Can the management school explain noncompliance with international environmental agreements?

  • Andreas Kokkvoll TveitEmail author
Original Paper


Although the management school has been highly influential in the international cooperation literature, the explanatory power of Chayes and Chayes’ three explanations of noncompliance with international environmental treaties remain understudied. Having developed a framework for examining the explanatory power of treaty ambiguity, lack of state capacity, and unexpected social or economic developments, this paper conducts a rigorous empirical test in the context of a well-suited case—the 1999 Gothenburg Protocol. A careful reading shows that the language of the protocol is clear and unambiguous; indeed, there has been no disagreement over the treaty’s content. Furthermore, statistical analyses show no positive effect of political capacity on compliance. Finally, parties had adequate time to meet their obligations, and unexpected developments explain only a small part of the observed noncompliance. These findings pose a serious challenge to Chayes and Chayes’ three explanations of noncompliance—at least as far as the Gothenburg Protocol is concerned.


International agreements Compliance International environmental cooperation Norms State capacity 


  1. Aakre, S., Helland, L., & Hovi, J. (2016). When does informal enforcement work? Journal of Conflict Resolution, 60(7), 1312–1340. Scholar
  2. Amann, M., Bertok, I., Cofala, J., Gyarfas, F., Heyes, C., Klimont, Z., et al. (1999). Integrated assessment modelling for the protocol to abate acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone in Europe. Haag: Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment.Google Scholar
  3. Angrist, J. D., & Pischke, J.-S. (2009). Mostly harmless econometrics: An empiricist’s companion. London: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Barrett, S. (2003). Environment and statecraft. The strategy of environmental treaty-making. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bernauer, T., Kalbhenn, A., Koubi, V., & Spilker, G. (2013). “Is there a ‘depth versus participation’ dilemma in international cooperation? The Review of International Organizations, 8(4), 477–497. Scholar
  6. Böhmelt, T., & Vollenweider, J. (2015). Information flows and social capital through linkages: The effectiveness of the CLRTAP network. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 15(2), 105–123. Scholar
  7. Börzel, T. A., Hofmann, T., Panke, D., & Sprungk, C. (2010). Obstinate and inefficient: Why member states do not comply with European Law. Comparative Political Studies, 43(11), 1363–1390. Scholar
  8. Bratberg, E., Tjøtta, S., & Øines, T. (2005). Do voluntary international environmental agreements work? Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, 50(3), 583–597. Scholar
  9. Breitmeier, H., Young, O. R., & Zürn, Michael. (2006). Analyzing international environmental regimes. From case study to database. London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  10. Brown Weiss, E., & Jacobson, H. K. (Eds.). (1998). Engaging countries: Strengthening compliance with international environmental accords. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  11. Castells, N., & Ravetz, J. (2001). Science and policy in international environmental agreements: Lessons from the European experience on transboundary air pollution. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, 1(1), 405–425. Scholar
  12. CEIP. 2015. Trend tables 2015. At Last Accessed 14 Feb 2018.
  13. Chayes, A., & Chayes, A. H. (1993). On compliance. International Organization, 47(2), 175–205. Scholar
  14. Chayes, A., & Chayes, A. H. (1995). The new sovereignty. London: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. 2015. Emissions of air quality pollutants. At Accessed 15 Feb 2018. Also on file with author.
  16. Downs, G. W., Rocke, D. M., & Barsoom, P. N. (1996). Is the good news about compliance good news about cooperation? International Organization, 50(3), 379–406. Scholar
  17. European Commission. 2012. EU transport in figures: Statistical pocket book 2012.Google Scholar
  18. European Commission. 2017. Transport emissions: Air pollutants from road transport. At Last Accessed 12 Feb 2018.
  19. Eurostat. 2017. Simplified energy balancesannual data At Accessed 26 Apr 2017.
  20. FAO. 2016. Country profiles. At Accessed 14 Feb 2017.
  21. Finnemore, M., & Sikkink, K. (1998). International norm dynamics and political change. International Organization, 52(4), 887–917.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hanson, J. K., & Sigman, R. 2013. Leviathan’s latent dimensions: Measuring state capacity for comparative political research. APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN:
  23. Helm, C., & Sprinz, D. (2000). Measuring the effectiveness of international environmental regimes. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 44(5), 630–652. Scholar
  24. Henkin, L. (1968). How nations behave: Law and foreign policy. London: Pall Mall Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hovi, J., Sprinz, D. F., & Underdal, A. (2003). The Oslo-Potsdam solution to measuring regime effectiveness: Critique, response, and the road ahead. Global Environmental Politics, 3(3), 74–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jacobson, H. K., & Brown Weiss, E. (1998). Assessing the record and designing strategies to engage countries. In E. Brown Weiss & H. K. Jacobson (Eds.), Engaging countries: Strengthening compliance with international environmental accords (pp. 511–554). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  27. Jänicke, M. (1997). The political system’s capacity for environmental policy. In M. Jänicke (Eds.), National environmental policies. A comparative study of capacity-building (pp. 1–24). Berlin: Springer.Google Scholar
  28. Kelly, A., Lumbreras, J., Maas, R., Pignatelli, T., Ferreira, F., & Engleryd, A. (2010). Setting national emission ceilings for air pollutants: Policy lessons from an ex-post evaluation of the Gothenburg Protocol. Environmental Science & Policy. Scholar
  29. Kokkvoll Tveit, A. (2018). Norms, incentives, or deadlines? Explaining Norway’s noncompliance with the gothenburg protocol. Global Environmental Politics, 18(1), 76–98.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Levy, M. A. (1993). European acid rain: The power of tote-board diplomacy. In P. M. Haas, R. O. Keohane & M. Levy (Eds.), Institutions for the earth. Sources of effective international environmental protection (pp. 75–132). London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  31. Miles, E. L., Underdal, A., Andresen, S., Wettestad, J., Skjærseth, J. B., & Carlin, E. M. (2002). Environmental regime effectiveness. Confronting theory with evidence. London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  32. Miljødirektoratet. 2015. Air pollution. At Accessed 14 Feb 2017.
  33. Miljøstyrelsen. 2002. Indikatorrapport. At Accessed 3 Apr 2017. Also on file with author.
  34. Mitchell, R. B. (1994). Regime design matters: Intentional oil pollution and treaty compliance. International Organization, 48(3), 425–458. Scholar
  35. Mitchell, R. B. (2010). International politics and the environment. London: SAGE Publishing.Google Scholar
  36. Protocol to The 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground-level Ozone At Last Accessed 14 Feb 2018.
  37. Raustiala, K. (2005). Form and substance in international agreements. American Journal of International Law, 99(3), 581–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Raustiala, K., & Slaughter, A.-M. 2002. International law, international relations, and compliance. In W. Carlnaes, T. Risse, B. Simmons, (Eds.), The handbook of international relations, London: Sage Publications. Also available at SSRN:
  39. Raustiala, K., & Victor, D. G. (1998). Conclusions. In K. Raustiala, D. G. Victor (Eds.), The implementation and effectiveness of international environmental commitments: Theory and practice. IIASA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  40. Rensvik, H. 2017. Author’s interview with Harald Rensvik, Secretary General in Norway’s Ministry of the Environment 1996–2011, Oslo, January 2017.Google Scholar
  41. Ringquist, E. J., & Kostadinova, T. (2005). Assessing the effectiveness of international environmental agreements: The case of the 1985 Helsinki protocol. American Journal of Political Science, 49, 86–102. Scholar
  42. Simmons, B. A. (1998). Compliance with international agreements. The Annual Review of Political Science, 1, 75–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Simmons, B. A. (2013). From ratification to compliance: Quantitative evidence on the spiral model. In T. Risse, S. C. Ropp & K. Sikkink (Eds.), The persistent power of human rights: From commitment to compliance (pp. 43–59). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tuinstra, W. 2008. “European air pollution assessments: co-production of science and policy,” International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 8(35).
  45. Underdal, A. 2000. Comparative analysis: accounting for variance in actor behaviour. Chapter 13. In A. Underdal & K. Hanf (Eds.), International environmental agreements and domestic politics. Aldershot: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  46. UNECE. 2003. Integrated assessment modelling” At Accessed 19 Apr 2017.
  47. Victor, D., Raustiala, K., & Skolnikoff, E. B. (Eds.). (1998). The implementation and effectiveness of international environmental commitments: Theory and practice. London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  48. Wettestad, J. (2012). Reducing long-range transport of air pollutants in Europe. In S. Andresen, E. L. Boasson & J. Wettestad (Eds.), International environmental agreements (pp. 23–37). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  49. World Bank. 2017. Worldwide Governance Indicators. At Accessed 20 Apr 2017.
  50. Young, O. R. (1979). Compliance and public authority: A theory with international applications. London: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Young, O. R. (2003). Determining regime effectiveness: A commentary on the Oslo-Potsdam solution. Global Environmental Politics, 3(3), 97–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science/Institutt for StatsvitenskapUniversity of OsloOsloNorway

Personalised recommendations