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Hardcover | Out of Print | 336 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 1 chart, 8 graphs, 17 tables | July 2010 | ISBN: 9780262014267
Paperback | $34.00 Short | £27.95 | 336 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 1 chart, 8 graphs, 17 tables | July 2010 | ISBN: 9780262514316
eBook | $24.00 Short | July 2010 | ISBN: 9780262290241
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Global Commons, Domestic Decisions

The Comparative Politics of Climate Change


Climate change represents a “tragedy of the commons” on a global scale, requiring the cooperation of nations that do not necessarily put the Earth’s well-being above their own national interests. And yet international efforts to address global warming have met with some success; the Kyoto Protocol, in which industrialized countries committed to reducing their collective emissions, took effect in 2005 (although without the participation of the United States). Reversing the lens used by previous scholarship on the topic, Global Commons, Domestic Decisions explains international action on climate change from the perspective of countries’ domestic politics. In an effort to understand both what progress has been made and why it has been so limited, experts in comparative politics look at the experience of seven jurisdictions in deciding whether or not to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and to pursue national climate change mitigation policies. By analyzing the domestic politics and international positions of the United States, Australia, Russia, China, the European Union, Japan, and Canada, the authors demonstrate clearly that decisions about global policies are often made locally, in the context of electoral and political incentives, the normative commitments of policymakers, and domestic political institutions. Using a common analytical framework throughout, the book offers a unique comparison of the domestic political forces within each nation that affect climate change policy and provides insights into why some countries have been able to adopt innovative and aggressive positions on climate change both domestically and internationally.

About the Editors

Kathryn Harrison is Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia.

Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of British Columbia.

Table of Contents

  • Global Commons, Domestic Decisions
  • American and Comparative Environmental Policy
  • Sheldon Kamieniecki and Michael E. Kraft, series editors
  • For a complete list of books in the series, please see pages 293–294.
  • Global Commons, Domestic Decisions
  • The Comparative Politics of Climate Change
  • edited by Kathryn Harrison and Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom
  • The MIT Press
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • London, England
  • © 2010
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.
  • For information about special quantity discounts, please email
  • This book was set in Sabon by Toppan Best-set Premedia Limited. Printed and bound in the United States of America.
  • Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
  • Global commons, domestic decisions : the comparative politics of climate change / edited by Kathryn Harrison and Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom.
  •  p. cm. — (American and comparative environmental policy)
  • Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • ISBN 978-0-262-01426-7 (hardcover : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-0-262-51431-6 (pbk. : alk. paper)
  • 1. Climatic changes—Government policy—International cooperation.  2. Comparative government. I. Harrison, Kathryn, 1958– II. Sundstrom, Lisa McIntosh, 1971– QC903.G565 2010
  • 363.738´74—dc22
  • 2009045669
  • 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
  • For our children
  • Contents
  • Series Foreword  ix
  • 1 Introduction: Global Commons, Domestic Decisions  1
  • Kathryn Harrison and Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom
  • 2 European Union Leadership in Climate Change
  • :
  • Mitigation through Multilevel Reinforcement  23
  • Miranda A. Schreurs and Yves Tiberghien
  • 3 The United States as Outlier
  • :
  • Economic and Institutional Challenges to US Climate Policy  67
  • Kathryn Harrison
  • 4 Russia and the Kyoto Protocol
  • :
  • From Hot Air to Implementation?  105
  • Laura A. Henry and Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom
  • 5 Climate Leadership, Japanese Style
  • :
  • Embedded Symbolism and Post-2001 Kyoto Protocol Politics  139
  • Yves Tiberghien and Miranda A. Schreurs
  • 6 The Struggle of Ideas and Self-Interest in Canadian Climate Policy  169
  • Kathryn Harrison
  • 7 Climate Clever?
  • Kyoto and Australia’s Decade of Recalcitrance  201
  • Kate Crowley
  • 8 Chinese Climate Policy
  • :
  • Domestic Priorities, Foreign Policy, and Emerging Implementation  229
  • Gørild Heggelund, Steinar Andresen, and Inga Fritzen Buan
  • 9 Conclusion: The Comparative Politics of Climate Change  261
  • Kathryn Harrison and Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom
  • Contributors  291
  • Series List  293
  • Index  295
  • 1.4
  • 1.6
  • BooksChicago
  • Books Chicago
  • MITBooks
  • Series Foreword
  • Series Foreword
  • Series Foreword
  • Climate change is often described as the most important environmental problem of the twenty-first century, both because of the magnitude of risks associated with it and the obviously large number of people affected. How governments respond to climate change, both domestically and internationally, also speaks to the broader challenges of confronting third-generation environmental problems. First, these problems are global in scale and therefore require the cooperation of nations that do not necessarily put the well-being of the Earth’s population ahead of national interests—essentially posing a worldwide “tragedy of the commons.” For example, why should China or the United States cut back sharply on the use of coal if each nation gains little advantage in doing so? Second, the ill-effects (environmental and public health) occur mostly in the future, yet the short-term economic costs of policy actions can be substantial and may adversely affect many powerful interests, such as fossil fuel companies, in addition to creating a burden on the general population. Third, there is almost always considerable scientific uncertainty that can greatly complicate the delicate search for solutions that are broadly acceptable to all interests. Fourth, precisely because they involve long-term and rather complex phenomena, the issues are almost always of low salience to the general public and struggle to gain attention and political support for action, even when polls show an impressive general level of concern. Under these circumstances, how can public policies be advanced both within nations and internationally?
  • One way to learn about what is possible is to examine what nations have already done using the tools of comparative analysis. Such research can speak to the domestic political factors that affect both national and international willingness to mitigate climate change. By 2009 all developed nations except the United States had endorsed the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which seeks to reduce industrialized countries’ collective emissions to roughly 5 percent below their 1990 levels, and many had adopted and implemented various climate change policies to make those commitments meaningful. Under the Obama administration, the United States finally made a serious effort to approve a national climate change policy, and a diversity of policy actions had already been taken by more than half of the states and more than 950 local governments across the nation. In short, there is now a record that can be examined and assessed to learn more about the politics of climate change policymaking.
  • Kathryn Harrison and Lisa McIntosh Sundstrom have assembled a team of experienced and talented students of comparative environmental politics to dissect that record in major nations in an effort to assess the progress that has been made and to understand why, to date, it has been so limited. The chapters share a common theoretical framework that points to the role of electoral and political incentives, the normative commitments of policymakers, and the structure and capacity of political institutions as well as the linkage of domestic politics to international policymaking on climate change. This is an opportune time for such a study since nations have already begun negotiations for the post-Kyoto regime that is to take effect in 2012, and future agreements will reflect many of the same forces that the authors describe here.
  • Earlier versions of some chapters were published in a special issue of
  • Global Environmental Politics
  • in November 2007, and they have since been updated and linked to the overall purpose of this volume. The book offers a unique and valuable comparison of the domestic political forces within each nation that affect climate change policymaking and thus provides insights into the conditions under which some countries have been able to adopt innovative and aggressive positions on climate change both domestically and internationally. This is the first study to bring together such analyses of domestic policymaking on climate change in one volume using a common analytic framework. Because the nations and regional governments covered are among the most important players in international climate change policy—the European Union, China, Russia, Japan, Canada, Australia, and the United States—the results should be of interest to a wide audience.
  • The book illustrates well the goals of the MIT Press series in American and Comparative Environmental Policy. We encourage work that examines a broad range of environmental policy issues. We are particularly interested in volumes that incorporate interdisciplinary research and focus on the linkages between public policy and environmental problems and issues both within the United States and in cross-national settings. We welcome contributions that analyze the policy dimensions of relationships between humans and the environment from either a theoretical or empirical perspective. At a time when environmental policies are increasingly seen as controversial and new approaches are being implemented widely, we especially encourage studies that assess policy successes and failures, evaluate new institutional arrangements and policy tools, and clarify new directions for environmental politics and policy. The books in this series are written for a wide audience that includes academics, policymakers, environmental scientists and professionals, business and labor leaders, environmental activists, and students concerned with environmental issues. We hope they contribute to public understanding of environmental problems, issues, and policies of concern today and also suggest promising actions for the future.
  • Sheldon Kamieniecki, University California, Santa Cruz
  • Michael Kraft, University of Wisconsin–Green Bay
  • American and Comparative Environmental Policy Series Editors


“This book makes an important and distinctive contribution to the literature on comparative environmental policies and politics. It clearly and convincingly describes and explains the the policy approaches of the European Union, the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, Australia, and China toward addressing the risks of global climate change. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in understanding the complex relationship between the domestic and international dimensions of climate change policies.”
David Vogel, Haas School of Business, Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
“In the gloomy aftermath of the Copenhagen climate summit, there has been much talk of finding new ways to advance policy change at the national level. This skillfully edited and illuminating collection of national studies identifies the possibilities as well as the obstacles to pursuing policy change at this level of governance. I am certain it will meet the needs of students and scholars of international as well as comparative environmental politics and policy.”
Andrew J. Jordan, Professor, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, University of East Anglia