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A balance of bottom-up and top-down in linking climate policies

Nature Climate Change volume 4, pages 10641067 (2014) | Download Citation


Top-down climate negotiations embodied by the Kyoto Protocol have all but stalled, chiefly because of disagreements over targets and objections to financial transfers. To avoid those problems, many have shifted their focus to linkage of bottom-up climate policies such as regional carbon markets. This approach is appealing, but we identify four obstacles to successful linkage: different levels of ambition; competing domestic policy objectives; objections to financial transfers; and the difficulty of close regulatory coordination. Even with a more decentralized approach, overcoming the 'global warming gridlock' of the intergovernmental negotiations will require close international coordination. We demonstrate how a balance of bottom-up and top-down elements can create a path toward an effective global climate architecture.

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For comments and discussions, we thank R. Ahuja, S. Barrett, D. Bodansky, D. Burtraw, F. Convery, D. Dudek, A. Ghosh, T. Hale, A. Hanafi, J. Haverkamp, N. Keohane, R. Keohane, J. Margolis, G. Metcalf, E. Morehouse, M. Oppenheimer, A. Ovodenko, A. Petsonk, B. Rudyk, R. Saines, R. Socolow, R. Stavins, J. Urpelainen, D. Victor, D. Walker, M. Weitzman, M. Zaragoza-Watkins and R. Zeckhauser. We thank K. Rittenhouse for excellent research assistance. T.S. thanks Mistra and Formas for funding.

Author information


  1. Department of Political Science, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA

    • Jessica F. Green
  2. University of Gothenburg, Vasagatan 1, 40530 Gothenburg, Sweden

    • Thomas Sterner
  3. Environmental Defense Fund, 18 Tremont Street, Suite 850, Boston, Massachusetts 02108, USA

    • Thomas Sterner
    •  & Gernot Wagner
  4. Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, 420 West 118th Street, New York, New York 10027, USA

    • Gernot Wagner
  5. Harvard Kennedy School, 79 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA

    • Gernot Wagner


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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gernot Wagner.

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