After the agreement reached in Katowice in December 2018, The Paris Agreement is finally operational. This is a major diplomatic achievement.
Two large-scale political developments have cast a shadow over the implementation phase of the Paris Agreement: the rise of right-wing populism and emerging multipolar competition. The evidence so far seems to suggest that right-wing populism often frames climate change as an elite agenda – and international agreements are perceived as a pet issue of the corrupt elite, at odds with the interests of the people. Relatedly, tightening competition among great powers makes multilateral cooperation and consensus-based decision-making among 197 parties increasingly challenging.
With the Paris Agreement in place, the UNFCCC can provide a long-awaited legal framework for national climate contributions, but it will not be able to increase the ambition of national climate policies via multilateral negotiations.
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