Making Paris Work

10 Pages Posted: 26 Oct 2016 Last revised: 6 Nov 2016

Date Written: October 24, 2016


The Paris Agreement was a critical step forward in the global fight against climate change. But even as the Agreement enters into force, it is unclear how it can achieve its ambitious collective goals within a framework that affords nearly unfettered flexibility to countries to define their own contributions. The conventional view is that elements of the Agreement such as coordinated five-year pledging cycles and robust peer review will overcome this tension between ambition and flexibility by catalyzing increased action over time. Previous climate agreements, however, have not been particularly effective in this regard. They have struggled to mobilize pledges that are consistent with shared objectives, generate new actions to close gaps that have arisen, and ensure that countries actually follow through on their commitments. If the Paris Agreement is to succeed where its predecessors have not, it must produce stronger incentives for countries to align their domestic actions with global objectives. Countries with the most at stake in the Agreement — namely, the most ambitious and the most vulnerable — must prioritize climate change in their foreign policies, and use their diplomatic resources to incentivize others to increase their actions and to deter free-riding. This includes providing positive inducements for countries to increase their actions, and where necessary, imposing consequences on countries that refuse to do their part or honor their commitments. The countries of the High Ambition Coalition should build on their success in securing the Paris Agreement by leading this effort.

Keywords: Paris Agreement, climate diplomacy, international climate governance

Suggested Citation

Herz, Steven, Making Paris Work (October 24, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Steven Herz (Contact Author)

Sierra Club ( email )

2101 Webster St. Suite 1300
Oakland, CA 94612
United States

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