Washington International Law Journal


The Paris Agreement seeks to address the problem of climate change, a pressingly urgent issue, and one that is extraordinarily difficult to tackle. A primary mitigation mechanism is the requirement that member countries report their nationally determined contributions (“NDCs”) goals and provide metrics for measuring progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is a “bottom-up” mechanism that does not bind parties to particular emissions targets, but acts to shift party behavior by making progress transparent. To predict the potential effectiveness of this mechanism, this Comment investigates the effectiveness of a similar mechanism contained in Agenda 21, a plan of action for sustainable development adopted in 1992. Agenda 21 initially appeared to be effective. Similarly, the initial reporting by countries pursuant to the Paris Agreement NDC requirement indicates that it is similarly procedurally effective. However, Agenda 21 has failed to meet its goal of solving the problems of poverty and environmental degradation. A more successful outcome for the Paris Agreement may rest on how it differs from Agenda 21, including its more legally obligatory nature, its more focused goal, and its NDC ambition “ratcheting” mechanism.

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