Vol. I / No. 16 | March 2021

Cazadira Fediva Tamzil (Asia Group Advisors [a Southeast Asia-focused public policy and strategic advisory firm])


Virtually all recent, major climate actions are associated with the Paris Agreement. While previous international climate agreements like the Kyoto Protocol issued a ‘top down’ mandate for developed countries to meet certain standard emission reduction targets under a specific timeframe, the Paris
Agreement hinged on a ‘bottom up’ logic of voluntary climate pledges (Nationally-Determined Contributions) from all countries without specific pre-requisites or deadlines. What happened in, or in the run-up to, Paris? Why does the Paris Agreement hold considerable strength despite its voluntary
nature, and what does it mean for global climate actions?

The Paris Agreement ushered in a new era of climate actions by blurring the outdated differentiation between ‘developed countries responsible for reducing emissions’ and ‘developing countries with the right to development’. Amid a climate crisis, the Agreement rightly compels all countries to take actions, albeit with flexibility in targets, action steps, and timelines, in recognition of sovereign policy space and unique development trajectories. Through domestic deliberations to compose NDCs, countries are conditioned to take stronger climate ownership and accountability – making the Agreement less of a superficial, ‘forced-from-above’ commitment. While it has yet generated sufficient climate actions to achieve global net zero emissions by 2050, the Agreement laid the architecture for increased climate ambitions over time, primarily through a periodic review system where climate laggards are vulnerable to being ‘named-and-shamed’. Global momentum for substantially stronger climate actions is building, as development and sustainability become increasingly recognized as complementary, not contradictory, goals.

Keywords: Paris Agreement, bottom up, Nationally-Determined Contributions, climate actions,