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THE ROLE OF INFORMATION AND DOMESTIC POLITICS IN INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL AGREEMENTS

Patrick Bayer
Universität Mannheim
Patrick Bayer
Universität Mannheim
Open Panel

Abstract

Global climate change poses a new challenge to international cooperation and policy-making alike. As all other international environmental agreements, any attempts to govern the Earth’s climate with the help of treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol fall trap of classic problems of unenforceability, non-participatory free-riding, and non-compliance. It even turns out that cooperation is most difficult to achieve if it is needed the most, i.e. when an agreement affects very many countries and when the potential gains from cooperation would be extremely large. Thus, the economic literature that draws on non-cooperative game-theory is very skeptical of the cooperative potential of such agreements and states that international treaties with many signatories need necessarily to be shallow agreements. In this paper, I, however, argue that this pessimistic conclusion can be qualified if we drop the unitary actor assumption. In a game-theoretic model that acknowledges for the domestic political dynamics I demonstrate that governmental behaviour is conditional on national voter preferences and the national electorate’s information levels. I find that for office-seeking governments highly informed voters that value the environment sufficiently high, free-riding in international environmental agreements can be constrained and political self-regulation can prevail. Drawing on data from the Kyoto Protocol several versions of parametric and semi-parametric duration models empirically corroborate our theoretical claim that better informed electorates incentivise their national leaders to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in a more timely manner.