What is it about?

Climate change is the one of the most pressing issues of the 21st century. Countries have been negotiating ways to reduce carbon emissions for over 40 years now. Although several international laws have been implemented in different treaties, the nature of these laws has impacted the participation of countries. In this chapter, the author looks at the evolution of climate change regime and the role of hard and soft laws in achieving the ultimate goal of reduced emissions. The author discusses the response of developed and developing countries towards the hard, binding laws of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

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Why is it important?

The response of countries towards climate change regimes has both extremes: agreement and disagreement. The US and many oil-producing countries did not accept the limit on emissions, while many European nations actively participated in this. Regarding the Kyoto Protocol, the author points out that hard nature of the laws did not stop many developed countries from withdrawing from the commitment of reducing emissions. Seeing this response, a change of approach was introduced. Countries were now free to choose the commitments they could fulfil. This non-binding approach encouraged many European, developing, and small island nations to increase their efforts. However, the two biggest emitters—China and the US—still lacked commitment. The 2015 Paris Agreement, which is the most recent addition to this regime, follows a hybrid approach with goals tailored for countries. To achieve the goal of reduced emissions, tailoring the strict, binding laws and changing them into soft laws seems to be an effective strategy so far. KEY TAKEAWAY: Climate change mitigation needs all hands on deck. It is important to understand how countries respond to international and national laws and what methods are most successful in achieving the goal of reduced emissions.

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This page is a summary of: The Hard Choice for Soft Commitments in the Climate Change Regime, March 2020, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/9789004417021_008.
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