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Global climate governance between hard and soft law: can the Paris Agreement’s ‘Crème Brûlée’ approach enhance ecological reflexivity?

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-19, 20:38 authored by Pickering, J, Jeffrey McGeeJeffrey McGee, Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen, SI, Wenta, J
In the face of global environmental concerns, legal institutions must cultivate a reflexive capacity to monitor global ecological shifts and to reconfigure their practices accordingly. But, it remains unclear whether harder or softer legal norms are more capable of enhancing such ecological reflexivity. This article traces variations in harder and softer norms in two aspects of the evolution of the global climate change regime—national contributions to mitigation and review mechanisms—and their implications for ecological reflexivity. We find the regime’s reflexivity has increased moderately and slowly over time but without a consistent shift towards harder or softer norms. The Paris Agreement’s innovative approach, combining harder procedural commitments with softer substantive provisions (a ‘crème brûlée’), has potential to encourage flexible responses to changing conditions within a stable, long-term architecture. However, the Agreement’s softer, transparency-based compliance framework provides limited assurance that countries will make and fulfill ambitious commitments.


Publication title

Journal of Environmental Law






Faculty of Law


Oxford University Press

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Climate change mitigation strategies

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