The Paris Agreement is increasingly being used as an analogy in global environmental politics to discuss issues beyond climate change: Enviromental Politics – Geography Assignment, TCD

The Paris Agreement as Analogy in Global Environmental Politics

Abstract

The Paris Agreement is increasingly being used as an analogy in global environmental politics to discuss issues beyond climate change. This Forum article explores the two main ways in which this analogy has been discursively employed: as a symbol of diplomatic success to be emulated and as a model for institutional treaty design. It illustrates the broader meanings associated with the Paris Agreement, reflecting its preeminent public and political profile among environmental issues just a few years into its history and its potential significance in shaping subsequent global environmental negotiations.

Analogies in International Relations and Global Environmental Politics Reasoning through analogies has been long recognized as a feature of decisionmaking in international politics (Khong 1992). Analysts and policy makers alike draw on analogies as cognitive shortcuts to draw parallels between the familiar past and unfamiliar present, as justifications for particular courses of action, and to identify desirable and undesirable “lessons” of history.

Contestation over whether analogies are adequate fits for a new problem, or bear only a surface resemblance and should be discarded, are part of this process of comparative reasoning, as explored in debates surrounding the use of force (Paris 2002). Analogies guide the imagination in both productive and unproductive ways, making it all the more important to understand differences in their interpretation.

Talking About Paris: Two Analogies

The key distinction made is that the Paris Agreement has been used as an analogy in two broad ways: first, for diplomatic success, and second, for institutional design. These two meanings are not exhaustive, nor are they unrelated; the latter likely assumes the former. Some uses, however, simply aim at the former, giving a closer attention to what analogical lessons are being drawn as important

Paris as a Model for Multilateral Diplomatic Success

The broadest use of the Paris Agreement analogy has been as a model for successful multilateralism. This interpretation emphasizes the very fact of its successful adoption in 2015 and reflects the longer history of climate diplomacy, particularly in putting to an end the crisis atmosphere that had dominated since Copenhagen’s collapse.

This diplomatic failure had triggered a broader interest in whether universal multilateralism was an efficient institutional format for coordinating collective climate action: discussion of climate minilateralism and “climate clubs” gained currency (i.e., Eckersley 2012), coinciding with an explosion of interest in climate governance beyond the UNFCCC, as the “experimental” governance and “fragmentation” literatures illustrate (i.e., Hoffmann 2011)

Paris as Institutional Model

The second, more specific Paris Agreement analogy has been to its institutional model. The Agreement has been characterized as a “significant departure from the regulatory approach of the Kyoto Protocol” (Falkner 2016; see also Held and Roger 2018); different characteristics of this departure have been drawn on as the sources of its apparent “success.”

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The Paris Agreement is increasingly being used as an analogy in global environmental politics to discuss issues beyond climate change: Enviromental Politics – Geography Assignment, TCD
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