Date: 04 Oct 2006

Climate change and the credibility of international commitments: What is necessary for the U.S. to deliver on such commitments?

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Abstract

The engagement of the United States is critical to the success of any international effort against global climate change. Although international climate efforts require long-lasting, credible commitments by participating countries, risk of failure to deliver on such commitments rises with the degree of gap that the domestic institutions permit between the executive and the legislature. The U.S. withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol indicated that the Clinton administration’s effort to bring international solutions into the domestic arena before domestic consensus was obtained was counterproductive. The congressional politics over budgetary allocation regarding the Bush administration’s technology policies showed that general preference to a technology-oriented approach to climate change alone did not ensure the credibility of international commitments. These cases revealed that the U.S. climate diplomacy was lacking in domestic institutional mechanisms that bring the executive branch’s deal at international negotiations, and the legislators’ preferences at home, closer together. For the U.S. to take leadership in international climate cooperation, domestic institutional frameworks which reconcile the interests of the two branches are necessary. This paper suggests that such domestic institutional frameworks feature two components: regular channels of communication between the two political branches; and, incentive mechanisms for the two branches to swiftly come to terms with each other.