Implementing the Paris Agreement in the context of sustainable development: The role of law and governance



Designing optimal implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement and ambitious implementation through its Nationally Determined Contributions and other mechanisms is imperative to addressing both climate challenges and sustainable development objectives. Reforming and building robust governance frameworks including legal and institutional reforms is needed to achieve these objectives. As countries and sub-national actors embark on these reforms, and as non-state actors increasingly add their efforts into the mix, there is a pressing need for legal expertise, research, innovation, education and capacity building.

This event explored the role of law, the legal community and civil society in achieving climate objectives and catalysed the key debates and insights from the discussions at Climate Law and Governance Day 2017 held on 10 November in Bonn.

Moderated by CISDL Research Fellow and CLGI Project Advisor, Ms Alex Scott, the event began with a keynote presentation from Mr Ayman Cherkaoui, Senior Advisor to the COP22 Presidency & Lead Counsel of CISDL’s Climate Change programme. Providing an overview of the negotiations underway in the adjacent Bula zone, Mr Cherkaoui noted a gap in discussion of the law reforms needed for implementation of the Paris Agreement and pre-2020 ambition. He recognised the potential for lawyers and jurists to either foster or frustrate the necessary legal reforms, calling for the climate law and governance community to collaborate in building capacity and improving their understanding of the legal obstacles and opportunities in responding to climate change. Using a Moroccan case study Mr Cherkaoui referred to particular challenges in ensuring complementarity between multiple stakeholders developing legal and institutional responses to the same issue, and highlighted the links between climate action and sustainable development as a priority area for future legal research and capacity building.

Ms Mirjam Reiner, CISDL Project Coordinator, shared some of the key outcomes from the 2017 Climate Law and Governance Day that took place alongside COP23 on 10 November. She highlighted four themes from the day’s expert roundtables to stimulate discussion of the future research priorities to enable legal and governance reforms needed to implement the Paris Agreement in the context of sustainable development.


1.Innovating to Achieve NDCs under the Paris Agreement.


Prof. Wesley Morgan (Univ South Pacific) and Mr. Karim Anegay (Morocco, COP22 Presidency) discussed with the audience the principal legal challenges and innovations for climate mitigation and adaptation on national and other levels. Recognising the inherent political challenges in achieving law reform to address climate change, Prof Wesley Morgan explored how legal reform research can be enhanced by monitoring trends in norm tipping points to capitalise on the space created by these norms shifts. Mr. Karim Anegay provided practical examples of Morocco’s use of adaptation metrics to guide implementation of its NDC. Mr Anegay showcased the importance of evidence bases behind legal reforms, and how evidence gathering can be tailored towards catalysing finance.


2. Operationalizing the Paris Agreement.

The panel and audience were asked to discuss how the Paris Agreement Implementation Guidelines discussions were advancing, and how the treaty and other key accords deliver on the world’s climate ambition. Prof. Pia Carazo of the University for Peace spoke to this theme, highlighting some of the key discussions taking place on the compliance elements of the Paris Agreement Implementation Guidelines. She noted the scope, the absence of hard obligations, the questions around who could trigger compliance mechanisms, and whether other systemic issues should be differentiated as the key challenges for the negotiations and key areas for the climate law and governance research community to address.


3. Advancing Climate Resilience and Climate Justice.

Discussion focussed on how law and governance can contribute to climate resilience, integrating human rights and addressing loss and damage, migration and other challenges. In introducing the inclusion of human rights in the Paris Agreement, Prof. Benoit Mayer of the Chinese University of Hong Kong noted the advancing discussions on the challenges of implementation, particularly in countries not party to international human rights law. He also highlighted the growing conversation on the challenges of climate induced migration, noting that while research into the conceptual challenges are valuable, the implementation gap remains. Prof Mayer summarised some of the key recent climate litigation cases and presented a curious question to the audience of the potential for future cases under international jurisdiction.


4. Enabling Climate Finance and Engaging the Private Sector.

How can law and governance enable a greener economy, scale up climate finance and investment, and promote low-carbon trade and investment? Mrs. Siham B. Ayad of the Morocco, CoP22 Presidency case studies challenges in the distribution of climate finance highlighting that institutional environments in many countries are not attractive for public and especially not private resources. Mrs Ayad pointed to the Cop22 climate finance pathway as a means to enable country driven transformation of climate finance environment. She highlighted three themes to the pathway that the climate law and governance community could contribute to – (i) mainstreaming climate considerations into all public planning; (ii) increasing adaptation finance; and (iii) enhancing public leverage of resources.


Prof. Dr. Marie-Claire Cordonier Segger of Univ Waterloo and CISDL chaired a final audience discussion on the future legal research agenda, inspired by the intervention of the event’s speakers. The session was introduced by Dr. Oonagh Fitzgerald of CIGI and raised questions such as how can technologies help us address the questions of causation that are barrier to both litigation and to loss and damage? Recognising the norm shifts around subsidising fossil fuels, the audience asked how can we mainstream into other regimes of law and governance, the “climate and” agenda? Further research was called for into how we can integrate the SDGs as well as how to strengthen access to justice, noting that litigation is contributing to reshaping the politics.


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