This article is the English version of Christian de Perthuis,
« Où en est l’Accord de Paris sur le climat ? », published in Politique étrangère, Vol. 87, Issue 1, 2022.

Photographie de fond par Tyler Casey (Unsplash), éoliennes dans des champs. Au premier plan, couverture du numéro 1/2023 de Politique étrangère « Climat : quelle marche à suivre ? »

Each and every COP (Conference of the Parties) is heralded as “the last chance,” and 2021’s COP26 in Glasgow was no exception. But as the conference doors swung shut for another year, the media denounced it as a failure: it seemed as if the impressive ensemble of heads of state who had traveled to Scotland to attend the event had, once again, missed the opportunity to save the planet. But can 2022’s COP manage to achieve what 2021’s failed to? There’s one thing we can be sure of: COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh will once again be “the last chance.”

The climate negotiations that began in 1992 with the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) are a little perplexing for the uninitiated. The message has always been the same: we are in a state of climate emergency. But COP after COP, negotiators seem to get stuck in a slow race, as if they were victims of what Stefan Aykut and Amy Dahan call the “reality schism” : they are, in a way, cut off from the real world, where the impacts of global warming are increasing.
If we are to assess what the COPs have achieved, we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. As the first key milestone in the timeline set out by the Paris Agreement in 2015, COP26 provides us with an excellent opportunity to look at how this agreement has been implemented thus far. COPs are not places where the most powerful figures of this world can turn up, wave a magic wand, and voilà, planet saved. They are forums providing an opportunity to build—often laboriously—a framework for multilateral cooperation on climate change…

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