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David Wirth

The Paris Agreement as a New Component of the UN Climate Regime

2017. Vol. 12. No. 4. P. [issue contents]

The Paris Agreement, which was adopted in December 2015 and entered into force less than a year later, is the newest instrument to be adopted in the United Nations-sponsored global climate regime.  The Paris Agreement takes its place under the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change and next to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and 2012 Doha Amendment.  After describing the historical evolution of the UN climate regime employing the tools of international law, this Article explores the structural, institutional, and legal relationships between the new Paris Agreement and the prior development and content of UN-sponsored efforts on climate protection under the auspices of the 1992 Framework Convention.  The need for such an analysis is particularly urgent because the new instrument was purposely not identified as a “protocol,” and its relationship to the prior Kyoto Protocol is unclear.

This Article consequently traces the development of the universal, UN-anchored climate regime from its origins in the 1990s to the present moment, with particular attention to the structural relationship among its various components and historical junctures.  The Article then examines the text and structure of the Paris Agreement, along with its context, against this background.  The significance of the Agreement’s status as an instrument other than a “protocol,” and its uncertain textual and institutional relationship to the prior Kyoto Protocol, receive particular scrutiny.  The Article concludes that the Paris Agreement, from a structural and institutional point of view, represents both a break with the past designed to initiate a new, globally-inclusive multilateral approach to climate protection, but also contains indications of continuity with prior questions of global climate policy. 

Citation: Wirth D.A. (2017) The Paris Agreement as a New Component of the UN Climate Regime. International Organisations Research Journal, vol. 12, no 4.
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