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Working Paper No. 81

Overcoming Obstacles in Global Climate Action from Copenhagen to Paris: Issue Framing as a Tool to Understand Opportunities for Policy Change

Jean A. Garrison - August 2017 Download


The global climate change agreement completed on December 12, 2015 in Paris set a collective target to cap greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit the temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius with a goal to get as close as possible to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. These goals were to be accomplished through a “bottom up” mechanism for national policy approaches in which states made their own choices about how they would meet climate targets. This paper examines why and how an agreement was possible in 2015 when it had not been before. What was different in Paris, or leading up to Paris, so that the parties involved successfully came to an agreement when it was not possible in Copenhagen? This paper presents a problem definition and issue framing perspective to examine the shift in the discussion in Paris from the burdens of climate action to opportunities climate action offered for economic and development models. It provides a road map to understand the role of key stakeholders, including governments, the business community, civil society, and subnational actors in the making of the climate agreement.