Cary Coglianese on the challenges facing the Paris Agreement

From October 31 through November 12, 2021, world leaders will convene in Glasgow for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26). As the biggest global meeting dedicated to tackling the climate crisis, it will bring leaders together in an effort to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

A masked crowd of protesters marching holding cardboard signs, one reads CHANGE POLITICS NOT THE CLIMATE.
On October 2nd, 2021, 6000 people joined a Fridays for Future school strike in Milan, Italy, calling for climate and environmental protection, for the Paris Agreement and the 1.5° goal, and to put pressure on politicians. (Image: Alexander Pohl/AP Images)

Under the Paris Agreement, each country makes its own commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In a recent analysis, “Pledging, Populism and the Paris Agreement: The Paradox of a Management-Based Approach to Global Governance,” published in the Maryland Journal of International Law, Coglianese argues that the complications faced by the early implementation of the Paris Agreement reveal more than just the persistent challenges associated with international cooperation. They also reflect structural limitations inherent in the Agreement’s approach to climate governance, he writes.

Those structural limitations stem from the Paris Agreement’s “bottom up” approach, which expects each country to make and meet its own commitments. This approach, as Coglianese writes, is similar to an approach common in national and local regulation known as “management-based regulation.”

“Although a management-based regulatory strategy may have been the best option available for securing a widespread global climate agreement,” says Coglianese, “this strategy seems to offer little assurance of forward momentum on climate policy due to an inherent paradox created by the Agreement’s management-based design: global progress will depend on domestic politics.”

Most notably, he explores the rising tide of populism as a potential barrier to the successful implementation of the Agreement.

“[T]he Paris Agreement will succeed only if political efforts within individual countries push back the threat to global cooperation posed by populism and convince domestic leaders to support serious climate action,” he says.

Read more at Penn Law.