In late November and early December, diplomats and leaders from around the world will meet in Paris to negotiate a deal to address climate change at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. “Unless it is legally binding, it doesn’t make any sense,” Maldives Ambassador Ahmed Sareer said about the COP21 agreement earlier this year, echoing the widespread belief that a legally binding agreement is what constitutes success in Paris.
If this is how success is defined, then Paris will almost certainly fail, since major countries like the U.S., China, and India will refuse to sign on. If Paris is seen as a failure, this may lead to widespread disillusionment with the entire global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and this would indeed constitute a major failure.
Fortunately there is another way of defining and achieving success in Paris — one that still makes sense. The likely outcome in Paris is an international agreement that incorporates national pledges to reduce emissions and provides mechanisms for reviewing the parties’ progress in keeping their pledges. Under this pledge-and-review approach, par... Read more