The Paris Agreement Enters Into Force

Today, Nov. 4, 2016, the Paris Agreement enters into force at a record breaking speed - less than a year after it was adopted. 

All heads of delegation lined up for a group photo at COP 21.

“Heads of delegations at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21)” Foto: Presidencia de la República Mexicana, Flickr

Reflecting on the process of negotiation, adoption and ratifications of the treaty, Professor Christina Voigt writes that

“…in Paris negotiators were in the dark about how long it would take before the agreement would become law; an international treaty. Certainly no-one expected this to happen within less than a year or only a little over six months since it was opened for signature on 22 April 2016 in New York.”

Professor Voigt, who served as Norway’s legal advisor in the negotiations, credits the architecture and inclusive process for the rapid ratifications. Although the Paris agreement today becomes part of international law, there are few legal requirements in the agreement. Countries have the opportunity to set their own plans for cutting emissions.

However, even though the legal commitments in the agreement are limited, the rapid ratification process emphasizes political and legal priorities on climate change and the environment makes it challenging to not comply.

An innovative feature of the Paris Agreement is the compliance mechanism. While at PluriCourts Professor Voigt has been doing research on non-compliance mechanisms in environmental agreements. This research influenced her participation and the development of such a mechanism in the Paris Agreement.

“The mechanism to facilitate implementation and to promote compliance is an important feature to increase the effectiveness of the agreement and to enhance mutual trust. While the mechanism is established, it will still require significant negotiation time to agree on the modalities and procedures for its effective operation”, says Professor Voigt.

As the Paris Agreement enters into its first year it will be interesting to follow the developments in policy making and implementation. The first meeting of the parties is already on its way in Marrakech, highlighting the drive and will to co-operate on issues of climate change and the environment.

Read more about the implications of the agreement and its entry into force in these blog posts by Professor Christina Voigt

On the Paris Agreement’s imminent entry into force – Part I”, PluriCourts Blog

On the Paris Agreement’s imminent entry into force – Part II”, EJIL: Talk

Published Nov. 4, 2016 8:43 AM - Last modified May 28, 2018 7:57 AM