The Legal Nature of the Paris Agreement: Much Ado About Nothing? Sandrine Maljean-Dubois
Thomas Spencer, IDDRI
Sandrine Maljean-Dubois, CERIC UMR 7318 CNRS Aix-Marseille
Matthieu Wemaëre, Senior Lawyer (Paris and Brussels Bar
10 July 2015
The Legal Nature
of the Paris
1992-2012: UNFCCC + Kyoto Protocol
2012-2020: UNFCCC (Copenhagen Accord, no legal force, not enough
ambitious) + Kyoto Protocol CPII (not in force, symbolic)
Post 2020: an agreement to be adopted in Paris.
In Durban, Parties to the UNFCCC decided “to launch a process to develop a
protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change applicable to all Parties”
At least three legal forms possible, much more if we include combined approaches
What is at stake? Does the legal form really matter?
Achieving the ultimate goal of the Convention as described in Article 2 and
subsequently elaborated in 2010 under Decision 1/CP.16, namely to hold warming
to below 2 degrees Celsius, will require widespread participation, a robust and
credible regime, and a dynamic approach to increasing ambition over time.
The legal form as a fundamental parameter
Particularly since Parties have agreed at COP 19 in Warsaw that their
contributions to this instrument would be determined at the national level
Still an open question
Clarification of the terminology
Three criteria of normativity
A formal criteria: is the instrument embedded in a formal source of law or not?
How was the instrument adopted? By what organ, with what authority?
According to what decision-making process? Did some States express
reservations? If yes, which States?
A substantive criteria: are the legal norms expressed in precise and
prescriptive language? Or are they vague and hortatory?
A procedural criteria: does the instrument include the capacity to mobilize
relevant ‘disciplines’ in order to promote and ensure implementation of agreed
norms? Such disciplines include a robust transparency, accountability and
facilitation mechanism, as well as possibly a compliance and enforcement
demonstrate the necessity of assessing the instrument as a whole when
determining its legal nature, on the spectrum between hard and soft law, binding
+ The legal form as a result of several key
The Protocol option
The Option of “Another Legal Instrument or an Agreed Outcome
with Legal Force”
Advantages of a combined approach
gives the opportunity to optimize between the pros and cons of each
The legal form of the core agreement
Form and anchoring of nationally determined
schedule to be
to a reference
in the protocol
In a COP
In an INF
The Kyoto Protocol model
The Copenhagen Accord model
Options for the Paris accord
Transparency, accountability and non compliance
Need of a comprehensive approach
Useful for balancing credibility and durability with flexibility
The Accord won’t be punitive, but need to create a new
The transparency, accountability, and facilitation
mechanisms must form the core of the Paris agreement
A comprehensive Assessment of
Options for the Legal Form of the Paris
S. Maljean-Dubois, M. Wemaëre and T.
Working Paper n°15/14,
Iddri, Paris, novembre 2014, 20 p.