Fairness conceptions and self-determined mitigation ambition under the Paris Agreement: Is there a relationship?


This paper investigates the empirical relationship between countries’ expressed concerns with fairness and the ambition levels in their pledged contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement, asking the following questions: 1) Are the NDCs of countries who express the most concern with fairness more or less ambitious than those of other countries? 2) Does the relationship between fairness and ambition vary across the three fairness principles: Responsibility, Capability, and Rights (needs)? and 3) Is there a tendency for countries to support the fairness principle that implies the largest emissions share for themselves if that principle were used to allocate emissions across countries? The analysis reveals considerable variation in both fairness concerns and assessed NDC ambitions, but no clear relationship between the two. Countries’ expressed support for fairness principles does not correlate with the ambition levels of their NDCs, whether principles are aggregated or disaggregated. The analysis also finds no evidence that countries strategically advocate the fairness principle that allocates them the largest “fair” emissions share.

Environmental Science & Policy