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Global Commons, Domestic Decisions

Global Commons, Domestic Decisions: The Comparative Politics of Climate Change

Kathryn Harrison
Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Global Commons, Domestic Decisions
    Book Description:

    Climate change represents a "tragedy of the commons" on a global scale, requiring the cooperation of nations that do not necessarily put the Earth's well-being above their own national interests. And yet international efforts to address global warming have met with some success; the Kyoto Protocol, in which industrialized countries committed to reducing their collective emissions, took effect in 2005 (although without the participation of the United States). Reversing the lens used by previous scholarship on the topic, Global Commons, Domestic Decisions explains international action on climate change from the perspective of countries' domestic politics. In an effort to understand both what progress has been made and why it has been so limited, experts in comparative politics look at the experience of seven jurisdictions in deciding whether or not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and to pursue national climate change mitigation policies. By analyzing the domestic politics and international positions of the United States, Australia, Russia, China, the European Union, Japan, and Canada, the authors demonstrate clearly that decisions about global policies are often made locally, in the context of electoral and political incentives, the normative commitments of policymakers, and domestic political institutions. Using a common analytical framework throughout, the book offers a unique comparison of the domestic political forces within each nation that affect climate change policy and provides insights into why some countries have been able to adopt innovative and aggressive positions on climate change both domestically and internationally.The hardcover edition does not include a dust jacket.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-28948-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)

    Climate change is often described as the most important environmental problem of the twenty-first century, both because of the magnitude of risks associated with it and the obviously large number of people affected. How governments respond to climate change, both domestically and internationally, also speaks to the broader challenges of confronting third-generation environmental problems. First, these problems are global in scale and therefore require the cooperation of nations that do not necessarily put the well-being of the Earth’s population ahead of national interests—essentially posing a worldwide “tragedy of the commons.” For example, why should China or the United States...

  4. 1 Introduction: Global Commons, Domestic Decisions
    (pp. 1-22)
    Kathryn Harrison and Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom

    Climate change represents a “tragedy of the commons” on a global scale. Like Hardin’s hypothetical community of farmers overgrazing the village commons,¹ the nations of the world, and individuals within them, overexploit the planet’s atmosphere because they gain all the material advantages from the activities that contribute to global warming but suffer only a fraction of the environmental costs. In turn, nations and individuals typically are unwilling to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions unilaterally, since in doing so they would pay the full price of abatement but gain only a fraction of the benefits. Indeed, their sacrifices may be futile...

  5. 2 European Union Leadership in Climate Change: Mitigation through Multilevel Reinforcement
    (pp. 23-66)
    Miranda A. Schreurs and Yves Tiberghien

    The European Union has positioned itself as the international agenda setter for climate change mitigation. At several critical junctures, the EU and its members have adopted policies and programs that have put it at the forefront of international efforts to address climate change.¹ In the early 1990s several European countries took the lead in establishing voluntary domestic emission reduction targets. In October 1990, reacting to these national developments, the European ministers of energy and the environment announced that the European Community (EC) as a whole would seek to stabilize its joint carbon dioxide emissions at 1990 levels by the turn...

  6. 3 The United States as Outlier: Economic and Institutional Challenges to US Climate Policy
    (pp. 67-104)
    Kathryn Harrison

    Until recently overtaken by China, the United States was the largest single contributor to global warming, accounting for almost one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. The magnitude of the US contribution reflects not only the scale of its economy but also per capita emissions that were second highest (after Australia) among industrialized countries.¹ However, while clearly a significant part of the problem, to date the United States has not been part of the solution. At the international level, President George W. Bush confirmed in 2001 that the United States would not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. With Australia’s belated ratification in...

  7. 4 Russia and the Kyoto Protocol: From Hot Air to Implementation?
    (pp. 105-138)
    Laura A. Henry and Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom

    On 5 November 2004, the Russian Federation ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Since the treaty required the participation of states responsible for at least 55 percent of Annex 1 greenhouse gases, Russia’s ratification tipped the scales, and the Protocol went into effect on 15 February 2005. At first glance, it is surprising that Russia turned out to be the key ratifying state of the Kyoto Protocol. The Russian government has spent the last fifteen years focused on economic recovery and development, and environmental regulation and treaties have been low on its list of priorities. Russia has become the world’s largest exporter...

  8. 5 Climate Leadership, Japanese Style: Embedded Symbolism and Post-2001 Kyoto Protocol Politics
    (pp. 139-168)
    Yves Tiberghien and Miranda A. Schreurs

    After the Bush administration pulled the United States out of the Kyoto Protocol in March 2001, Japan found itself the pivotal actor in the global battle over the survival of the treaty. With the United States out of Kyoto, the costs of ratification rose significantly. Japan would be expected to take painful and costly measures to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions without US industries and the public having to take similar steps. This threatened to place Japan at a competitive disadvantage with the United States and with developing countries, which were exempted from taking action under the agreement. For numerous...

  9. 6 The Struggle of Ideas and Self-Interest in Canadian Climate Policy
    (pp. 169-200)
    Kathryn Harrison

    In ratifying the Kyoto Protocol in December 2002, Canada accepted perhaps the most ambitious commitment among all parties to the agreement. Although Canada’s formal target is to reduce its emissions to 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012, Canadian policymakers knew that in order to comply they would need to deliver a 30 percent reduction below projected emissions by 2010.¹ The impact of such deep reductions on economic competitiveness loomed especially large after the withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol of Canada’s largest trading partner, the United States, in 2001. Since ratification, however, a succession of governments has failed...

  10. 7 Climate Clever? Kyoto and Australia’s Decade of Recalcitrance
    (pp. 201-228)
    Kate Crowley

    Until 2007 only two developed nations had refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the United States and Australia, and while their positions on the international stage seemed remarkably similar, at the domestic level they diverged significantly. The key difference, it is argued here, was that while Australia refused to ratify, it was nevertheless committed to meeting its Kyoto target of an 8 percent increase of greenhouse gas emissions by 2008–2012. This could only have made sense to the Coalition government if pursuing this target did not damage jobs, industry, and the economy, and throws into question the effectiveness of...

  11. 8 Chinese Climate Policy: Domestic Priorities, Foreign Policy, and Emerging Implementation
    (pp. 229-260)
    Gørild Heggelund, Steinar Andresen and Inga Fritzen Buan

    China is a key country in the international climate regime for two reasons. First, it is important in the global climate change process because it is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases; moreover, China’s emissions are increasing steadily. Second, its status and influence in the G-77 give it prominence in climate negotiations. As the world’s largest developing country, with an influential voice in the United Nations, China has the potential to lead the developing world in the future climate regime. It has been an active participant in climate negotiations and ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2002, but as a...

  12. 9 Conclusion: The Comparative Politics of Climate Change
    (pp. 261-290)
    Kathryn Harrison and Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom

    As the nations of the world embark on a second, post-Kyoto, effort to collectively address climate change, it is an opportune time to ask what lessons can be learned from experience to date. The case studies in this volume have revealed a diversity of outcomes concerning ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and governments’ policy actions to mitigate climate change. Yet while each case exhibits unique developments, we can also identify recurring patterns in configurations of factors that contribute to success or failure. The richness of the individual country cases invites us to compare in some detail the variations across them....

  13. Contributors
    (pp. 291-292)
  14. Series List
    (pp. 293-294)
  15. Index
    (pp. 295-312)