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Comité de Paris - Photo: Benjamin Géminel - public domain

Paris Declaration a Milestone for Global Cooperation

13.12.2015 In Paris representatives of 196 states under the guidance of the United Nations Climate secretariat signed in a global Climate Change Agreement. The 'Paris Declaration' will be a successor to the soon to expire Kyoto Protocol (Kyoto II). The new regulations and targets are to come into full effect from 2020 on. The timeframe of the Paris Declaration encompasses the entire 21st century. The details of the agreement were under debate since many years and were discussed in many bi- and multilateral expert workshops. During the fortnight of the conference and a bargaining and negotiation process of unparalleled complexity the numerous drafts of the agreement were specified to a version on which consensus was finally reached.

The core of the Paris Declaration is constituted by the legally binding 'Paris Agreement', a multilateral arrangement, that is subject to the provisions of international law.

From the point of view of global cooperation research the events in Paris are without precedent and therefore may well be labeled 'historic'. Shortly before the climax of events Co-director Dirk Messner remarked that it may well be the dynamic of the ad-hoc formed 'High Ambitious Coalition' that ultimately brought the conference onto its home stretch ("Koalition der Ambitionierten ist ein Durchbruch", Dirk Messner im Gespräch mit Ute Welty, Deutschlandradio Kultur, 12.12.2015, in German). On the other side it is part of a critical policy to insist on the necessary implementation of the decisions reflected in the agreement from now on. The German Advisory Coucil on Global Change (WBGU) did just that in an immediate comment  ('Global climate agreement adopted – now actions must follow').

Prior to the event the likeliness of a successful summit in Paris was assessed rather doubtfully in academic circles, see for example Prof. Scott Barrett, Columbia University, in his Käte Hamburger Lecture in July (the lecture and subsequent discussion on Youtube here; but see his recent appreciation of the Paris Declaration in YaleGlobal). James Hansen, a former Nasa scientist, considered the father of global awareness of climate change, in a statement to The Guardian, called the Paris talks immediately after the deal 'a fraud'. A closer lock at the negotiations in Paris and their momentum is on the agenda. A recent conference of the GCR21 Centre 'World Society in the Making' scrutinized negotiation processes that transcend the national paradigma (identity, territory, system). An important role here is performed  by expert networks, so-called epistemic communities, which, while connected to each other in various ways, develop designs and scenarios for possible global processes. These 'ecologies of non-state actors' (Sigrid Quack) proofed to be integrated into Paris negotiations in a quasi-osmotic process until the climax was reached. Once before, in Genua in the 1920ies, and hardly touched by the visible currents of the League of Nations, an internatinal expert group had put far reaching regulations in standards and procedures on track (Mazower 2012).

In Paris, a reschedule of the conference structure, where in difference to Kopenhaven (2009) the representative part with the heads of state was spotted as an opening, may have unburdened the negotiations to a considerable extent. The experts also acted in the framwork of a remarkably inclusive procedure: in these 'indabas' meetings,  adopted from a traditional Zulu and Xhosa negotiating format, everyone was given equal opportunity to voice opinions and be part of the search for consensus. Delayers were appointed chairs of sessions. Quite surprising also: The 'High Ambition Coalition' that - given his clubbish aspect - might have signaled a quite exclusive impression, likely could rather dissipate the sharpe divisions between developed and developing countries. The remaining part was done by magic moments of French diplimacy. It ranks amoung the most surprising facts of the COP21 that China and India did follow without contradiction. Alastair Harper, a senior policy adviser at Green Alliance, raised this point: "It's been fashionable to deride multilateralism- perhaps #COP21 & the high ambition coalition will correct the myth."

One way to deal with the legal document is the philologic-legalistic one. UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon perhaps had this in mind, when he - short before the final decisive meeting - made one of his contemplate-wise comments: 'The issues are many and complex, but we must not let the quest for perfection become the enemy of the public good.' One can also observe the impact of texts, the 'Paris Declaration' as a 'speech act'. US Secretary of State John Kerry knows (deal is 'sending a critical message to the global market place of where the world was heading'). And Jennifer Morgan, of the environmental thinktank, the World Resources Institute, speaking to The Guardian, believed the long term goal is 'transformational' and 'sends signals into the heart of the markets'.
This is in line with what many activists and civil society stakeholders expect anyway: this Agreement will generate a momentum: first movers, elites and markets will behave the swarm intelligent way.
Finally another field of research at the Centre is adressed. In article 4 (1) of the Paris Agreement expectations towards the 'second half of the century' are specified. Thereby, this defined time horizon is introduced probably for the first time as an orientation mark via global mass media. If so, it may well be that this climate conference planted the first global narrative for the 21st century. The global inner space of the century takes shape.



Koalition der Ambitionierten ist ein Durchbruch, Dirk Messner im Gespräch mit Ute Welty, Deutschlandradio Kultur, 12.12.2015 (German)

Global climate agreement adopted – now actions must follow
WBGU Press Release

COP21 Interview: Next innovation wave in economy will be “green"
Dirk Messner (interview: Kerstine Appunn), Green Energy Wire, 3.12.2015

Global Consensus on Climate Change Is a Good Start, by Scott Barrett
YaleGlobal online, 15 Dec 2015

12th Käte Hamburger Lecture: Good Faith Cooperation?
Lecture: Scott Barrett, Columbia University, Commentaries: Margaret Thalwitz, Dirk Messner (Youtube Video)

Mark Mazower: Governing the World. The History of an Idea, London: Allen Lane 2012

Martin Wolf
Head of Public Relations
Tel: +49 (0)203 379 5238