In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Climate Change and International Law

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Resources and Textbooks
  • Ethics and Science of Climate Change
  • Negotiation Process
  • Climate Change Convention
  • Kyoto Protocol
  • Paris Agreement
  • COP-CMP-CMA Decisions
  • REDD
  • Compliance Mechanism and MRV
  • Adaptation
  • Climate Change Liability

International Law Climate Change and International Law
Rosa Giles Carnero
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0080


Climate change is a global phenomenon, closely tied to fossil fuel–based development, which exposes states to various degrees of vulnerability. International law needs to develop a system of mitigation and adaptation to climate change that enables states to adjust more readily to new data and requirements, and which takes into account the wide range of different national interests. The response of the international community to this challenge has been to develop an international climate change regime initiated by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (9 May 1992). This pioneering text did not set mandatory and concrete obligations to mitigate climate change but established a system of negotiation through which it would be possible to speedily adopt amendments and updates arising from the continuous rounds of negotiations covering development protocols. The negotiation framework created by the Convention resulted in the Kyoto Protocol, adopted on 11 December 1997, which came into force on 16 February 2005; and in the Paris Agreement, adopted by decision 1/CP.21 at the twenty-first session of the Conference of the Parties in December 2015, which came into force on 4 November 2016. The Kyoto Protocol establishes the obligation to reduce controlled greenhouse gases, but the responsibility to reduce emissions refers only to developed nations. The Kyoto system was to run to the end of 2012, by which time negotiations should have concluded with the setting of a new compliance period. After an arduous negotiation process and important delays, the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol was adopted on 8 December 2010, and includes new commitments for developed Parties and a second commitment period from 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2020. The Doha Amendment has not yet entered into force, and it is difficult to anticipate when the amendment may enter into force. Taking into account the limits of the Kyoto Protocol model, a new negotiation process was open to adopt an agreement will form the foundation for climate action post 2020. The Paris Agreement includes a general commitment to take ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. This new agreement demands all parties (developed and developing) to put forward their best efforts through “nationally determined contributions” and to strengthen these efforts in the years ahead. Preparations for the implementation of the Paris Agreement have been the main focus of discussions in the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement, held from 15 to 18 November 2016. This article’s selections include works that analyze the challenges involved in developing an international regime on climate change and texts that examine in detail the climate international treaties and their most significant elements.

General Overviews

Many special editions and journals are dedicated to the various legal aspects of climate change with contributions from leading experts in the field. Carbon and Climate Law Review is a relevant journal for practitioners and academics interested in carbon market and greenhouse emissions regulation. Climatic Change is an interdisciplinary journal useful for the study of all the interconnections of climate change. Climate Law is a journal specialized in climate change and law, useful for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers. Cournil and Colard-Fabregoule 2010 provides systematically organized texts that describe various aspects of international climate change law. Farber and Peeters 2016 includes a comprehensive approach to the international governance of climate change. The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses and the related website are a useful tool to study causes, impacts, and responses to climate change. Students can obtain a useful guide to learn about the complexity of climate change in Maslin 2014. Wold, et al. 2009 provides an interesting textbook for university students.

  • Carbon and Climate Law Review (2007–).

    Aimed at specialists and academics interested in questions related to the greenhouse gas emissions trading market and climate change management in general. This quarterly journal is available in print or online.

  • Climate Law. (2010–).

    A journal on climate change and law includes articles on climate governance, international law, and transnational law and private law elements. Useful for researchers and practitioners interested in climate change regulation.

  • Climatic Change (1977–).

    An interdisciplinary journal dedicated to analyze climate change. A useful forum to communicate studies from interconnected disciplines; useful for practitioners and researchers.

  • Cournil, Christel, and Catherine Colard-Fabregoule, eds. Changements climatiques et défis du droit. Brussels: Bruylant, 2010.

    This publication brings together studies on climate regime, the infringement of human rights, and the regulation of the impact of climate change. The introduction and conclusion are particularly interesting as they attempt to unify various approaches to climate change provided by international law.

  • Farber, Daniel A., and Marjan Peeters, eds. Climate Change Law. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2016.

    This book provides a wide-ranging guide to the rapidly evolving body of legal scholarship relating to climate change. Aimed at researchers, students, and policymakers interested in the evolution of climate change regulation.

  • International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses (2009–).

    An interdisciplinary journal that serves as a forum for discussion of the causes and impacts of climate change, along with responses. The journal is inserted in a website with useful information, papers, and discussion forums. Useful for practitioners and academics.

  • Maslin, Mark. Climate Change: A Very Short Introduction. 3d ed. UK: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    This text includes a general approach to climate change. Useful for students and practitioners in obtaining an introduction to the study of climate change.

  • Wold, Chris, David Hunter, and Melissa Powers. Climate Change and the Law. Newark, NJ: LexisNexis Matthew Bender, 2009.

    This book includes a comprehensive approach to climate change and law. International law is interconnected with other US legal aspects, and the authors show that it is necessary take action on different levels. This is a useful textbook for students.

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