The Review of International Organizations

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 475-496

First online:

Enforcing international environmental cooperation: Technological standards can help

  • Johannes UrpelainenAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, Columbia University Email author 

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Market instruments, such as emissions trading or pollution taxes, are less costly than “command and control” regulation. Yet technological standards are common in international environmental agreements and now figure prominently among proposals to mitigate global warming. I show that technological standards can be combined with market instruments to create collective enforcement power. They allow states to internationally enforce technology installation, so the payoff to free riding decreases. A notable feature of the argument is that technological standards and market instruments are complements, while previous research has treated them as substitutes. Empirically, technological standards are most valuable if international cooperation is difficult to enforce and the rate of technological change in concerned industries is slow.


Environmental policy International cooperation Technological standards Institutional design Game theory

JEL Codes

C72 F53 Q58