Soft governance literature and what it can teach us about the functions and misfunctions of the Paris Agreement.
Much has been written about the dynamic design and process of the Paris Agreement, with its iterative ‘pledge and review’-design locking nations in to provide voluntary commitments and review them over a five year cycle (Rajamani, 2016). This paper aims to add to existing assessments of the Paris Agreement, such as analyses into its review process (Raiser, Çalı, & Flachsland, 2022) by analysing its functions and dysfunctions from the lens of soft governance. It aims to answer the research question: “What does the literature on soft governance teach us about the functions and dysfunctions of the Paris Agreement’s pledge and review system?” In doing this, it also serves as a scoping exercise and overview of soft governance as it is used in academic literature through a narrative review (Petticrew & Roberts, 2006). This is supplemented by an evidence map of soft governance tools, such as naming and shaming dynamics, policy monitoring, policy coordination and goalsetting relying on voluntary targets and benchmarking.
Building on these mapping exercises, the final section of the paper compares these findings to the empirical reality of the Paris Agreement through a theory-testing case study answering these final questions: what elements of the Paris Agreement’s pledge and review-design correspond with soft governance tools, what are their expected outcomes and what results can we already observe today?
The result is a comprehensive narrative overview of soft governance, an evidence-based overview of soft governance policy tools that can serve as the foundation for further analyses as well as a case study of the Paris Agreement, focusing on the expected and already observed effectiveness of the soft governance tools in its arsenal.
Petticrew, M., & Roberts, H. (2006). Systematic Reviews in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide.
Raiser, K., Çalı, B., & Flachsland, C. (2022). Understanding pledge and review: learning from analogies to the Paris Agreement review mechanisms. Climate policy, 1-17. doi: 10.1080/14693062.2022.2059436
Rajamani, L. (2016). Ambition and differentiation in the 2015 Paris Agreement: Interpretative possibilities and underlying politics. International and Comparative Law Quarterly, 65(02), 493-514. doi: 10.1017/S0020589316000130