This journal article by me and Lukas Hermwille is now available for download from the Wuppertal Institute’s publication server.
Apart from the much-debated question of what legal form the 2015 climate agreement is supposed to have, another core issue is the substantive content of countries’ commitments. While the climate regime has so far mostly been based on emission targets, literature has identified a broad range of other possible types of mitigation commitments, such as technology targets, emission price commitments, or commitments to specific policies and measures (PAMs). The nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs) submitted by developing countries under the Cancún Agreements also show a broad range of different forms of participation. This article surveys the possible commitment types that have so far been discussed in literature and in the UNFCCC negotiations and assesses their respective advantages and disadvantages against a set of criteria: environmental effectiveness, cost effectiveness, distributional aspects and institutional feasibility. The article finds that no commitment option provides a silver bullet. All options have several advantages but also disadvantages. The environmentally most effective way forward may lie in pursuing a multi-dimensional approach, combining emission targets with other commitment types to compensate for the drawbacks of the emission-based approach.