In Paris, diplomats are going down to the wire trying to strike an international agreement on climate change.

Last time the world tried to rein in greenhouse gas emissions—in Copenhagen in 2009—it didn't go so well. Negotiators blew through their deadline for a deal, haggling all night and emerging with a voluntary scheme that's widely considered a failure.

Things might be different this time, and part of the reason why has roots in Massachusetts.

Copenhagen's big flaw was that it was non-binding. That meant countries could talk about tackling climate change without having to actually do much about it.

This time around, in Paris, that legal fuzziness could actually be a strength.

That’s because instead of coming away from the talks with a prescription for medicine—cut 20 percent of your carbon dioxide and call us in the morning—the U.S. and more than 190 other countries came to the table with reasonable pledges: their own carbon diet regimes.

The various diets may not go far enough for some, but the idea is that countries will be more likely to keep to goals they set themselves.

Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey joined a group of Democratic politicians in Paris for the talks this week.

"Nothing the president is promising to the world here on behalf of the American people is anything other than the law in the United States," Markey said. "So it's already existing law and working, and will get us a 26 to 28 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by the year 2025 and that promise is good from America."

He points to new fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, the Clean Air Act, and a Supreme Court case from 2007, Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency.

In the case, Massachusetts led a group of states and cities in suing the EPA for not regulating carbon dioxide emissions. The court said it had to start, and it set a legal precedent for climate regulations in the United States.

And Massachusetts, like many states, isn’t waiting for the international community to act.

Durwood Zaelke, president of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development in Washington, says our local agencies and universities are already driving change.

"States have a huge role here," Zaelke said. "So if you look at what Massachusetts is doing—Massachusetts along with California, Michigan, New York—these are the leaders in the country, and we’ve always had an approach where we have states experimenting with the strongest and the most clever and the most innovative approaches. And that’s where we get at the national level."

There's another reason that the Paris climate deal is more likely than Copenhagen to produce some results: this time around, businesses are joining in, said David Cash, an environmental policy expert at University of Massachusetts Boston.

"That's part of the whole point of why I think COP21 is different than others, is that it's linked clean energy economic advantages in a way that has not happened before," Cash said.

Cash says many companies now see climate action as inevitable—or even as an economic opportunity. Take photovoltaic panels, or PV, he says.

"You have China and India at the table because there's potentially huge, big benefits," he said. "And not just from selling PV, but from customers who can avail themselves of these energy sources which are cheaper. And as soon as you do that, it doesn't matter if people care about climate, but they see their neighbor and they want to do the same thing. And that's where this has taken off."

Moreover, Congress can’t torpedo the deal, Zaelke said.

"It’ll be an agreement that the president can agree to using his executive authority," he said. "It will not be one that has to go to the Senate for ratification."

The basic science has been settled since Copenhagen. So no matter what the 190 or so countries in Paris agree to this week, states like Massachusetts will determine whether or not the deal is a success.

Chris Bentley is a GroundTruth Project Climate Fellow. Follow him on Twitter.