Following the Paris Agreement, states have submitted nationally determined contributions (NDCs) pledging how they aim to prevent dangerous climate change. These documents reveal how states translate the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) normative expectations based on their domestic circumstances. We examine continuity and change between first and second NDCs with an inductive method of quantitative text analysis—topic modeling. Overall, these pledges rely on UNFCCC’s norms, indicating the stability of the liberal order. Many norms are translated similarly in first and second NDCs. When states prioritize some norms over others, this continues to align with the annex divide, reflecting differences in domestic circumstances (e.g., vulnerability). Yet, some discourse coalitions also cut across this line. Two innovative translations stand out in the second NDCs: first, the low-carbon economy discourse adds a new spin to “liberal environmentalism,” apparently driven by competition among higher-income countries, and second, interlinkages with the human rights regime point to successful transnational socialization in democratic states. These findings indicate potential directions for global climate politics.

Supplementary data

You do not currently have access to this content.