Climate Change Policies in the Transitional Economies of Europe and Eurasia: The Role of NGOs
This article examines ratification of the Kyoto Protocol across 26 transitional economies of Europe and Eurasia for the period of 1998–2009; the period between the Kyoto Protocol and the 2009 Copenhagen meeting. The dependent variable measures whether or not the country has ratified the Kyoto Protocol in a given year. The key variable of interest is the strength of domestic non-governmental organizations (NGOs). To account for the nascent stage of the NGO sector, I measure NGO strength as a “stock” and as a “flow” variable. Using an event-history model, I examine the impact of the NGO strength while controlling for other domestic-based and international drivers of treaty ratification. All time-variant independent variables are lagged by a year. My analysis suggests that the stock of domestic NGO strength is a significant predictor of the timing of ratification. Further, EU accession pressures, ratification levels in contiguous countries, and domestic economic cycle impact the timing of ratification of the treaty.
KeywordsNGOEnvironmental policyEuropean unionGlobal climate changeTransitional economies
Cet article est une étude de la ratification du Protocole de Kyoto à travers 26 économies transitionnelles d’Europe et d’Eurasie pour la période de 1998 à 2009, à savoir l’intervalle entre le Protocole de Kyoto et la rencontre de Copenhague en 2009. La variable dépendante mesure si un pays a ou non ratifié le Protocole de Kyoto au cours d’une année donnée. La variable d’intérêt clé est la puissance des organisations non gouvernementales locales (ONG). Afin de prendre en compte l’état naissant du secteur des ONG, je mesure la puissance de ces dernières comme une variable de « capital » et de « flux » . Me fondant sur un modèle d’historique des événements, j’examine l’impact de la puissance des ONG tout en étudiant d’autres facteurs internationaux et locaux de ratification de traité. Toutes les variables indépendantes variant dans le temps sont décalées d’une année. Mon analyse suggère que le capital de la puissance des ONG locales constitue un prédicteur significatif de la périodicité de la ratification. En outre, les pressions de l’accession à l’UE, les niveaux de ratification dans les pays voisins et le cycle économique national ont un impact sur la période de ratification du traité.
Der vorliegende Beitrag untersucht die Ratifizierung des Koyoto-Protokolls von 26 Reformländern in Europa und Eurasien in der Zeit von 1998-2009, dem Zeitraum zwischen dem Kyoto-Protokoll und der 2009 abgehaltenen Konferenz in Kopenhagen. Die abhängige Variable stellt fest, ob das jeweilige Land das Kyoto-Protokoll in einem bestimmten Jahr ratifiziert hat. Die zu beachtende Schlüsselvariable ist die Stärke inländischer nicht-staatlicher Organisationen. Zur Erklärung des Entwicklungsstadiums des Sektors nicht-staatlicher Organisationen messe ich die Stärke nicht-staatlicher Organisationen als eine „Bestandsgröße“und als eine Flussgröße. Mit Hilfe eines Ereigniszeitmodells untersuche ich die Auswirkung der Stärke nicht-staatlicher Organisationen unter Berücksichtigung anderer inländischer und internationaler Antriebskräfte für eine Vertragsratifizierung. Alle zeitvarianten unabhängigen Variablen sind um ein Jahr verzögert. Meine Analyse lässt darauf schließen, dass die Stärke inländischer nicht-staatlicher Organisationen einen bedeutenden Prädiktor für den Zeitpunkt der Ratifizierung darstellt. Darüber hinaus beeinflussen der Druck für einen EU-Beitritt, die Ratifizierungsstufen in Anschlussländern und die Inlandskonjunktur den Zeitpunkt der Vertragsratifizierung.
Este documento examina la ratificación del Protocolo de Kyoto en 26 economías transicionales de Europa y Eurasia para el período de 1998-2009; el período entre el Protocolo de Kyoto y la reunión de Copenhague de 2009. La variable dependiente mide si el país ha ratificado o no el Protocolo de Kyoto en un año dado. La variable clave de interés es la fortaleza de las organizaciones no gubernamentales locales (ONG). Para explicar la etapa naciente del sector de las ONG, mido la fortaleza de las ONG como una variable de “stock” y como una variable de “flujo”. Utilizando un modelo de historial de eventos, examino el impacto de la fortaleza de las ONG controlando al mismo tiempo otros impulsores de la ratificación del tratado internacionales y con base local. Todas las variables independientes de la variante tiempo están rezagadas un año. Mi análisis sugiere que el stock de la fortaleza de las ONG locales es un pronosticador significativo de la fecha de ratificación escogida. Asimismo, las presiones de adhesión a la UE, los niveles de ratificación en países contiguos y el ciclo económico interno afectan a la fecha oportuna de ratificación del tratado.
هذا البحث يفحص التصديق على بروتوكول كيوتوعبر26 أنظمة إقتصادية إنتقالية في أوروبا وأوروبا و أسيا (Eurasia) للفترة من 1998- 2009 ; الفترة بين بروتوكول كيوتو وإجتماع كوبنهاجن عام 2009. المتغيرات التابعة تقيس إذا كانت البلد صدقت على بروتوكول كيوتو أم لا في السنة المعينة. المتغير الرئيسي ذو الإهتمام هو قوة المنظمات الغير حكومية المحلية (NGOs). لحساب المرحلة الناشئة لقطاع المنظمات الغير حكومية (NGO)، أقيس قوة المنظمات الغير حكومية (NGO) “كمخزون” و “كتدفق” متغير. بإستخدام نموذج حدث تاريخي، أنا أفحص تأثير قوة المنظمات الغير حكومية (NGO) أثناء السيطرة على الذين يقودون التصديق المحليين و الدوليين الآخرين على المعاهدات. المختلف في جميع الأوقات من المتغيرين المستقلين متأخر بعام. تحليلي يقترح أن المخزون من قوة المنظمات الغير حكومية المحلية يمثل المتوقع الكبيرعلى توقيت التصديق. علاوة على ذلك، إضافة ضغوط الإتحاد الأوروبي(EU)، مستويات التصديق في البلدان القريبة، و الدورة الإقتصادية المحلية يؤثرعلى توقيت التصديق على المعاهدة.
Why would countries invest resources to protect a global common-pool resource (Ostrom et al. 2002), the global atmosphere? After all, this is an open access resource in that actors cannot be prevented from appropriating its benefits. A country opting not to undertake any activity to mitigate global climate change benefits from other countries’ mitigation efforts. This “common’s problem” is not solved by establishing an international regime, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, because this creates global non-excludable benefits, a condition ripe for free riding (Olson 1965). In addition to free riding issues, policies to mitigate global climate change are likely to impose non-trivial costs on the domestic economy, with costs concentrated on specific sectors. These sectors have the incentives to organize (Wilson 1980) and oppose the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. Incentives for ratifying the Kyoto Protocol are further compromised by the fact that the largest green house gas emitters, such as the U.S.A., China, Brazil, and India have not committed to substantial emission reductions (Watson 2003), putting in doubt whether action by smaller emitters would solve this global problem. Similarly, without virtually any mechanisms to sanction non-compliance by those who have ratified the Kyoto Protocol (Desai and Schipper 2002), the effectiveness of this regime is questionable.
Yet, several countries have ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Why so and why at different time periods? To explore these puzzles, I explore the role of domestic advocacy non-governmental organizations (NGOs). A substantial literature suggests that NGOs are important actors in shaping the environmental policy agenda at the international as well as domestic level (Jancar-Webster 1993; Arts 1998; Newell 2000; Keck and Sikkink 1998; Weidner and Jänicke 2002; Betsill and Corell 2001. In addition to pressuring states on environmental issues Wapner’s (1995) highly cited article credits NGOs with ushering in “politics beyond state.”
Timeline for Kyoto ratification, NGO strength, and EU Agreement Signature
Year ratified Kyoto Protocol
Cumulative NGO strength
Year EU agreement signedb
Bosnia and Herzegovina
To explore the role of the nascent NGO sector in the Kyoto ratification process, I examine 26 transitional economies of Europe and Eurasia for the period of 1998–2009; the period between the signature of the Kyoto Protocol and the 2009 Copenhagen meeting. My dependent variable measures whether or not the country has ratified the Kyoto Protocol in a given year. Using an event-history model, I examine the impact of the NGO strength while controlling for other domestic-based and international drivers of treaty ratification. This statistical technique allows me to explain not only a country’s decision to ratify the Protocol but also the timing of its ratification. Hence, I am able to assess how NGO strength correlates with country’s decisions to ratify or not ratify and also ratify early versus ratify in later periods.
My analysis suggests that the NGO strength measured as a stock variable is a significant predictor of the timing of ratification. This supports the idea that the strength of domestic NGO accumulates overtime and their efficacy as political actors improves as citizens get opportunities to observe new sources of political agency. The article controls for other domestic and international drivers of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. It finds that the European Union (EU) accession pressures, ratification policies in the contiguous countries (the so-called neighborhood effect), and domestic economic cycle impact the timing of ratification of the treaty.
The article proceeds as follows. "UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol" section reviews the United Nations framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol to the convention. The "NGOs, Environmental Politics, and Transitional Economies" section discusses the roles NGOs play in environmental policy in transitional economies. The section examines how the EU accession pressures shape the environmental agenda in countries wanting to join EU. The "EU Enlargement and Environmental Policies in Transitional Economies" section develops the analytical model and presents data to examine factors impacting these countries’ decisions to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. It also presents the results of the empirical analysis. The "Conclusions" section concludes the article and presents areas of future research.
UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol
To organize global collective action on the climate change issue, several countries joined efforts to devise an international regime, specifying norms of behavior, and actions for mitigation of global climate change. These efforts started with the 1988 Toronto conference that brought together national governments and scientists. Developed countries committed to ambitious emission reductions of 20% below 1988 levels by 2005. At the same time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established as an authoritative international body to study global climate change, its reasons, and impacts, and to disseminate the information about global climate change. Since then, the IPCC has published four reports with the most recent one published in 2007.1
In 1992, the UNFCCC was negotiated and signed by a large number of countries with the objective to reduce the emission of gases which contribute to global warming. Recognizing their historical responsibility in contributing to the accumulation of greenhouse gases, developed countries agreed to emission reductions before less developed countries were asked to do so. The UNFCCC formalized this distinction by creating two subsets of countries; developed countries listed in the Annex I to the convention, and developing countries, so-called non-Annex I countries. Specific emission reduction targets were negotiated in 1997 in the Kyoto Protocol. Annex I countries committed to an average 5% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2012 with 1990 emissions as the baseline. Non-Annex I countries did not commit to any quantified emission reduction targets. The Kyoto Protocol was to become effective when a 55% of signatory countries accounting for 55% of the world emissions ratified it. The Kyoto protocol entered into effect in 2002.
In addition to specifying country-level emission reduction targets, the UNFCCC provides a forum for interaction and bargaining among countries. Thus, the UNFCC mitigates information problems which impeded collective action among countries (Sanwal 2007; Harrison and McIntosh Sundstrom 2007). It perhaps provides a venue for governments as well as non-state actors to “name and shame” the ones that have not joined UNFCCC or subsequent to joining, are shirking on their commitments to reduce emissions.
As discussed previously, there are substantial costs to ratifying the Kyoto protocol. If so, why did the transitional countries of Eastern Europe and Eurasia ratify the Kyoto Protocol at different points in time, and how did NGOs play a role in this process? This is important because 14 of the 26 countries examined here are listed in Annex I, that this, they are subjected to quantified reduction targets. I situate this discussion in the broader context of the role of advocacy NGOs in setting environmental agenda in these countries. These countries are unique because, given their communist legacies, one expects, NGOs might be viewed as marginal political actors in environmental policy debates. Therefore, it is not clear if and how NGOs played any role in persuading their countries to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
In the context of the Kyoto ratification processes, I expect NGOs to play a dual role, that of activists exerting pressure on the national governments (Hallstrom 2005), as well as partners assisting the national governments in activities necessary for the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol (Bell 2005). NGOs can collect and disseminate information on global climate change, thereby influencing public opinion. They can form NGO networks and effectively lobby national governments. They can help devise environmental policy instruments.
In addition, in countries that initiated negotiations to join European Union (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine) NGOs can assist in development of policies that are aligned with the requirements of the “Environmental chapters” of the European Union (EU). It is important to note here that EU accession requirements in the area of environmental policy include issues pertaining to global climate change policy. In addition, in the countries undergoing the negotiations for EU membership, NGOs they can directly report challenges of environmental policy implementation to the EU, thereby indirectly exerting pressure on their national governments.
NGOs, Environmental Politics, and Transitional Economies
While there is no clear agreement about the extent to which NGOs as political actors existed in the communist era (Colton 1995; Rose et al. 1997), there is a strong consensus about the weakness of the post-communist NGO sector in these countries (Mondak and Gearing 1998; Baker and Jehlička 1998; Fagan 2002; Howard 2002; Badescu and Sum 2004; Lovell 2001). Scholars suggest that in the pre 1990, poor environmental quality was a key area around which political opposition to the old communist regime emerged (Singleton 1987; Jancar-Webster 1993; Tickle and Welsh 1998). National governments responded differently to these emerging political actors. Consider the case of air pollution. Czechoslovakia had high emissions of SO2 and NOx in spite of being a signatory to the long-range transboundary air pollution convention agreements and having a dissident environmental movement. Arguably, the NGO and public pressure for higher local air quality led to policy changes and the enactment of the Clean Air Act in 1991. After the creation of the new country, the Czech Republic swiftly adopted the same clean air regulation in spite of high cost it imposed on its economy (Andonova 2005). Poland, on the other hand, also faced high-domestic air pollution and strong dissident environmental movements. But it failed to overcome the counter pressure of the domestic industrial interests. Its environmental policy was shaped by framework of economic incentives, rather than stringent pollution standards as in the Clean Air Act. As these examples illustrate, the strength of domestic environmental movement was insufficient to overcome the opposition of polluting industries, especially when there was the availability of substantial domestic coal reserves (Andonova 2005).
In the 1980s and the 1990s, the international community began to take notice of the growing citizens’ interests that galvanized around environmental deterioration. As a result, international donors began assisting these countries’ environmental movements in order to facilitate the democratization processes. The United States established Regional Environmental Center in Budapest, Hungary in 1990 to support development of environmental NGOs in the region. Similarly, an alliance among German Marshall Fund, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies created an environmental partnership for Central Europe, aiming to encourage environmental activism and enhance environmental awareness (Bell, 2005).
NGOs in transitional economies were sometimes aided by international agreements, such as the 1998 Aarhus convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters. Article 1 of the convention established the right to clean environment as a human right. In pursuance of this, the Aarhus convention granted public access to information pertaining to environmental decision-making and imposed accountability and transparency requirements on countries signatories to the convention.2 It also required authorities to involve citizens and NGOs in the decision-making processes on environmental issues, and provide avenues to NGOs and citizens to seek judicial remedies if convention stipulations were breached.
Nevertheless, it is not clear whether NGOs that have emerged from a relatively long-period of communist systems have the capacity to influence the policy making, especially in the context of a major international issue such as global climate change. These organizations tend to operate in legal systems that sometimes restrict their ability to generate resources. Support from international donors does not always equip NGOs with the capacity to manage resources with the levels of accountability and transparency required by the donors. This leads to some sort of credibility problems for them. Further, NGOs tend to have little experience in using media to impact the policy discourse. Similarly, they have low expertise in identifying the policy makers they can successfully lobby. Overall, there are several reasons to believe that NGOs remain marginal political actors in the transitional economies of Eastern Europe and Eurasia.
Given that NGOs legitimize themselves by claiming to represent public interest, public trust becomes an important component of whether the political elites take them seriously. Because much of the NGO sector was controlled by the communist parties in the pre 1990s, public trust in them in the post 1990s is getting established slowly. While the initial anti-regime, protest-focused NGOs had public support in the late 1980s, their transition from grass-roots to professional, pragmatic organizations might have eroded this support (Baker 2002).
The processes of capacity building for environmental NGOs in transitional economies have been slow and uneven. Facing a reduction in foreign support after the mid 1990s, these NGOs had to find new ways to secure resources (OECD 1999). This was hampered by their small grass-roots base, poor public image, and in some cases, national regulations. Consequently, many had to close down while some avoided closures by accepting corporate sponsorships which, in turn, diluted their agendas and further compromised their public image (Fagan 2002).
Some NGOs have slowly begun acquiring fundraising skills. In addition to developing new sources of funding and improving public image, NGOs had to acquire abilities to influence policy making. While NGOs’ legitimacy and power in 1980s lay in anti-regime protests, to influence public policy in 1990s, they had to learn how to work with parliaments and environmental ministries. They had to learn how to change the attitudes of policy makers in ways that allow for public input (Baker and Jehlička 1998). Some suggest that NGOs also had to learn how to work with one another by creating trust within their own organizations and overcoming distrust in relation to other environmental NGOs, some of which competed for the same funds (Jancar-Webster 1998; Fagan and Jehlička 1998). This learning, trusting, and institution building remains work-in-progress.
The above discussion suggests that the political influence of NGOs in the context of the transitional economies has developed slowly and unevenly over the years. The process of acquiring political influence is cumulative because past trust and past success in policy process create conditions for the success in future. This poses analytical issues in how to assess the role of NGOs in the context of the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. Following Gerring et al. (2005), who recommend that we view political capital as slowly cumulating through the process of learning and institutionalization, I introduce a new way of thinking about NGO political influence in transitional economies.
I suggest that we should think of NGO strength not only as a “flow” variable—the value in any given year—but also as a “stock” variable—the cumulative value of the variable over time, in particular after 1990. Arguably, it is around this time that an NGO sector, as the term is commonly understood in social sciences, has emerged. Indeed, as I report subsequently, all else equal, cumulative NGO strength (the “stock” variable) is an important predictor of how quickly a country will ratify the Kyoto Protocol while NGO strength in a particular year (the “flow” variable) is not a statistically significant predictor of Kyoto ratification.
EU Enlargement and Environmental Policies in Transitional Economies
The politics of Kyoto ratification in the transitional economies must be understood in the context of the desire of numerous transitional economies to join EU. Through its process of political stabilization of Europe, the EU began negotiating agreements with several transitional economies of Western Balkans, Mediterranean, and Eastern Europe. The first set of agreements pertained to bilateral trade issues. After 1991, Europe Agreements provided the legal framework for the evolution and institutionalization of relations between the EU and candidate countries. These agreements outlined political, economic, commercial, and cultural goals and effectively defined the accession process.3
A similar accession process was available to countries of the Western Balkans. The process of so-called stabilization and association agreements was defined in the Zagreb Summit in 2000, and subsequently strengthened at the Thessaloniki Summit in 2003. The countries concerned are: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. As countries proceed with this process and align their legislation closely with the EU legislation, they will be considered potential EU candidates.4
The EU accession process exerts two types of pressures on the above candidate countries’ and new members’ environmental policy making, including Kyoto ratification. First, there is the soft, normative pressure of social learning. The candidate countries are exposed to norms and priorities of EU environmental politics which become reference points for these countries. Second, there is the instrumental, regulatory pressure of harmonization of national environmental policies with those of the EU. The synchronization of the environmental policies is required not only for national and regional issues, but also for global commons. Membership requires enforcement of acquis communautaire; the body of EU law. The EU environmental law requires that candidate countries adopt international conventions to reduce national, transboundary, and global pollution (Carmin and VanDeveer 2005). Wanting to join the club of environmental leaders (the EU) requires that candidate countries commit to environmental protection, including global climate change mitigation.
Once the countries signed the above agreements, they became eligible for financial assistance in variety of areas, including environmental policy. These efforts have eventually increased state capacity to create and enforce environmental laws, an important factor in the domestic implementation of any global environmental agreement. EU funded environmental harmonization through PHARE (Poland and Hungary: Assistance for Restructuring their Economies) program. Launched in 1989 to support Poland and Hungary, PHARE program has been extended to several additional countries negotiating to become EU members. PHARE also funded environmental NGOs to carry out environmental projects (Carmin and VanDeveer 2005). Examples of PHARE environmental projects with potential climate change impacts include the protection of natural areas (Montenegro), co-funding of environmental management systems in small companies (The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), waste management (Croatia and Slovenia), environmental monitoring system (Albania), and improvements of transportation systems (Montenegro and Turkey).5 The Environmental Legal Approximation Facility (DISAE) also offered assistance for legislative analyses and development of domestic environmental regulations, potentially impacting the ability of these countries to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
Meeting the requirements of the EU accession was expected to lead to positive environmental impacts (Jancar-Webster 1993; Baker and Jehlicka 1998; Andonova 2005; Jordan and Liefferink 2004a, b; Carmin and VanDeveer 2005). New members, having adopted strict EU environmental regulations, can be expected to improve the quality of their domestic environment. The second reason for this hopeful prediction is that the adoption of market-based approaches in the former socialist systems will create incentives for adoption of new, presumably less-polluting technologies. However, economic growth that accompanies the introduction might offset such reductions. While this has indeed worked in the energy sector leading to the decrease in air pollution, this improvement may have been offset by the increases in road transportation (Carmin and VanDeveer 2005). Thus, it is an empirical question if the “substitution effect” will be offset by the “scale effect.”
As pressures to streamline their economies increased, the earlier focus of the EU candidate countries on environmental quality was shifted to the back burner (Fagan 1994; Slocock 1996). When the European Parliament was analyzing environmental costs of accession to provide the framework for accession funds to be made available to EU candidates, these countries had incentives to understate and downplay the domestic drivers for environmental policies. At the same time, the apparent success of democratization in these countries has encouraged donors to shift funding to other regions of the world where democratization processes are not gaining traction. Thus, after the enthusiasm in the first half of 1990s, multiple factors have contributed to the decline in salience of the environmental agenda in transitional economies. This article, therefore, examines whether accession pressures impacted EU candidate countries to ratify the Kyoto protocol when domestic economic realities and civic agenda have not favored commitment to protection of global commons.
Analytical Model and Variables
This article examines factors impacting the ratification of the Kyoto protocol across 26 Transitional economies of Europe and Eurasia for the period of 1998–2009; the period between the Kyoto Protocol and the Copenhagen meeting. My unit of analysis is a country-year. I operationalize Kyoto ratification as a dichotomous variable indicating the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by a given country in a given year.
Key Independent Variables
Even in their incipient stage, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can be expected to exert pressure on the national government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. I measure the strength of domestic NGOs using a novel index of NGO sustainability developed by the USAID. It combines multiple aspects of NGO functioning. First, it examines how legal environment defines NGOs and enables them to obtain information and funding. Second, it examines organizational capacity of NGOs, their accountability to the public, and their management and organizational skills. Third, the index measures financial viability of NGOs, impacted by the state of the economy, the norms of philanthropy and volunteerism in the local culture, as well as the revenue-raising opportunities for NGOs. Fourth aspect of NGOs’ sustainability refers to their ability to impact public policy. The measure expresses their ability to form coalitions and monitor government performance. Last, for NGOs to be sustainable, they must garner positive public image. The measure examines the coverage of NGOs in the media, the willingness of the government to work with NGOs, and the general public’s knowledge of NGOs. The original indicators, compiled by the USAID were reversed so that value 1 indicates the lowest level of NGO sustainability and value 7 indicates the highest. The data were downloaded from the USAID annual reports on NGO Sustainability Index for Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia.6
Given that NGOs legitimate themselves by claiming to represent public interest, public trust becomes an important component of whether the political elites take them seriously. I argue that the political influence of NGOs in the context of the transitional economies should be viewed as a stock variable instead of a flow variable simply because of the recent vintage of NGOs emerging as a political actors in these countries. Following Gerring et al. (2005), I operationalize NGO strength not only as a flow variable—the value in any given year—but also as a stock variable—the cumulative value of the index since the beginning of the study period. I expect to find that cumulative NGO strength is a significant predictor of treaty ratification while yearly NGO strength is not.
Cumulative NGO strength (NGO stock) is a significant predictor of treaty ratification.
NGO strength in a given year (NG flow) is not statistically significant predictor of treaty ratification.
Table 1 displays variability in the strength of NGOs in the examined countries in the year prior to the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. NGOs’ strength varied from as low as 2.3 in Azerbaijan to as high as 6.1 in Slovakia. Further, the NGO strength as a stock variable varied across the countries included in the sample from as low as 4.6 in Georgia to as high as 45.5 in Kazakhstan.
Before we proceed, it is important to recognize the heterogeneous nature of the sample countries along a key dimension. Of the 26 countries I study, 14 are listed in the Annex 1 of the Kyoto Protocol. Developed countries (Annex 1 countries in the parlance of the UNFCCC) have both different historical responsibility as well as different implementation schedule negotiated in the UNFCCC. While Annex 1 countries are expected to commit to specific emission reduction targets, imposing costs onto domestic polluters, non-Annex countries face no such expectations. Their domestic political and economic costs of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol are, therefore, substantially lower. While in the short run there are no quantifiable costs, arguably, in the long run, these countries may be subject to some emission reduction targets given that by ratifying the treaty, the recognize the gravity of the problem. Given the short-term, often concentrated, and quantifiable nature of costs, and the non-excludable nature of the benefits of mitigating global climate change, I expect Annex 1 countries would be less likely to ratify Kyoto Protocol. Yet, it is important to recognize that some states examined in this article (particularly in Eastern Europe) suffered dramatic collapses in their levels of economic performance (hence emissions) following the initiation of the democratization process. Ratifying the Kyoto Protocol was therefore less of a burden than it may have been, as emissions had in most cases declined significantly following the base year. Given the heterogeneous nature of the sample, the model controls for these differentiated implementation schedules by including a control variable (a dichotomous variable) indicating whether a country is listed in Annex 1 or not.
International Control Variables
Drivers for treaty ratification can be found in both the domestic context and the international context. My model builds on the literature on the impact of the EU accession process on domestic environmental policies in EU candidate countries. It controls for the pressure on these countries to emulate the EU’s environmental policies. The signing of the EU Accession agreement marks the period during which these countries needed to harmonize their environmental policies. Clearly, the longer this period the higher the expectation that this country will harmonize its environmental policy, in our case, ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Furthermore, the longer the accession period is, the greater are the opportunities for these counties to build up domestic capacities for crafting and enforcing environmental laws. I measure this in terms of years since the signature of the Europe Agreement (countries of Central and Eastern Europe) and Stabilization and Association Agreement (countries of Western Balkans). Archives on the EU Enlargement were used to obtain the data. CEECs have sought to align their domestic environmental policies with the EU laws in the 1990s and have ratified the Kyoto protocol after 7–11 years after signing the agreement. Most of these countries (with the exception of Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia) had also benefited from relatively sustainable, consolidated NGO movement. Countries in the subsequent wave of enlargement (Croatia and Macedonia) have been able to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in as few as 3–6 years after signing the SAA agreement with EU.
Although the EU is clearly a major driving force for member and prospective member states, it has less influence on the states of Central Asia and the Caucasus. Arguably, this influence decrease might decrease with distance from key centers of European power (Kopstein and Reilly 2000). I therefore control for the distance of the country’s capital from either Berlin or Vienna, which ever is closer and the distance of the country’s capital from Brussels.
Countries’ policies are also influenced by what types of policies its contiguous neighbors have adopted. The concept of social learning applied in this case suggests that states learn from early adopters in their immediate vicinity. This is because policy makers are “boundedly rational” and cannot collect and analyze relevant information from all potential sources. They take informational shortcuts (Simon 1957) and look for cues from actors with whom they share commonalities, geography in our case. Indeed, the literature on policy diffusion (Berry and Berry 1990; Karch 2007; Mintrom and Vergari 1998; Earnest 2006; Prakash and Potoski 2007). Berry and Berry (1990) identifies physical proximity as an important diffusion driver because for any state, its neighbors constitute one of its learning environments. Therefore, I expect that a state is likely to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in a given year if its neighbors have ratified it in previous years. Data are from 1998 to 2009.
An important factor impacting Kyoto Protocol ratification might be the so-called California effect, in this case, initiated by Germany (Vogel 1995). When countries rely for a significant portion of their GDP on exports to Germany, they are more likely to adopt Germany’s higher environmental standards. The core idea is that trade affects the domestic policies of exporting countries not in terms of how a much country exports but to whom. Thus, importing destinations are able to influence domestic policies of the exporting countries via the agency of bilateral trade (Tomz et al. 2007). There is a body of work that has emerged to suggest that the California effect operates across a range of issues such as the adoption of ISO 14001 voluntary environmental program (Prakash and Potoski 2006) to labor standards (Greenhill et al. 2009). Values of exports to Germany (as reported by Germany) for each country were normalized by the GDP of the exporting country. The data for bilateral trade were accessed at the United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database, 7 whereas the data on GDP were obtained from the World Bank’s Word Development Indicators Database.
Domestic Control Variables
Domestic environmental benefits that may accrue from implementing the global climate change regime are likely to influence the incentives of a government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol (Dolšak 2009). For example, if global climate change mitigation policies also reduce domestic pollution, political actors can justify costs of adopting mitigation policies by highlighting the benefits of pollution reduction. The political benefits of reducing local pollution might extend well beyond the environmental arena. Indeed politicians can gather support from NGOs working in the area of environment as well as public health in this regard. As stated by Stavros Dimas (2008), member of the European Commission responsible for environment, global climate change policy aiming to reduce Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% of 1990 levels by 2020 will bring important domestic benefits. This policy will “further reduce air pollution and the high costs it causes. In 2020 we will be saving 11 billion Euros a year through the reduced need for air pollution control equipment like filters in smokestacks” (Dimas 2008).
Fossil-fuel combustion is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore the prime target for climate change mitigation policies. It is also the largest source of nitric oxide emissions, a gas that contributes significantly to local air pollution, such as formation of ground-level ozone and acid rain (Vitousek 1997). Both of these local air pollution problems have detrimental effects on human health and ecosystems. Hence, high levels of NOx emissions can be expected to generate domestic demand for policies to reduce fossil-fuel use, thereby increasing incentives for the implementation of the global climate change regime. After all, these benefits cannot be captured domestically if the governments were not to implement the policies. NOx emissions are measured in thousand metric tons. Data were accessed at the EU Centre for Emission Inventories and Projections.8
Domestic political factors might also influence governments’ incentives to ratify the Kyoto protocol and more generally to implement mitigation policies. Democratic institutions could play an important role in this regard. With high levels of democracy, various interest groups as well as activist groups are more likely to have access to information on global climate change and its consequences. While there are problems in organizing collective action, with the increased supply of information, there is an increased likelihood that citizens will organize and pressure policy makers to implement mitigation policies (Hamilton 1995). This variable is operationalized as democracy index (constructed by Freedom House), measuring freedom of expression, rights to organize, rule of law, economic rights, and multiparty elections, competitiveness of electoral process, and media independence. The original measures reported in the Nations in Transition report were reversed, so that the value 1 indicates the lowest level of democracy and value 7 indicates the highest.9 Following Gerring et al. (2005), I operationalize democracy index as a stock variable.
Concerns about the environment and the prioritization of the environment in relation to other social concerns may be influenced by business cycles. During the periods of economic recession, environmental concerns might take the back seat (Fagan 1994; Slocock 1996). To control for the impact of the economic cycles on the incentives to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, I include annual GDP growth rate. The data were accessed at the World Bank’s World Development Indicators database.
NGO strength cumulative
EU agreement cumulative
GDP cap growtht−1
Methods and Results
My unit of analysis is a country-year. I operationalize Kyoto Ratification as a dichotomous variable; 1 indicating that the country ratified the Kyoto protocol in a given year, and 0 otherwise.10 As recommended by Long (1997) regarding regression models for dichotomous dependent variable, I use logistic regression to estimate regression coefficients. To control for heteroscedasticity, I report White-robust standard errors. All time-variant independent variables are lagged by one year.
This article employs an event-history model which is often used by scholars interested in examining the incidence as well as the timing of the policy adoption (Berry and Berry 1990; Grossback et al. 2004; Brooks 2005). The model examines units or countries that are at “risk” of adopting a policy. This model suits my data well as I am interested in examining the policy outcome as a dichotomous variable. Thus, when a country ratifies the Kyoto Protocol, it is coded as 1, and coded 0 in the preceding years. As in other applications of event-history model (e.g., Berry and Berry 1990), the country is removed from the sample once it adopts the policy.
Logistic regression for Kyoto ratification
P value (2-tail test)
NGO strength cumulative
EU agreement cumulative
GDP cap growtht−1
Prob > χ2
I find evidence supporting my key hypotheses about the impact of domestic NGOs on protocol ratification. For a standard deviation increase in NGO sustainability stock (with a perfect score of the NGO sustainability index of 7, the standard deviation increase of 10 index points can be accomplished in less than 2 years), the odds of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol are expected to increase by a factor of 2.9. The hypothesis about the impact of the NGO strength as a flow variable is, however, not supported.
Among control variables, the empirical results support the hypotheses of the international factors—the positive impact of the EU accession pressure, the negative impact of Annex I status, and the positive neighborhood effect; as well as one domestic factor, the economic cycle. For a standard deviation increase in the number of years since the signing of the EU agreement (about 3.5 years), the odds of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol are expected to increase by a factor of 7.5. Similarly, the increased number of adjacent countries having ratified the Kyoto Protocol increase the likelihood the studied country will ratify Kyoto Protocol in the subsequent year. Facing higher expectations for emission reductions (status of Annex I) decreases the likelihood a country will ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Domestic economic situation also plays a role. For a standard deviation increase in an annual GDP growth of about 5%, the odds of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol are expected to increase by a factor of 5.
Scholars have invested considerable time in exploring the role of NGOs in global politics. Much of the literature looks at the role of NGOs either in functioning democracies or in newly democratizing countries. For example, Keck and Sikkink (1998) talk about how domestic NGOs bypass the oppressive domestic structures and organize international influence to pressure national governments. Central and East European democracies are different not only because they are new democracies but also because of the communist legacies which effected the development of the NGO sector. Hence, my article suggests that one needs to think about the role of NGOs in global politics in the transitional economies in a more nuanced way. In as much as NGOs rely on public trust as their source of legitimization as political actors, and public trust in NGOs cumulates over time, scholars need to think of NGO strength as a stock variable, not merely as a flow variable. This, as my article suggest, will provide a more theoretically persuasive way of thinking of the effectiveness of NGOs as political actors.
Second, this article illustrates how the process of accession to the EU creates a positive policy externality that extends beyond the confines of the EU. Indeed, the benefits of this externality are captured by all countries of the world. In some ways, the EU project offers an elegant model of regional integration in that it outlines how countries can put their domestic policy changes on the fast track to be able to gain the benefits associated with the accession to the EU. Whether the EU experiment is unique and cannot be replicated in other parts of the world is question beyond the purview of the article. However, I do offer some evidence suggesting that governments are encouraged to put in policy change if appropriate incentive structure is in place. Thus, in this case regionalism supports internationalism. There might be cases, however, where regional integration does not support or does not cohere with international agreements. A study of such cases would be a productive avenue for future research.
Further, while I have examined NGOs strength and the regionalization process separately, arguably they work together, and in some cases, they may be endogenous. Therefore, the extent to which the NGO strength resulted from domestic factors and to what extent from the pressures of the EU accession process itself should be explored further. Similarly, it would be useful to explore if, and under what conditions, would nascent NGOs be able to influence the formation of the international (global or EU) environmental policy. These would be productive directions for future research that would increase our understanding of domestic strength of NGOs for protection of global commons.
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