Global Environ. Chang. 55, 73–83 (2019).

The challenge of negotiating international environmental policy lies in incentivizing cooperation among diverse interests, and agreeing on a definition of the problem and the appropriate solutions. Understanding how the latter translates into country coalitions is crucial for understanding the Paris Agreement’s design and future prospects.

Maria Jernnäs and Björn-Ola Linnér, of Linköping University, Sweden, use discursive analysis to identify storylines in 136 National Determined Contributions (NDCs) representing 164 parties to the Paris Agreement. NDCs, nearly universally, situate solutions to climate change in the context of liberal economics and natural resource management, while some also feature discussions of non-state climate action, climate change as a security threat, empowerment of the vulnerable and principles of equity. A very small minority discuss justice and system change. Shared storylines do not neatly overlap with existing geopolitical groupings, but geographical proximity and income groupings do coincide with calls for an adjustment of the current liberal order. The divergent storylines suggest there is clearly still work to be done in determining the extent of the societal transformation needed to meet global climate goals, and exactly what it means to increase ambition.