A discursive cartography of nationally determined contributions to the Paris climate agreement


The 2015 Paris Agreement was adopted in a geopolitical context that is very different from the post-Cold War era when the Climate Convention was negotiated. This new global climate deal responds to a more fragmented and multipolar world signified by the rise of major economies in the South. This paper examines the geopolitical landscape in which the Paris Agreement is enacted and implemented. We conduct a discursive analysis of the Nationally Determined Contributions submitted by parties to the Paris Agreement. We ask what policy discourses emerge in these national climate plans, which states cluster around them and how they compare to UNFCCC annex, geographical location, income group, and negotiation coalitions. Our findings suggest that liberal environmentalism retains a strong hold over the political imagination in the post-Paris landscape. However, we see points of diffraction and tensions that might give rise to conflict. While liberal environmentalism is only challenged in Nationally Determined Contributions from the global South, we conclude that conventional geopolitical patterns only partly explain the formation of discourse coalitions. In the Paris Agreement’s implementation stage discursive struggles are likely to become increasingly prominent. Discourse analysis facilitates understanding of disagreements on the Paris rulebook and the global stocktake.


Keywords: Paris agreement; Nationally determined contributions; Country coalitions; North-south relations; Climate discourses; Storylines

Authors of this publication

Björn-Ola Linnér , Maria Jernnäs ,