Differentiation In The Paris Agreement
The provisions of the Paris Agreement on climate change include a limited model of self-differentiation. The Warsaw decision called on the parties to submit “planned national contributions” under the 2015 convention. Footnote 141 When presenting these contributions, the parties were able to determine the scope of their contributions, their form, their rigour and the information that accompanies them. To the extent that parties chose their own contributions and adapted them to their national realities, capabilities and national constraints, they distinguished themselves from any other nation. This form of differentiation is characterized as self-differentiation. And this is the starting point for differentiation in the weakening section of the Paris Agreement. In addition to the binding obligation to prepare, communicate and maintain contributions and implement national measures, contracting parties are subject to other behavioural obligations. Parties are required to report their contributions every five years. Footnote 43 When communicating their contributions at the national level, contracting parties are required to provide the information necessary for clarity, transparency and understanding. Footnote 44 These provisions are mandatory (“must” and therefore constitute binding obligations for contracting parties.
These provisions also require the parties to respect the decisions of the supreme decision-making body for the new agreement, the “Conference of the Parties,” known as the “Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement” (CMA). The Paris Agreement requires contracting parties to submit their contributions every five years,note 45 and provide the information necessary for clarity, transparency and footnote 46, in accordance with Decision 1/CP.21.47 and the CMA`s “relevant decisions. Footnote 48 It could be argued that the Paris Agreement, by incorporating these decisions, makes them inherently binding, footnote 49, or it might be possible to read the Paris agreement in such a way as to allow the CMA to make binding laws. In both cases, the contracting parties are required to respect the relevant decisions. It should be noted that “relevant decisions” may leave room for discretion for the contracting parties. With respect to information, for example, Decision 1/CP.21 provides that contracting parties “may, if necessary, contain several listed information.” Footnote 50 Ambitious targets, important commitments and strict monitoring of the Paris Agreement, if applied consistently, would serve as a shackle for most developing countries. The Paris Agreement is therefore firmly rooted in the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities, albeit taking into account different national circumstances. It also covers a differentiated form of differentiation for developing countries and extends financial, technological and capacity assistance to developing countries. It is this compromise on differentiation and support that has unravelled the Proverbian Gordian knot and paved the way for the adoption of the Paris Agreement.
The 2015 Paris Agreement is a historic achievement of multilateral diplomacy. After years of deeply ambiguous negotiations, the parties have taken advantage of the political will to reach an agreement on climate change, which strikes a careful balance between ambition and differentiation. The Paris Agreement contains ambitious targets, binding mitigation commitments, a rigorous monitoring system and differentiated differentiation between developed and developing countries. This article examines the main elements of the Paris Agreement – ambition and differentiation – in order to undermine the text of the agreement for its interpretations and its underlying policy.