Successes and failures of the UNFCCC
(4) The international climate change regime
Clemens Kaupa

Many have critized the UNFCCC for being yet another unsuccessful attempt at making any concrete change to improving the climate change problem. It is even argued that the goals are pointless as the current situation is beyond repair.

While there are many issues that still need to be addressed, regulations provided through commitments such as the Paris agreement allow for growth of positive initiatives by different states, leaders, and non-state actors to act in favour of limiting the impacts of climate change. The Paris agreement, being very successful in getting different countries to participate (reaching its 55% ratification goal in less than a year), opens a door for change by legally enticing states to improve their national policies. Maybe as a lesson from past agreements (such as the failed Kyoto Protocol), it requires participants to be more proactive in their efforts (with wording such as “ shall” as opposed to “should”). Countries commit to action and are held accountable by accepting to be more transparent about what they actually achieve. Climate change being recognized as an important issue through the framework of the UNFCC regimes allows states to rely on a credible authority to change their policies. In order to illustrate this, I will take the example of Canada. The previous government in charge was critized for its lack of action in addressing climate change. The new administration, after being actively involved in the COP21, took steps to change policies on carbon pricing in order to achieve the goals set out in Paris. While this came to a shock to many, the Trudeau administration justified it as a way forward for lowering Canada’s environmental footprint and “(see Such changes are important and a proof that while there is a lot of skepticism surrounding regimes such as the UNFCCC’s, they do allow for change on different levels all over the world.

Different non-state initiatives also came out of the COP21- such as the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which may be a proof that the framework actually offers a basis for different initiatives to work independently towards reaching “green” goals.

While it may be wishful thinking, one could hope that private actors would be more encouraged to also get involved in these issues to contribute financially, for example, in lowering their own impact or helping other players to do so.

The reality of it remains that the success of the UNFCCC will be visible through its results. It is argued that more important and meaningful policy implementation and legal changes need to happen and that future conventions such as the current COP22 will have to be focused on such aspects. COP21 opened a door for willingness to change, now there needs to be proof of action.

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