• To identify the outer limits of State sovereignty in dealing with the challenges of climate change, including systemic gaps and evolutionary trends, and

  • To determine the means and ways, whereby multiple actors interplay and converge into concerted action in an evolving State-centred international system.

  • The challenge posed by climate change is universally acknowledged. Ever since the adoption of the 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the world has seen numerous efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions: The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the 2015 Paris Agreement, all sought to push the agenda one step further.

    However, the cutting-edge issue, in terms of international law, remains the extent to which the sovereign State may satisfactorily and effectively address the manifold manifestations of the many parameters contributing to climate change. This multipolarity, which constitutes a distinct characteristic of climate change law, is built into the system, as –in a direct breach of the fundamental equality of States in the international system– the contracting States may undertake unequal obligations. Moreover, it has become increasing evident that regulatory action will be undertaken both at the supranational and the subnational level. In this context, supranational organizations are not simply fora where States battle out diverse policy proposals: they have a life of their own as such contractual arrangements have set up a complex standing structure that develops its own policies, adopts its own strategies and proposes its own solutions. Subnational actors would include corporations and individuals, which have already left their own trace in international law; but also sub-statal units, such as cities and regions, which –although traditionally accommodated within the traditional State structure– are currently attempting to revendicate autonomous action. The means and ways, whereby networks of such diverse actors could and would act in mitigation and adaptation policies and, furthermore, the methods of assuming responsibility for their actions and omissions, develop into one of the most intellectually stimulating debates of the present day. The impact of their action (or indeed inaction) is directly commensurate to the challenges ahead. The present regulatory framework does not propose any specific solutions; it rather sets a framework for further action towards a generally-defined objective, within which diverse actors would need to operate separately and independently albeit managing, almost by divine intervention, to coordinate their efforts in a comprehensive, mutually reinforcing whole. The risk of expectations turning into science fiction is tangible.

    Again the theoretical discussion has a direct and immediately applicable impact upon the reality of international practice: the UNFCCC COP24 discussions at Katowice in December 2018 have illustrated the significant difficulties in deciding practical implementation guidelines and climate finance actions as well as integrating policies for energy transition, climate change and carbon pricing, industry transition, nature-based solutions, cities and local actions and resilience into a cohesive agenda to be politically approved during the Climate Summit 2019 and implemented through the updated National Determined Contributions (NDCs) in 2020. The current proposal purports to contribute to and be informed by this discussion, exploring the outer limits of State sovereignty and its interface with all the other actors active on the international scene.

    The research project was supported by the Hellenic Foundation for Research and Innovation (H.F.R.I.) under the “1st Call for H.F.R.I. Research Projects to support Faculty Members & Researchers and the Procurement of High-Cost research equipment grant” (Project Number: HFRI-FM17-1415).