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Pathways of Accountability through Parliaments for international norms - The case of Finland and global climate governance

Venla Kinnunen
University of Turku
Sylvia I. Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen
University of Turku
Venla Kinnunen
University of Turku
Open Panel

Abstract

In global climate governance, both legally binding treaties (hard law) and non-legally binding norms (soft law) crowd the governance space. The post-2012 climate negotiations demonstrate a strong tendency towards softer law (such as bottom-up and voluntary commitments). Simultaneously, there is an ongoing debate concerning the democratic deficit of global governance and the role of parliaments to ensure a degree of accountability. However, there is not much comparative research on the role of parliaments in relation to international hard law and even less to international soft law. This is why it is highly difficult to evaluate how the choice between a hard law instrument (such as the Kyoto Protocol), or a soft instrument (such as the Copenhagen Accord or future variations of a ‘softer’ climate treaty) influences the effectiveness and legitimacy of the chosen instrument in a national context where it is being implemented. Our paper seeks to make a first attempt to systematically compare the role of parliaments in regard to international hard and soft law by looking at the Finnish parliament (Eduskunta) and its relation to international norms around climate change mitigation. In the paper, we first look at the key components of accountability in the literature of legitimacy, democracy and governance. After this we describe our methodological approach that combines analysis of parliamentary records and documents, and semi-structured interviews of parliamentarians and government officials. In the results we first discuss the scope to which the Eduskunta can influence the position of the Finnish Government in international negotiations on climate change, and second compare the means which the Eduskunta have to hold the government to account for implementing international hard or soft norms. Finally, we discuss the advantages of hard vs. soft law and the role of parliaments as guarantors of accountability in foreign policy and global governance. Keywords: Accountability, hard law, soft law