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Small group, big impact: how AILAC helped shape the Paris Agreement

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-10, 05:07 authored by Guy EdwardsGuy Edwards, Isabel Cavelier Adarve, María Camila Bustos, J Timmons Roberts
What role can one group of small and medium-sized countries play in breaking the long-standing impasse on climate change? What explains the formation of such a group and how can we assess its impact on outcomes such as the 2015 Paris Agreement? This article assesses the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (La Asociación Independiente de América Latina y el Caribe – AILAC) and its contribution towards cutting the Gordian Knot of climate interests and the building of a universal global regime on the issue. We review the origins and evolution of AILAC as well as its contributions to the Paris Agreement adopted in 2015 on five key issues. We conclude with an assessment on the group’s future prospects and challenges. Policy relevance Understanding AILAC’s origins, evolution, and contributions to the Paris Agreement has important implications for analysing the future possibilities and direction of global climate policy. AILAC represents a unique example of a group of small and medium-sized countries that succeeded in having an impact upon the pivotal 2015 Paris negotiations. Rather than originating from national leaders, the formation of the group was orchestrated organically by country negotiators, as they looked to increase their countries’ visibility and influence at the negotiations. The article discusses the areas of the Paris Agreement where the group had an impact: differentiation between developed and developing country obligations, the legal architecture of the agreement, the format and review of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), climate finance, and adaptation to climate impacts. Beyond the 21st Conference of the Parties, AILAC faces two crucial tests. First, whether the group’s high ambition rhetoric at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) can be matched by national policy advances on climate change and the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions. Second, can the group successfully consolidate its positions at the UNFCCC and overcome institutional challenges, while taking on new members? The AILAC case offers a significant example of norms and ideas effectively spreading between countries at the UNFCCC, while contributing to enhanced global and national action on climate change.


Publication status

  • Published


Climate Policy




Informa UK Limited





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  • International Relations Publications

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