The author was chief negotiator for the Swedish Ministry of Environment from 1990, leading the Swedish delegation through the preparations for the Rio Conference, the Conference itself, and to the negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations thereafter, until October 2001.

As an insider, he offers perspective on the process, the significance of the Paris Agreement in the light of history, and the possible outcomes in coming decades.

Kjellen begins by noting that the success of Paris came at a point in time when confidence in international cooperation is low, with military conflicts, refugee crises, terrorism, the reemergence of right-wing parties in Europe, and new concerns for the world economy.

But the Paris Agreement showed that the new environmental multilateral diplomacy under the flag of the United Nations could still deliver. The successful conclusion of an intense diplomatic effort at the highest level, he argues, was a triumph for France, involving Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Climate Ambassador Laurence Tubiana.

Science also played a key role. The reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been a constant driving force at the UNFCCC conferences, and political importance of the 1.5-2°C objective is based on the efforts of the IPCC. The growing understanding of the risks and the real gravity of human influence at the planetary level were instrumental to the success of Paris, Kjellen argues, and our responsibility towards future generations was on the mind of negotiators as they hammered out the final details of the Paris Agreement.

Download the briefing note (PDF, 208kb)