The Review of International Organizations

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 475–496 | Cite as

Enforcing international environmental cooperation: Technological standards can help



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 



I have presented this research at the 2009 Annual Convention of the International Studies Association (New York, NY, February 15–18) and at Columbia University. I thank Mark Axelrod, Jorg Balsiger, Scott Barrett, Jennifer Kavanagh, Chris Marcoux, Thania Sanchez, Detlef Sprinz, Laurence Tai, and the seminar audiences for comments.


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© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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