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ISSN: 2183-2463

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Conference Diplomacy: The Making of the Paris Agreement

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Abstract:  The article offers an insider’s account of how the Paris Agreement on climate change was reached. Focusing on participation and ambition, it describes the efforts to include a long-term temperature goal, expectations for regular ratcheting up of climate efforts, and provisions for tracking global progress. The author argues that a shift from the earlier top-down approaches to setting targets, to a bottom-up, self-determined approach has spurred participation and made it easier to reach agreement. In addition, the Paris Agreement anchors a clearer direction of travel than before. The article also discusses the negotiations of the provisions in the Agreement to drive increased national climate mitigation efforts over time. Finally, the author considers the role of conference diplomacy, particularly the need for inclusive leadership. It is argued that the French Presidency combined a transparent negotiations process with a clear sense of direction that helped achieve a comprehensive and ambitious outcome. The role of back-channel talks as part of effective conference diplomacy is also discussed.

Keywords:  back-channel negotiations; climate change; cooperation; diplomacy; international negotiations; participation; UN



© Aslak Brun. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.