The political economy of international environmental agreements: a survey

  • Leo Wangler
  • Juan-Carlos Altamirano-Cabrera
  • Hans-Peter Weikard
Original Paper


This paper surveys the recent literature on the political economy of the formation of international environmental agreements. The survey covers theoretical modelling approaches and empirical studies including experimental work. Central to our survey is the question how the political process impacts different stages of agreement formation and stability. We distinguish the rules defined during pre-negotiations that govern negotiations, ratification and implementation. Strategic delegation and lobbying are directly relevant during the negotiation and ratification phases. Implementation, the choice of policy instruments at the national level, will also be impacted by lobbying and indirectly influence negotiations. We find that the basic theoretical framework for the analysis of international environmental agreements is largely unrelated to empirical approaches. Furthermore, we observe that models of the political process of agreement formation, like for example sequential game models, are yet to be developed.


International environmental agreements Environmental policy-making Strategic delegation Interest groups Free-rider incentives Public goods experiments Coalition formation Coalition stability Determinants of international environmental cooperation 



Foreign direct investment


International environmental agreement


Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development


Minimum participation rule


Non-governmental organisation


Gross domestic product

JEL Classification

D72 D62 C72 H41 



We are grateful to two anonymous reviewers who have been offering constructive comments. This survey has grown out of a short contribution to the “Encyclopaedia of Energy, Natural Resource and Environmental Economics”. We thank Per Fredriksson for his encouragement to survey this growing field of literature.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leo Wangler
    • 1
  • Juan-Carlos Altamirano-Cabrera
    • 2
  • Hans-Peter Weikard
    • 3
  1. 1.Institut für Innovation und Technik (IIT)BerlinGermany
  2. 2.Department of Economics, Growth and Environment GroupUniversidad Autónoma Metropolitana-AzcapotzalcoMexico CityMexico
  3. 3.Environmental Economics and Natural Resources GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

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