportunities for coordination across instruments and relevant institutional arrangements.

  1. A framework for non-market approaches to sustainable development is hereby defined to promote the nonmarket approaches referred to in paragraph 8 of this Article.”

[8] “1. Developed country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention. 5. Developed country Parties shall biennially communicate indicative quantitative and qualitative information related to paragraphs 1 and 3 of this Article, as applicable, including, as available, projected levels of public financial resources to be provided to developing country Parties. Other Parties providing resources are encouraged to communicate biennially such information on a voluntary basis.”

[9] “52. Agrees that Article 8 of the Agreement does not involve or provide a basis for any liability or compensation.”

[10] See also: http://www.themarketforideas.com/the-anthropocene-fallacy-learning-from-wrong-ideas-a518/.

 

 
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OEconomica No. 1, 2016