SEMINAR | Global Climate Governance between Hard and Soft Law: Will the Paris Agreement's 'Creme Brulee' Approach Enhance Ecosystemic Reflexifity?



Start Date

27th Jul 2016 12:00pm

End Date

27th Jul 2016 1:00pm


Seminar presented by

Dr Jeffrey McGee, IMAS & Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania

This seminar explores recent developments in global climate governance and their capacity to enhance "ecosystemic reflexivity" so that social and ecological systems might better respond to increasingly rapid change in the Anthropocene. Literatures on reflexive governance have often privileged institutional design features of flexibility and openness, which may conflict with the stability and predictability associated with the use of legal norms. However, recent international law scholarship offers a spectrum of "legalisation" of international institutions that allows a more nuanced differentiation between 'harder' and 'softer' legal norms. This raises an important question: How might the hardness or softness of legal norms enhance ecosystemic reflexivity? In analysing the changing form of emission reduction commitments in global climate governance, this seminar explores whether harder or softer norms are better suited to facilitating ecosystemic reflexivity in the global response to climate change. We find the recent Paris Agreement contains an innovative approach to emission reduction comprised of overarching harder legal norms for periodic goal-setting, transparency and review; combined with softer legal norms on substantive emission reduction. We argue that this mix of harder and softer norms has potential to enhance ecosystemic reflexivity by encouraging innovation and national ownership of emission reduction within a predictable long-term framework.

Wednesday 27 July 2016 (12 midday – 1 pm)

Boardroom, IMAS Waterfront Building (Level 2)

This new seminar series provides a forum for IMAS related researchers in the humanities, social science, law and governance to share ideas, develop collaborations and contribute to cutting-edge research on marine and Antarctic issues. We also welcome contributions from interested colleagues from the wider marine and Antarctic research community (eg UTAS, CSIRO, AAD, government and NGOs).

Expressions of interest in presenting at future seminars are most welcome.

Contact Dr Jeffrey McGee ( or

Joe Wenta (