How was the Paris agreement possible?

Stefanos Mouzas, Professor of Marketing and Strategy at Lancaster University, recently visited Misum to present and discuss his on-going research on policies to address climate change at two different seminars.


Misum´s Lars-Gunnar Mattsson with Professor Stefanos Mouzas from Lancaster University and the sustainable development goals (SDGs) that they find the most important.

How was it possible to reach the Paris agreement, considering the problems associated with the Kyoto Protocol, relying on market processes and the failure of the Copenhagen Summit?  Mouzas finds the Paris agreement to be an extraordinary collective, policy process outcome. It was based on the shared understanding of the need to reach an umbrella agreement between all countries, in different stages of development, to make the global economy carbon neutral in the 2050s. The preparation for the agreement had involved many consensus-building meetings, including some bilateral climate agreements (in 2014) between the US and respectively China, India, Mexico and Brazil.

Actions, reactions and recursive interaction by individuals represent the micro-foundation on which the umbrella agreement between 195 countries based on consent could be reached. The agreement was inclusive and non-adversarial, included voluntary intended contributions from all countries, including financial and technical support from rich countries, freedom for countries to work out and implement their own climate plan that should be published and scrutinized, reviewed, up-dated and re-submitted. This according to Mouzas created a powerful, non-legal enforceability.

Mouzas’s main message was the need to develop consent among actors built on intuitively perceived mutual expectations and repeated interaction that served to transform mutual expectations into rules of expected behavior.

The question addressed in the second seminar was: What enables responses to climate change across scales, from small-scale to large-scale? Mouzas distinguished between the mechanisms explaining why a certain response to climate change occurs and processes that explain how responses move from small-scale to large-scale. He presented a conceptual framework demonstrating interaction between three mechanism variables:

  • underlying interests, what people care about
  • entitlements to resources that develop capabilities
  • facilitate the achievement of consent to exchange

and three process variables:

  • foster recursive interaction,
  • develop mutual expectations
  • develop regulations by values

It followed that policy practice should serve to shape mechanisms and processes that interact to enable responses across scales. For instance, to facilitate achievement of consent by recursive interaction and redevelop regulation by values based on underlying interests.

Mouzas’s presentations referred to major ideas developed by several Nobel Prize-winning economists: Arrow, Schelling, Myerson, Sen, Tirole, Hart and especially Eleonore Ostrom´s ideas on how to escape the “tragedy of the commons”.

Written by: Lars-Gunnar Mattsson, Professor Emeritus at Stockholm School of Economics, and one of the researchers in Misums platform Sustainable Socioeconomic Development.