Friday, January 11, 2013

Stewart, Oppenheimer, and Rudyk on "Building Blocks for Global Climate Protection"

The authors recommend a club-based approach to achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, as a byproduct of collaborating on other, mutually profitable opportunities. It's the latest in a line of climate literature searching for solutions to climate mitigation that do not rely predominantly on globally negotiated treaties. Unlike other contributions (including my own, here), which basically describe laundry lists of what national, regional, and local governments as well as some private actors have actually done to reduce emissions, while international negotiations have stalled, Stewart, Oppenheimer, and Rudyk offer a more structured approach premised on three plausible effective strategies for cooperation: clubs, linkages, and dominant market-actors. Here is their abstract:
The paper presents an innovative institutional strategy for global climate protection, quite distinct from, but ultimately complementary to the stalled UNFCCC climate treaty negotiations. The building blocks strategy relies on a variety of smaller-scale transnational cooperative arrangements, involving not only states but sub-national jurisdictions, firms, and NGOs, to undertake activities whose primary goal is not climate mitigation but which will achieve greenhouse gas reductions as an inherent byproduct. This strategy avoids the inherent problems in securing an enforceable treaty to secure the global public good of climate protection by mobilizing other incentives — including economic self-interest, energy security, cleaner air, and furtherance of international development — to motivate such actors to cooperate on actions that will also benefit the climate. The paper outlines three specific models of regime formation (club, linkage and dominant actor models) which draws on economics, international relations, and organizational behavior to create transnational regimes that are generally self-enforcing and sustainable, avoiding the free rider and compliance problems that are endemic in a climate treaty. These regimes will contribute to global climate action not only by achieving emissions reductions in the short-term, but also by creating global webs of cooperation and trust, and by linking the building block regimes to the UNFCCC system through greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting systems. In these ways, the building blocks regimes will help secure eventual agreement on a global climate treaty.
The full working paper is available for download here.

I have my doubts about how effective such "building blocks" can be, if their GHG emissions reductions are only byproducts (that is, positive externalities); and I wonder whether they might more usefully be envisioned as ancillaries to larger scale, negotiated regimes. Those larger scale regimes might increase incentives to mitigate by increasing the economic value of emissions reductions not merely as byproducts of other profit-seeking opportunities. Nevertheless, it is a very valuable contribution to the burgeoning literature on sub-global level efforts at mitigating GHGs.

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