Regional agreements in international environmental politics
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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 (iea.uoregon.edu) 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.
KeywordsRegional cooperation Environmental politics Typology of international cooperation Membership Spatial ambit Contiguity Coextension
The authors would like to thank Ron Mitchell for providing support with the underlying data for the present analysis, and Ron Mitchell, Stacy VanDeveer, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on the manuscript. Special thanks go to Niko Steinhoff and Elisa Wege, research assistants at the German Institute of Global and Area Studies (GIGA), for assisting with coding and validating the data. The authors further thank GIGA for its support for this initiative and the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation for its financial support to the COST Action IS 0802 project “Ecoregional Territorialization: Rescaling Environmental Governance.”
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