Research strategies to assess the effectiveness of international environmental regimes

Abstract

Despite decades of international efforts to enhance global environmental governance, sustainability issues requiring action beyond single states persist. How can we create international environmental governance systems (typically called regimes) that are successful in addressing problems such as climate change and the loss of biological diversity? What skills do we need to design regimes that are responsive to these challenges? Reflecting on years of research on environmental regimes, this Perspective identifies promising research strategies for continuing efforts to answer these questions (for example, diagnostic procedures and alternative ideas on effectiveness) in a manner that promotes productive relations between academics and practitioners.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Multilateral environmental agreements, 1850–2016.

References

  1. 1.

    Vitousek, P. et al. Human domination of the Earthas ecosystems. Science 277, 494–499 (1997).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Steffen, W. et al. Global Change and the Earth System: a Planet under Pressure (Springer, Heidelberg, 2004).

  3. 3.

    Galaz, V. Global Environmental Governance. Technology and Politics: The Anthropocene Gap (Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, 2014).

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Mitchell, R. B. International Environmental Regimes Database (accessed 15 June 2018); http://iea.uoregon.edu

  5. 5.

    Parson, E. A. Protecting the Ozone Layer: Science and Strategy (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 2003).

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Cherry, T., Hovi, J. & McEvoy, D. Toward a New Climate Agreement: Conflict Resolution and Governance (Routledge, London, 2016).

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Chayes, A. & Chayes, A. H. The New Sovereignty: Compliance with International Regulatory Agreements (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1995).

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Raustiala, K. & Slaughter, A. M. in Handbook of International Relations (eds Carlsnaes et al.) 538–558 (Sage Publications, London, 2002).

  9. 9.

    Zaelke, D. et al. Making Law Work: Environmental Compliance and Sustainable Development (Cameron May, London, 2005).

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Strange, S. in International Regimes (ed. Krasner, S. D.) 337–354 (Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, 1983).

  11. 11.

    Mearsheimer, J. The false promise of international institutions. Int. Secur. 19, 5–49 (1994–1995).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Rosenau, J. N. & Czempiel, E.-O. Governance without Government: Order and Change in World Politics (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 1992).

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Haas, P., Keohane, R. & Levy, M. Institutions for the Earth: Sources of Effective International Environmental Protection (MIT Press, Cambridge, 1993).

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Kanie, N., Andresen, S. & Haas, P. M. Improving Global Environmental Governance: Best Practices for Architecture and Agency (Routledge, New York, 2014).

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Mitchell, R. B. in Institutions and Environmental Change (eds Young, O. R. et al.) 79–114 (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2008).

  16. 16.

    Underdal, A. in Institutions and Environmental Change (eds Young, O. R. et al.) 49–78 (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2008).

  17. 17.

    Young, O. R. The effectiveness of international environmental regimes: existing knowledge, cutting-edge themes, and research strategies. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 19853–19860 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Keohane, R. O. After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, 1984).

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Ruggie, J. G. in International Regimes (ed. Krasner, S. D.) 195–231 (Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, 1983).

  20. 20.

    Miles, E. L. et al. Environmental Regime Effectiveness: Confronting Theory with Evidence (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2002).

    Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Mitchell, R. B. A quantitative approach to evaluating international environmental regimes. Glob. Env. Polit. 2, 58–83 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Breitmeier, H., Young, O. R. & Zürn, M. Analyzing International Environmental Regimes: From Case Study to Database (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2006).

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Breitmeier, H., Underdal, A. & Young, O. R. in Politik und Umwelt (eds Jacob, K. et al.) 41–59 (VS-Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2011).

  24. 24.

    Keohane, R. O. Neorealism and its Critics (Columbia Univ. Press, New York, 2006).

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Schelling, T. C. Micromotives and Macrobehavior (W. W. Norton, New York, 1978).

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Ostrom, E. et al. The Drama of the Commons (National Academies Press, Washington DC, 2002).

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Young, O. R. The Effectiveness of International Environmental Agreements: Causal Connections and Behavioral Mechanisms (MIT Press, Cambridge, 1999).

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Stokke, O. S. Disaggregating International Regimes: A New Approach to Evaluation and Comparison (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2012).

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Lyster, S. International Wildlife Law (Grotius, Cambridge, 1995).

    Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Brennan, D. Arms Control, Disarmament and National Security (George Braziller, New York, 1961).

    Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Young, O. R. Governing Complex Systems: Social Capital for the Anthropocene. (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2017).

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Galaz, V. et al. in Institutions and Environmental Change (eds Young, O. R. et al.) 147–188 (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2008).

  33. 33.

    Young, O. R. The Institutional Dimensions of Environmental Change: Fit. Interplay, and Scale (MIT Press,Cambridge, 2002).

  34. 34.

    Cox, M. Advancing the diagnostic analysis of environmental problems. Int. J. Comm. 5, 346–363 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Ostrom, E. A diagnostic approach to going beyond panaceas. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 15181–15187 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Ostrom, E. & Cox, M. Moving beyond panaceas: a multi-tiered diagnostic approach for social-ecological analysis. Env. Conserv. 37, 451–463 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Mitchell, R. B. International Oil Pollution at Sea: Environmental Policy and Treaty Compliance (MIT Press, Cambridge, 1994).

    Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Young, O. R. & Osherenko, G. Polar Politics: Creating International Environmental Regimes (Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca, 1993).

    Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Pressman, J. L. & Wildavsky, A. Implementation: How Great Expectations in Washington Are Dashed in Oakland (Univ. California Press, Berkeley, 1984).

    Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Victor, D., Raustiala, K. & Skolnikoff, E. The Implementation and Effectiveness of International Environmental Commitments: Theory and Practice (MIT Press, Cambridge, 1998).

    Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Mitchell, R. B. Regime design matters: international oil pollution and treaty compliance. Int. Organ. 48, 425–458 (1994).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Oude Elferink, A. G. Stability and Change in the Law of the Sea: The Role of the LOS Convention (Martinus Nijhoff, Leiden, 2005).

    Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Lowe, V. & Talmon, S. The Legal Order of the Oceans (Hart, Portland, 2009).

    Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Anderson, D. et al. The Law of the Sea: UNCLOS as a Living Treaty (British Institute of International Affairs, London, 2016).

    Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Dreul, E. & Gjerde, K. Sustaining marine life beyond boundaries: Options for an implementing agreement for marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Mar. Pol. 49, 90–97 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    International Legally Binding Instrument Under the United Nations on the Conservation and Sustainable use of Marine Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction A/RES/72/249/ (UN General Assembly, 2017).

  47. 47.

    Worm, B. et al. Rebuilding global fisheries. Science 325, 578–585 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  48. 48.

    Ludwig, D., Hilborn, R. & Walters, C. Uncertainty, resource exploitation, and conservation: lessons from history. Science 260, 17–36 (1993).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  49. 49.

    Pauly, D. et al. Towards sustainability in world fisheries. Nature 418, 689–695 (2002).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  50. 50.

    Scheffer, M. Critical Transitions in Nature and Society (Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, 2009).

    Google Scholar 

  51. 51.

    Rockström, J. P. et al. A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461, 472–475 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  52. 52.

    Steffen, W. et al. Planetary boundaries: guiding human development on a changing planet. Science 347, 1259855 (2015).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  53. 53.

    Kingdon, J. W. Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies 2nd edn (Addison-Wesley, Boston, 1995).

    Google Scholar 

  54. 54.

    IPCC Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report (eds Core Writing Team, Pachauri, R. K. & Meyer L. A.) (IPCC, 2015).

  55. 55.

    Carbon Budget 2017 (Global Carbon Project, 2017); http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/index.htm

  56. 56.

    United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC, 1992); http://unfcccc.int/essential_background/convention/items/6036.php

  57. 57.

    Kanie, N. & Biermann, F. Governing through Goals: Sustainable Development Goals as Governance Innovation (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2017).

    Google Scholar 

  58. 58.

    Young, O. R. in Governing through Goals: Sustainable Development Goals as Governance Innovation (eds Kanie, N. & Biermann, F.) 31–51 (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2017).

  59. 59.

    Compton, W. D. Where No Man Has Gone Before: A History of Apollo Lunar Exploration Missions (NASA, Washington DC, 1988).

    Google Scholar 

  60. 60.

    Andresen, S. & Iguchi, M. in Governing through Goals: Sustainable Development Goals as Governance Innovation (eds Kanie, N. & Biermann, F.) 165–186 (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2017).

  61. 61.

    World Health Organization. The Global Eradication of Smallpox. (WHO, Geneva, 1980).

  62. 62.

    Sachs, J. The Age of Sustainable Development (Columbia Univ. Press, New York, 2015).

  63. 63.

    Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development A/RES/70/1 (UN General Assembly, 2015).

  64. 64.

    Agreement adopted at UNFCCC COP21 FCCC/CP/2015/L.9/Rev. 1 (Paris Climate Agreement, 2015).

  65. 65.

    Voituriez, T. et al. in Governing through Goals: Sustainable Development Goals as Governance Innovation (eds Kanie, N. & Biermann, F.) 259–273 (MIT Press, Cambridge, 2017).

  66. 66.

    Cash, D. et al. Knowledge systems for sustainable development. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA. 100, 8086–8091 (2003).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  67. 67.

    Mitchell, R. B. Graph of agreements by year. International Environmental Agreements Database Project v.2017.1 (2017); https://iea.uoregon.edu/sites/iea1.uoregon.edu/files/MEAs-1857-2016.jpg

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Oran R. Young.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declares no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Young, O.R. Research strategies to assess the effectiveness of international environmental regimes. Nat Sustain 1, 461–465 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0132-y

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter for a daily update on COVID-19 science.
Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing