Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


For the international community, 2015 was a momentous year in terms of transformative legal developments. Climate change response culminated in the adoption of the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which heralded a new era in the international community’s pursuit of sustainability. Both of these developments are complementary; the climate change legal framework acknowledges sustainable development, and SDGs explicitly recognize the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement presented to the global community an objective to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, through sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty and a goal to restrict the global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and a desirable goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius. The failure to achieve this target would seriously jeopardize States and individuals and challenge the success of sustainable development and SDGs. The Paris Agreement states not only that the achievement of the goal is essential, but the agreement must be implemented to reflect equity and the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC), in light of different national circumstances. This paper argues that the adoption of SDGs premised on the idea of leaving no one behind provides an impetus for the re-evaluation of the principle of CBDR-RC under the Paris Agreement. The paper explores the possibility of a wider interpretation of CBDR-RC through the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to help the international community pursue SDGs.

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