Policy Engagements and Blogs

Unpacking the central concepts and guiding principles of the Paris Agreement

Lavanya Rajamani

August 22, 2017


Recently published by the Oxford University Press, The Paris Agreement on Climate Change features two book chapters written by Lavanya Rajamani, including i) Central Concepts in the Paris Agreement and How They Evolved and, ii) Guiding Principles and General Obligation (Article 2.2 and Article 3).

An edited volume of essays, the book provides an analysis of the legal requirements of the Paris Agreement, and clarifies the content of the provisions, placing them in context and elaborating on key issues surrounding the Agreement.

In the first of the two chapters, Rajamani charts the evolution of the central concepts in the Paris Agreement. She and her co-author argue that the Paris Agreement relies on a few key concepts to ensure its acceptability, namely those of ambition of a global effort to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, differentiation between developed and developing countries, and, the provision of support towards climate change efforts.

These concepts underpinned the four years of negotiations that led up to the Paris Agreement. An examination of these concepts, and how they play out in the text of Agreement, reveals the delicate balance the Agreement manages between a sincere commitment to climate change efforts while remaining sensitive to political, scientific and technical advances, and national circumstances and capabilities.

In the second chapter, Rajamani focuses more specifically on guiding principles of the Agreement articulated in Article 2.2 and Article 3 of the Paris Agreement. These include equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in light of different national circumstances.

The chapter traces the difficult history of these principles at previous negotiations, and provides insight into the carefully chosen language that has critical significance. It also analyses how these principles have been operationalised across mitigation, adaptation, transparency, and, support.

For more details on the book, please visit the publisher page.

Additionally, Lavanya Rajamani has written extensively on the Paris Agreement for Annuaire Français De Droit International, the Journal of International Environmental Law, and, International and Comparative Law Quarterly, to name a select few. Her co-authored book, International Climate Change Law, published in May this year, discusses the Paris Agreement in depth.

Watch out for her article with Jutta Brunnée on ‘The Legality of Downgrading Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement: Lessons from the US Disengagement’, which will be out in the next issue of the Journal of Environmental Law.

More information on her work can be accessed here.