Reflections on the Paris Agreement

10 Pages Posted: 11 May 2016 Last revised: 19 May 2016

See all articles by Vernon Rive

Vernon Rive

Auckland University of Technology

Date Written: May 10, 2016


With the dust now reasonably settled on the Paris talks, fresh ink on the Paris Agreement, and the possibility of a speedier ratification process than originally envisaged, it is timely to reflect on the outcome of four years of complex negotiations launched in Durban in 2011. Are the 36 pages comprising the Paris outcome (Agreement and accompanying COP decision) worthy of UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner’s superlative assessment (“the most important international agreement in history”)? Or is the package little more than “fudge” and a wander down another blind alley? Could it be something in between?

In this article the author reflects on a number of key issues arising out of the Paris Agreement with particular relevance to New Zealand. It begins with a discussion on the question of legal form before moving to the content and legal status of New Zealand’s ‘Nationally Determined Contribution’ (NDC), the significance of the 1.5°C target in Article 2.1, and potential implications of the Paris Agreement on New Zealand domestic climate change policy.

Keywords: climate change, Paris Agreement, New Zealand, emissions trading, legal form, international law, Resource Management Act 1991, Sir Geoffrey Palmer

Suggested Citation

Rive, Vernon, Reflections on the Paris Agreement (May 10, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Vernon Rive (Contact Author)

Auckland University of Technology ( email )

AUT City Campus
Private Bag 92006
Auckland, 1142
New Zealand
09 921 9999 (Phone)


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