Date: 01 Aug 2012

A contingency theory of policy innovation: how different theories explain the ratification of the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol

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Abstract

This article tests theories, elaborated by rationalists, constructivists, and network theorists, that explain the ratification of international environmental treaties. Rationalists argue that countries’ material self-interest and political and economic conditions affect the likelihood of countries ratifying treaties. Constructivists argue that countries are influenced by exposure to world society. Structural embeddedness theory argues that countries are influenced by neighboring countries, religion, language, and economic peers, and those whom they have network ties to via diplomatic relations and IGO memberships. The article is a study of how these factors affected the ratification of two environmental treaties: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. The results show that political and economic factors, peer behavior, and network ties were more important in explaining the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol than the UNFCCC. Similar to von Stein (J Conflict Resolut 52:243–268, 2008), it found that exposure to world society was important in the UNFCCC. The authors suggested that the differences were due to the demands which the Kyoto Protocol placed on countries in contrast to the “softness” of the UNFCCC. They also discussed how social influence—based on a variety of inter-governmental relations and affiliations—may signal a change in the structure of the global environmental regime and how it conducts its business.