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Hardcover | $12.75 Short | £10.95 | 379 pp. | 6.2 x 9.1 in | October 1994 | ISBN: 9780262133036
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Intentional Oil Pollution at Sea

Environmental Policy and Treaty Compliance


How do environmental treaties influence international behavior? Deliberate discharges from oil tankers have traditionally been the biggest source of oil pollution from ships, greater than much-publicized accidental spills. Although an international treaty governs how tankers must dispose of oil, compliance has been a problem. Intentional Oil Pollution at Sea is a detailed case study of how international environmental treaties can be made more effective. Combining theoretical analysis with a rigorous empirical evaluation of changes in the compliance process over time, it identifies policies that have increased compliance by governments and the oil transportation industry with discharge restrictions, equipment requirements, enforcement, and reporting.

Ronald Mitchell introduces the debate over environmental treaty compliance, compliance theory, and a history of intentional oil pollution. He then uses a wealth of data to study efforts to change government and industry behavior in reporting on treaty performance, enforcing rules, and complying with equipment and discharge standards. He closes with theoretical conclusions drawn from the empirical analysis regarding the sources of effective treaty compliance as well as prescriptions for policymakers about how to negotiate more effective future environmental agreements.

Global Environmental Accords series

About the Author

Ronald B. Mitchell is Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Oregon.


International Oil Pollution at Sea is good social science, a genuinely illuminating work of scholarship.”
Robert O. Keohane, Stanfield Professor of International Peace, Harvard University
“Treaties are increasingly used in efforts to protect, preserve, and enhance the environment, yet little empirical work has been done to assess their effectiveness. This pioneering investigation of two such treaties, designed to prevent pollution from ships, convincingly shows that the terms of treaties make a difference, and that they can be altered to improve compliance. The book makes the compelling case that treaties must take into account the incentives that actors face—to comply or not, to encourage compliance in others or not—as well as the material and managerial capacities that decide whether they have the capacity to act at all.”
Harold K. Jacobson, University of Michigan
International Oil Pollution by Sea is among the strongest examples of the new thinking on international organizations. Ronald Mitchell marshals the evidence intelligently and persuasively to show that international rules matter—that they can change behavior and help to change international life. A must have for anyone interested in international regimes and how they work.”
Abram Chayes, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
“A new understanding of the bases of compliance—one that treats compliance as a management problem instead of an enforcement problem and that has profound practical as well as theoretical implications—is making itself felt among students of international relations. With the publication of this book, Ronald Mitchell takes his place as a leader of this movement and provides us with a wide-ranging study of compliance whose applicability extends far beyond the realm of environmental policy.”
Organ R. Young, Director, Institute on International Environmental Governance, Dartmouth College
“Mitchell provides a careful and compelling analysis of countries’ compliance with the treaty controlling tankers’ pollution of the oceans. It is essential reading for those interested in whether international agreements make any difference.”
Edith Brown Weiss, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center


Winner, 1994 Harold and Margaret Sprout Award given by the International Studies Association (ISA).