Institutional and environmental effectiveness: Will the Paris Agreement work?

by Radoslav Dimitrov, Jon Hovi, Detlef F. Sprintz, Håkon Sælen, Arild Underdal

Published in WIREs Climate Change, online 27 February 2019.


The 2015 Paris Agreement (PA) has been widely hailed as a diplomatic triumph and a breakthrough in global climate cooperation. However, it is commonly accepted that the PA's collective goal—keeping global warming “well below” 2°C above preindustrial levels—remains ambitious. Making matters even more challenging, in 2017, global CO2 emissions resumed growth after 3 years of near standstill. In 2018, this growth accelerated. It is therefore extremely important that the PA's institutional architecture meet expectations concerning its ability to induce member countries to promise and deliver emissions reductions.

This study offers a review of the rapidly growing literature on the PA, to assess its strengths and weaknesses, its significance, and its prospects. We focus on evaluations of its institutional structure and its ability to induce member countries to implement policies. We frame the issues as a trilemma: the challenge of simultaneously satisfying all three main conditions for effectiveness—broad participation, deep commitments, and satisfactory compliance rates. Based on our review, we conclude that the key challenge for the PA will likely be to facilitate sufficiently fast ratcheting‐up of nationally determined contributions, while keeping compliance rates high.


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Published Mar. 11, 2019 1:41 PM - Last modified May 31, 2021 3:42 PM