Regional agreements in international environmental politics

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10784-014-9256-3

Cite this article as:
Balsiger, J. & Prys, M. Int Environ Agreements (2016) 16: 239. doi:10.1007/s10784-014-9256-3


Global agreements to mitigate climate change, conserve biodiversity, or combat desertification typically take center stage in scholarly discussions about international environmental politics. Even though the United Nations Environment Programme reported 10 years ago that regional agreements make up two-thirds of all international treaties, regional cooperation has by comparison either received scant attention or been conceptually and empirically lumped together with global treaties. This lack of knowledge about the historical and current scope of regional governance is a serious obstacle to understanding the architecture of global environmental governance and to overcoming current bottlenecks in international environmental cooperation. In response, we report on the outcome of a descriptive analysis that complements the most comprehensive database on international environmental agreements ( with variables for analysis at the regional level. We introduce a multidimensional typology of regional agreements based on contiguous/noncontiguous agreement membership, contiguous/noncontiguous spatial ambit, and whether membership and ambit are adjoining and/or coextensive. We discuss the theoretical and empirical relevance of the different types of agreements and the nature and prevalence of special cases. Given the previous lack of research in this area, our primary purpose is to present a systematic account of regional environmental governance, leaving causal analysis to our own and others’ future research. Our analysis, nevertheless, helps us to identify a number of knowledge gaps and analytical directions in the conclusion.


Regional cooperation Environmental politics Typology of international cooperation Membership Spatial ambit Contiguity Coextension 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and EnvironmentUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute for Environmental SciencesUniversity of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland
  3. 3.German Institute of Global and Area StudiesHamburgGermany

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