, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 395-406,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 30 May 2010

Can a Focus on Breakthrough Technologies Improve the Performance of International Environmental Agreements?


In a recent paper, Barrett (Am Econ Rev 96(2):22–25, 2006) reaches the conclusion that in general the answer to the question in the title is no, except for a special case in which technology adoption involves increasing returns (network externalities). We show in this paper that a focus on the R&D phase in the development of breakthrough technologies can also increase the possibilities for cooperation.

This article was initiated during our participation in the ‘Environmental economics: policy instruments, technology development and international cooperation’ project at the Centre for Advanced Study (CAS) at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in Oslo in 2005–2006. We are grateful for many useful comments and suggestions from the participants. We are also grateful for comments on earlier versions of this paper given by Geir Asheim, Scott Barrett, Bard Harstad, Chuck Mason, participants of the NBER Summer Institute, and two anonymous referees.