Assessing progress towards the Paris Agreement

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

When 195 countries signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, they committed to keeping global mean temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels by the end of the century and to make efforts to limit the rise to below 1.5 degrees. 

Instead of setting legally binding emission reduction targets, however, the agreement relies on countries’ voluntary pledges and actions, monitored by regular reviews to ensure progress towards these goals. This new pledge-and-review global governance model will be reviewed by an equally novel assessment mechanism—the global stocktake.

In addition to assessing collective progress over time, the global stocktake (GST) is also expected to act as an ambition mechanism, inspiring and driving new activities to further reduce emissions over time. Professor Manjana Milkoreit and graduate student Kate Haapala (Political Science) analyzed which characteristics of the GST would maximize the chances for its effectiveness and offered suggestions for designing this unprecedented review and ambition mechanism.

Their study included an analysis of the closest available precedent to the GST, the Periodic Review. Created in 2010 by the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference along with a long-term temperature goal of 2 degrees Celsius, the goal of this new review process was to regularly assess the adequacy of the long-term global temperature goal and the overall progress toward achieving it. The First Periodic Review (FPR) was conducted between 2013-2015, and was used to inform the negotiations in Paris. Milkoreit and Haapala identified success criteria related to three dimensions of the FPR—the nature of the process, procedural characteristics, and outputs and outcomes—and used this analysis to develop a series of lessons for designing the GST.

They suggest that the most important feature of the GST will be its ability to serve as a collective learning and engagement platform for the Parties. In addition to promoting peer-learning, this aspect of the GST could also drive ambition and serve as an enabling mechanism for transformative action and for involving non-state stakeholders. Other key characteristics of the GST include allowing for flexibility and adaptation over time; ensuring inclusiveness, transparency, and fairness; focusing on efficiency in terms of time, funds, and knowledge; and emphasizing the technical work of assessment and learning to keep discussions focused on science and expertise, rather than on negotiations.

Milkoreit, M. and K. Haapala (2018). The global stocktake: design lessons for a new review and ambition mechanism in the international climate regime. Int Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 1-18.

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