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Research Frontiers in Comparative and International Environmental Politics: Paper Abstracts

Steering Committee:
Xun Cao, Penn State University
Robert O. Keohane, Princeton University
Helen V. Milner, Princeton University
Aseem Prakash, University of Washington, Seattle
Hugh Ward, University of Essex

Paper abstracts

Can International Institutions Stop Global Warming?
Dustin Tingley (Harvard University)
Michael Tomz (Stanford University)

This paper uses public opinion polls to answer two questions. First, will U.S. citizens use strategies of reciprocity that reward foreign countries for cooperating and punish them for defecting? Second, to what extent do U.S. citizens support the kinds of international institutions that would make strategies of reciprocity more effective? We answer these questions with special reference to global warming, and area in which citizens can influence outcomes not only through politics, but also through their own consumption. On this issue, we find surprisingly little evidence of reciprocal strategies such as tit-for-tat. Most citizens are unilateralists, who believe that U.S. energy consumption should not depend on the behavior of other countries. Moreover, even citizens who seem responsive to foreigners are unwilling to retaliate by burning more fossil fuels. Finally, we see only tepid support for organizations that would promote reciprocity by monitoring behavior and exposing cheaters. We conclude that climate cooperation is not likely to arise from the threat of retaliatory emissions. We do find, however, that citizens are willing to apply economic sanctions against polluters, and to shame them in international forums. Moreover, citizens are especially willing to take these measures when the polluter is violating a treaty. Cooperation could, therefore, emerge from efforts to link climate with other issues and to embed climate commitments in international law.

Civil Society and Sustainable Cities
Kent E. Portney (Tufts University)
Jeffrey M. Berry (Tufts University)

Although European cities have generally been regarded as far ahead of American cities in the degree to which they pursue sustainability, recent research suggests that U.S. cities are catching up. But why would this be? Is it possible that U.S. cities have been able to "close the gap" with European cities as a consequence of the development of local citizen groups? That is the central hypothesis of this paper. Our expectation is that across a range of cities, where nonprofit environmental groups have been included or incorporated into the local policymaking process, there is greater commitment to environmental protection, and more extensive adoption and implementation of local policies and programs designed to protect the environment. To test this idea we draw on our own research that combines two original data sets. First we have collected information on what programs and policies are in place in America's large cities. Second, for 50 large American cities we have also surveyed administrators, city councilors, and interest group advocates. Our expectations are validated by the data. We find that commitment of city administrators is strongly linked to the inclusion of environmental groups in policymaking. The number of local environmental protection policies and programs also demonstrates a strong relationship to inclusion of environmental groups in city policymaking. These two bivariate relationships hold when subjected to multivariate analysis with appropriate controls.

Boomerangs to Partnerships? Explaining State Participation in Transnational Partnerships for Sustainability
Liliana B. Andonova (Graduate Institute, Geneva)

Globalization has contributed to unprecedented rise in the density, resources, and reach of transnational actors in environmental politics. Simultaneously, the interplay between transnational actors and the state has also evolved from more traditional pressure and lobbying activities toward greater willingness to govern collaboratively through transnational public-private partnerships. What explained the increased and differential willingness of states to engage non-state actors in partnerships for the environment? While there is hardly a disagreement in the literature on the rising significance of transnational actors, their impact on the state and environmental governance remains debated. There is still limited research on the political and power dynamics that drive the merging of transnationalism and statism in environmental governance. This paper seeks to advance the study of environmental politics by elaborating a model of the domestic and international determinants of the "recalibration" of the state and its participation in transnational public-private partnerships. The argument is tested first through cross-sectional analysis of the determinants of state participation in some 400 partnerships adopted at the Johannesburg Summit for Sustainable Development. The statistical study is complemented with two comparative cases illustrating the political processes of a significant vs. limited recalibration of state strategies and engagement in partnerships with non-state actors.

Global Private Regulation, Domestic Public Law: ISO 14001 and Pollution Reduction
Aseem Prakash (University of Washington, Seattle)
Matthew Potoski (University of California Santa Barbara)

Debates about the efficacy of voluntary environmental programs have been fueled by disparate research findings, such as when the same voluntary program that has been effective in one setting is found to be ineffective in others. In this paper we show that the efficacy of ISO 14001, the most widely adopted voluntary environmental program in the world, depends on the stringency of countries' domestic regulations. Further, we explore whether firms strategically leverage their ISO membership to reduce emissions of visible air pollutants as opposed to less visible water pollutants. Our analyses of pollution levels for a panel of 135 countries for 1991-2005 period indicate that ISO 14001 certifications reduce air (SO2) emissions in countries with less stringent environmental regulations but have no effect on air emissions in countries with stringent environmental regulations. We also find that ISO membership levels are not associated with reductions in water pollution levels (Biochemical Oxygen Demand, BOD) irrespective of stringency of domestic law.

Domestic Problems, Foreign Solutions: The Political Foundations of Clean Technology Adoption
Michaël Aklin (New York University)
Johannes Urpelainen (Columbia University)

While technological change is a dominant social force, international political economists have not developed theories of the political foundations of technology adoption. We analyze a game-theoretic model of clean technology adoption and derive the following predictions. First, foreign countries should support clean technology adoption in countries with secure property rights and democratic political institutions. Second, such countries should be more willing to pay for new technologies. Finally, democratic political institutions but not property rights should reduce import tariffs on new technology. We test the model against data on the global adoption of clean technology between the years 1980 and 2008. The empirical analysis provide support for our hypotheses. The primary contributions of the article are (i) to return technology to the core of international political economy and (ii) to explain how political factors shape global patterns of clean technology adoption.

Manoeuvres for a Low Carbon State: The Local Politics of Climate Change in China and India
Tom Harrison (Frankfurt School of Finance and Management)
Genia Kostka (Frankfurt School of Finance and Management)

The discussion about how to respond to climate change has focused on the difficulties in agreeing on national targets for emissions reductions. Yet the implementation of mitigation strategies is far from straightforward, and delivering emissions reductions requires creative manoeuvres to bring together competing interests and priorities. By focusing on the role of leaders, elites and informal coalitions, this paper unpacks the neglected question of what forms of state capacity and political strategy are needed to pursue climate change mitigation measures in the areas of energy efficiency and renewable energy. We examine how government agencies in China and India manoeuvre within differing structural contexts - institutional, organizational and political - to maximize their influence, by making the most of limited organizational capacity and restricted scope for policy influence. We describe China's approach as 'state signaling'. By contrast, national agencies in India are less able to have confidence that national policies will be implemented at the local level and therefore are more closely engaged with the question of exactly how implementation takes place. Their approach has been to pursue what we describe as a 'market-plus' approach. The analysis draws on extensive fieldwork conducted in 2010 in Shanxi and Inner Mongolia in China and in Delhi and West Bengal in India. More than 100 semi-structured interviews have been conducted with government officials, business managers, NGO representatives over an eight-month long period.

State Capacity, Constituency Size, and the Environmental Investment Gap in Authoritarian States
Xun Cao (Penn State University)
Hugh Ward (University of Essex)

In this paper, we construct a two-period, constrained optimization model where the authoritarian ruler maximizes expected rents subject to the budget constraint of the surplus he has available in the short-term. We show that it is typically the case that the larger state capacity is at the first period, the worse environmental quality will be at the end of the second period: while both infrastructural investment and environmental protection increase with r state capacity, the former increases at a faster rate which enlarges the gap between the two (what we e call the environmental investment gap) based on the assumption that infrastructural public goods typically damage the environment. Furthermore, we show that the larger the size of the selectorate the bigger the environmental investment gap will be. Both these follow from rulers' optimizing logic of equating marginal returns once we assume the declining marginal productivity of factors of production of surplus. The empirical test models three types of major air (SO2 and CO2) and water (biological oxygen demand, or BOD) pollutants in authoritarian states as a function of regime types (which we use to proxy the size of key constituencies), state capacity, and a battery of relevant variables. We find that state capacity is associated with higher levels of all three types of pollutants. Single-party regimes, which tend to have the largest key constituencies among four types authoritarian regimes, are positively associated with SO2 emissions.

Efficiency Clientelism
Phillip Y. Lipscy (Stanford University)

Why are some countries more energy efficient than others? Although efficiency improvements are widely acknowledged as a central element of international efforts to mitigate climate change, the domestic politics of energy efficiency are not well understood. I argue that clientelistic political systems are particularly effective at achieving high levels of energy efficiency. This is because these systems are characterized by political arrangements that allow for particularistic redistribution through the imposition of high, diffuse costs on the general public. This remedies an important roadblock to efficiency in democratic states – public opposition to high taxes and energy prices, particularly in the transportation sector. Ironically, although clientelistic systems are generally viewed as poor generators of domestic public goods, their ability to impose diffuse costs makes them effective at the provision of global public goods. I test this theory both qualitatively and quantitatively. First, I examine the impact of electoral reform in Japan in 1994 on efficiency policy in the transportation sector. I then provide a broader test of the theory using panel data on energy efficiency policy and outcomes for developed countries for the past thirty years. As expected, indicators of clientelism correlate with higher prices on energy-consuming activities and greater energy efficiency.

The Micro Foundations of Global Climate Governance: An Analysis of the Transnational Emission Trading Network
Steven Bernstein (University of Toronto)
Michele Betsill (Colorado State University)
Matthew Hoffmann (University of Toronto)
Matthew Paterson (University of Ottawa)

Alongside the waxing and waning attempts to develop a comprehensive global climate change regime, diverse actors and processes have emerged at multiple levels that engage in climate change governance and policy-making. Rather than view such arrangements as constituting a "regime complex" (Keohane and Victor 2011) or fragmented governance (Biermann et al. 2009) – both of which suggest overlapping and sometimes competing sets of authority – we argue that many of these processes reflect multiple experimental attempts to govern climate change under a permissive global governance environment (Hoffmann 2011). While many of these experiments and processes appear to have arisen independently, we use network analysis of emission trading systems – perhaps the most important of these governance arrangements – to uncover ways in which the actors that drive and organize these schemes interact in an emergent governance system. Betsill and Hoffmann (2011) identified 33 distinct and diverse venues where emissions trading has been proposed, designed and/or operationalized between 1996 and 2008 (Table 1). While their analysis suggests widespread acceptance of emissions trading as an appropriate climate policy response, it also reveals considerable diversity in how emissions trading systems are organized and justified. We suggest that exploring the character of the transnational emissions trading network helps us understand better the patterns of climate change governance, specifically how this particular form has emerged and proliferated, and the variation in how emissions trading has been carried out in different jurisdictions.

The Oil Emperor Has No Clothes: The Limits of OPEC in the Global Oil Market
Jeffrey Colgan (American University)

Most scholars and policymakers believe OPEC can and does influence the price of oil by acting as a cartel. This paper argues that most of the conventional wisdom about OPEC is wrong. OPEC rarely if ever influences the oil production rate in its member states. Further, OPEC has almost no lasting impact on world prices, except under rare conditions. There was one occasion on which OPEC did have a significant impact on world oil prices, namely the 1973 oil crisis, but OPEC's role in the event has been greatly misunderstood. The circumstances of the crisis were highly exceptional, making it unlikely that the organization could ever have a similar impact on world oil prices again.
This paper seeks to correct the misunderstanding about OPEC's role, and replace it with a better understanding of the organization. I argue that OPEC is dysfunctional as a cartel, as it has little or no causal impact on its members' choices about production levels or investment in production capacity. OPEC's role is obscured in part by the complexity of the world oil market, and in part by misdirection by policymakers, especially within OPEC. Many scholars, especially economists, have argued that OPEC should be understood as a cartel designed to solve a Prisoner's Dilemma (PD) coordination game. Yet OPEC's persistence is better understood as a widespread failure to update beliefs about the organization, a failure that is driven by information asymmetry and politics. The fact that such a widespread belief about the world's most important commodity market could be wrong can help us better understand international regimes.

Environmental Degradation and Migration
Thomas Bernauer (ETH Zurich)
Vally Koubi (ETH Zurich)
Lena Schaffer (ETH Zurich)
Gabriele Spilker (ETH Zurich)

The argument that environmental degradation is an important driving force of migration has experienced a strong revival in the climate change context. While various studies predict large environmental migration flows due to climate change and other environmental stressors, the ex post empirical evidence for such migration is very patchy at best. We contribute to the emerging empirical literature in this field by focusing on the micro-level. We examine how and why different types of environmental conditions may lead to internal migration. The analysis relies on survey data for both migrants and non-migrants in 16 countries. The results suggest that both sudden-onset and long term environmental events, such as floods and droughts, have no significant effect on internal migration. In contrast, individual perceptions of negative environmental conditions can motivate people to move. We also find that people tend to respond to long-term environmental problems with adaptation, rather than migration. These findings indicate that different types of environmental problems – notably, natural hazards vs. gradual environmental degradation – can create different incentives for people to migrate or stay.

Regulatory stringency, regulatory distance and the transfer of new environmentally sound technologies: Evidence from the automobile sector
Antoine Dechezleprętre (London School of Economics)
Richard Perkins (London School of Economics)
Eric Neumayer (London School of Economics)

Although environmental regulatory stringency has been invoked as one of the most important factors driving the transfer of environmentally sound technologies (ESTs), surprisingly few studies have explored its influence. Employing a recently-assembled dataset of automobile emission standards, and corresponding data on non-resident patent filing of automotive ESTs in 55 countries between 1992 and 2007, we examine the impact of environmental regulation on international technology transfer. Our analysis shows that an important factor shaping transfers is relative regulatory distance in that countries are more likely to receive newly-innovated technologies from source countries whose regulatory standards are "closer" to their own. Absolute stringency matters as well, although raising domestic environmental standards as such only leads to higher inflows of ESTs in developing countries. Novel to the literature, we also show that regulatory standards in the third markets of a country's trading partners also influence transfers: countries receive more ESTs from a specific source country where they export more to markets whose regulatory standards are similar to those of the source country of the transferred technologies.

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