Policy Sciences

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 203–236 | Cite as

International institutions and the framing of domestic policies: The Kyoto Protocol and Canada's response to climate change

  • Steven Bernstein


The 1997 Kyoto Protocol establishes an international institutional framework for domestic responses to climate change that links emission targets for developed countries to international market mechanisms. Although these ‘flexible mechanisms’ allow developed countries some leeway in how they meet their commitments to reduce greenhouse gases, the protocol also establishes a normative framework that directs domestic policy responses along certain paths. Applying insights from sociological institutionalism and constructivism in international relations, this article argues first, that the climate change regime reflects and further institutionalizes the prevailing international normative structure in the environmental issue area, characterized as ‘liberal environmentalism.’ Second, these norms, as embodied in the climate change regime, have enabled and constrained climate change policy development in Canada, one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita. International norms can shape or redefine domestic interests, enable policies in conformity with those norms, and create normative pressures for change by linking with extant domestic and foreign policy norms. Uncovering this international institutional-domestic policy interaction resolves the paradox of Canada's promotion of commitments and mechanisms consistent with its domestic interests and institutional constraints, but eventual commitment to action well beyond what those constraints dictate. This commitment continues despite Kyoto's uncertain future. The findings also point to lacunae in the literature on regime compliance and effectiveness more broadly, especially its dominant rationalist variant.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Agrawala, S. (1999). 'Early science-policy interactions in climate change: Lessons from the Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases,' Global Environmental Change 9: 157–169.Google Scholar
  2. Agrawala, S. and S. Andresen (1999). 'Indispensability and in defensibility? The United States in the climate treaty negotiations,' Global Governance 5: 457–482.Google Scholar
  3. Allen, M. (2001). 'Bush pledges study of climate changes,' Washington Post, June 11.Google Scholar
  4. Analysis and Modelling Group (1999). Canada's Emissions Outlook: An Update. Ottawa: National Climate Change Process.Google Scholar
  5. Bernstein, S. (2001). The Compromise of Liberal Environmentalism. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bernstein, S. and B. Cashore (2000). 'Globalization, four paths of internationalization and domestic policy change: The case of ecoforestry in British Columbia, Canada,' Canadian Journal of Political Science 33: 67–99.Google Scholar
  7. Biersteker, T. (1992). 'The ''triumph'' of neoclassical economics in the developing world: Policy convergence and bases of governance in the international economic order,' in J. Rosenau and E.-O. Czempiel, eds., Governance Without Government: Order and Change in World Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 102–131.Google Scholar
  8. Bolin, B., B. Döös, J. Jäger and R. Warrick (1986). SCOPE 29: The Greenhouse Effect: Climate Change and Ecosystems. Chichester: Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
  9. Busumtwi-Sam, J. and S. Bernstein (1997). 'Institutionalization in world politics.' Mimeo: Simon Fraser University and University of Toronto.Google Scholar
  10. Campbell, K. (1998). 'From Rio to Kyoto: The use of voluntary agreements to implement the climate change convention,' Review of European Community and International Environmental Law 7: 159–169.Google Scholar
  11. Chase, S. (1999). 'Firms warm to greenhouse credits,' Globe and Mail 20 October, B1,12.Google Scholar
  12. Chayes, A. and A. H. Chayes (1993). 'On compliance,' International Organization 47: 175–205.Google Scholar
  13. Checkel, J. T. (2001). 'Why comply? Social learning and European identity change,' International Organization (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  14. Denver Summit of the Eight (1997). Communiqueé. Denver, June 22.Google Scholar
  15. Doering, R. (1993). 'Canadian round tables on the environment and economy,' International Environmental Affairs 5: 355–370.Google Scholar
  16. Environment Canada (1997). 'Canada's Energy and Environment Ministers agree to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.' Regina: Press Release Environment Canada, November 12.Google Scholar
  17. Environment Canada (1999). 'The Kyoto Protocol: Challenges and opportunities.' Last updated February 24. Available at http://www.ec.gc.ca/climate/fact/challopp.html. Google Scholar
  18. Environment Canada (2000). 'Climate change: Budget 2000 overview.' Last updated 29 February. Available at www.ec.gc.ca/budget/cce.htm. Google Scholar
  19. Financial Times(2000). 'Shell: Oil group launches international carbon emission market,' 27 January, from climate-L newslist (climate-l@mbnet.mb.caFebruary 6).Google Scholar
  20. Finnemore, M. (1996). National Interests in International Society. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Florini, A. (1996). 'The evolution of international norms,' International Studies Quarterly 40: 363–389.Google Scholar
  22. Founex Report (1972). Reprinted in Environment and Development: The Founex Report on Development and Environment, with commentaries by Miguel Ozorio de Almeida, Wilfred Beckerman, Ignacy Sachs, and Gamani Corea. New York: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.Google Scholar
  23. Globe and Mail (2000). '$ 700 million falls short of goal,' 29 February.Google Scholar
  24. Government of Alberta (2000). 'Partnership key to Alberta's position leading into joint ministers' meetings on climate change.' Press release and backgrounder from Halvar C. Jonson, Minister of Environment. Edmonton, May 13.Google Scholar
  25. Government of Canada (1997). 'Canada proposes targets for reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions.' Archived at the Global Climate Change website, available at http://www.climate-change. gc.ca/english/htm/backgr/position.htm.Google Scholar
  26. Government of Canada (2001). 'Statement by Environment Minister David Anderson on climate change.' Ottawa, April 4.Google Scholar
  27. Government of Canada (2002). 'A discussion paper on Canada's contribution to addressing climate change.'Google Scholar
  28. Grubb, M., C. Vrolijk and D. Brack (1999). The Kyoto Protocol: A Guide and Assessment. London: Royal Institute of International Affairs and Earthscan.Google Scholar
  29. Haas, P. M., R. O. Keohane and M. A. Levy (1993). Institutions for the Earth: Sources of Effective International Environmental Protection. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  30. Hajer, M. A. (1995). The Politics of Environmental Discourse: Ecological Modernization and the Policy Process. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  31. Hornung, R. (1998). 'The Voluntary Challenge Program will not work,' Policy Options, May 10-13.Google Scholar
  32. International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) (1999). 'Summary of the Fifth Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change,' Earth Negotiations Bulletin. Bonn: 12 123 (November 8).Google Scholar
  33. IISD (2001). 'Summary of the Seventh Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change: 29 October-10 November 2001' (Marrakech), Earth Negotiations Bulletin 12 189 (November 12).Google Scholar
  34. Jepperson, R. L., A. Wendt and P. J. Katzenstein (1996). 'Norms, identity, and culture in national security,' in P. J. Katzenstein, ed., The Culture of National Security. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 33–75.Google Scholar
  35. Keck, M. and K. Sikkink (1998). Activists Beyond Borders: Transnational Issue Networks in International Politics. New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Keohane, R. O (1989). International Institutions and State Power. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  37. Kyoto Mechanisms Table (1999). Options Report. Ottawa: Climate Change Secretariat. Available at the CCS website, http://www.nccp.ca/tables.Google Scholar
  38. Levy, M. A., O. R. Young and M. Zürn (1995). 'The Study of International Regimes,' European Journal of International Relations 1: 267–330.Google Scholar
  39. March, J. G. and J. P. Olsen (1998). 'The institutional dynamics of international political orders,' International Organization 52: 943–969.Google Scholar
  40. Marchi, S. (1996). 'Speech delivered by the Honourable Sergio Marchi, Minister of Environment: Canadian Global Change Program-Climate Change Symposium.' Ottawa: Environment Canada, November 6.Google Scholar
  41. NAICC (1996). Review of Canada's National Action Programme on Climate Change. Ottawa: National Air Issues Coordinating Committee.Google Scholar
  42. McCarthy, S. (2002). 'Premiers roast PM for pledge on Kyoto,'Globe and Mail, 16 February, Al.Google Scholar
  43. Moore, O. (2002). 'Kyoto negotiations advancing slowly,' Globe and Mail, 26 February, online edition, posted 3:55 p.m. EST.Google Scholar
  44. Newell, P. and M. Paterson (1998). 'A climate for business: Global warming, the state and capital,' Review of International Political Economy 5: 679–703.Google Scholar
  45. NRTEE (1998). Declaration of the National Forum on Climate Change. Ottawa: National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy.Google Scholar
  46. NRTEE (1999). Canada's Options for a Domestic Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Program. Ottawa: National Roundtable on the Environment and Economy.Google Scholar
  47. Onuf, N. G. (1997). 'How things get normative,' revised version of a paper presented to conference on 'International Norms,' Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 26-27 May.Google Scholar
  48. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (1985). Environment and Economics: Results of the International Conference on Environment and Economics, 18th-21st June 1984. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  49. OECD (1994). Managing the Environment: The Role of Economic Instruments. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  50. OECD (1998). Lessons from Existing Trading Systems for International Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading. Paris: OECD.Google Scholar
  51. Pallemaerts, M. (1994). 'International environmental law from Stockholm to Rio: Back to the future?' in P. Sands, ed., Greening International Law. New York: The New Press, pp. 1–19.Google Scholar
  52. Pallemaerts, M. (1996). 'International environmental law in the age of sustainable development: A critical assessment of the UNCED process,' Journal of Law and Commerce 15: 623–676.Google Scholar
  53. Parson, E. A. et al. (2001). 'Leading while keeping step: Management of global atmospheric issues in Canada,' in W. Clark et al., eds., Social Learning in the Management of Global Environmental Risks. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, pp. 235–258.Google Scholar
  54. Paterson, M. (1996). Global Warming and Global Politics. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  55. Pembina Institute (1998). Corporate Action on Climate Change-1997: An Independent Review. Ottawa: Pembina Institute.Google Scholar
  56. Pianin, E. (2001). 'Senate budget vote rebuffs Bush on global warming,' Washington Post, April 7, p. A5.Google Scholar
  57. Porras, I. (1994). 'The Rio Declaration: A new basis for international cooperation,' in P. Sands, ed., Greening International Law. New York: The Free Press, pp. 20–33.Google Scholar
  58. Price, R. (1998). 'Reversing the gun sights: Transnational civil society targets landmines,' International Organization 52: 613–644.Google Scholar
  59. Raymond, G. A. (1997). 'Problems and prospects in the study of international norms,' Mershon International Studies Review 41: 205–245.Google Scholar
  60. Reiterer, M. (1997). 'Trade and environment: Reflections on the impact of the OECD joint session,' International Environmental Affairs 9: 69–81.Google Scholar
  61. Rowlands, I. (1995). 'The climate change negotiations: Berlin and beyond,' Journal of Environment & Development 4: 146–163.Google Scholar
  62. Rowlands, I. (2000). 'Beauty and the beast?: BP's and Exxon's positions on global climate change,' Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 18: 339–354.Google Scholar
  63. Rosenau, J. (1995). 'Governance in the twenty-first century,' Global Governance 1: 13–43.Google Scholar
  64. Ruggie, J. G. (1983). 'International regimes, transactions, and change: Embedded liberalism in the postwar economic order,' in S. D. Krasner, ed., International Regimes. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp. 195–232.Google Scholar
  65. Russell, D. and G. Toner (1998). 'ience and policy when the heat is rising: The case of global climate change negotiations and domestic implementation,' a paper presented to the CRUISE Conference on Science, Government and Global Markets: The State of Canada's Science-Based Regulatory Institutions. Ottawa, October 1-2.Google Scholar
  66. Sand, P. (1993). 'Kaleidoscope: International environmental law after Rio,' European Journal of International Law 4: 377–389.Google Scholar
  67. Simmons, B. A. (2000). 'International law and state behaviour: Commitment and compliance in international monetary affairs,' American Political Science Review 94: 819–835.Google Scholar
  68. Skogstad, G. and P. Kopas (1992). 'Environmental policy in a federal system: Ottawa and the provinces,' in R. Boardman, ed., Canadian Environmental Policy: Ecosystems, Politics and Process. Toronto: Oxford University Press, pp. 43–59.Google Scholar
  69. Smith, H. A. (1998). 'Stopped cold: Action by Canada on climate change has been blocked by opposition both inside and outside government,' Alternatives 24: 10–16.Google Scholar
  70. Spector, B. I. et al., eds. (1994). Negotiating International Regimes: Lessons Learned from UNCED. London: Graham & Trotman/Martinus Nijhoff.Google Scholar
  71. Subsidiary Body for Implementation of the FCCC (2000). 'National communications from parties included in Annex 1 to the Convention: Greenhouse gas inventory data from 1990 to 1998 (FCCC/SBI/2000/INF.13, 11 October).Google Scholar
  72. Toner, G. and T. Conway (1996). 'Environmental policy,' in G. B. Doern et al., eds., Border Crossings: The Internationalization of Canadian Public Policy. Toronto: Oxford University Press, pp. 108–144.Google Scholar
  73. Underdal, A. (1997). 'Patterns of regime effectiveness: Examining evidence from 13 international regimes,' a paper presented at the 1997 International Studies Association Conference, Toronto, March 19-22.Google Scholar
  74. Underdal, A. (1998). 'Explaining compliance and defection: Three models,' European Journal of International Relations 4: 5–30.Google Scholar
  75. U.S. Newswire (2000). 'White House fact sheet: Clinton's FY2001 climate change budget,' February 3.Google Scholar
  76. Victor, D. et al., eds. (1998). The Implementation and Effectiveness of International Environmental Commitments: Theory and Practice. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  77. Weber, S. (1994). 'Origins of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development,' International Organization 48: 1–38.Google Scholar
  78. Weiss, E. Brown and H. K. Jacobson, eds. (1998). Engaging Countries: Strengthening Compliance with International Environmental Accords. Cambridge, MIT Press.Google Scholar
  79. Wendt, A. and R. Duvall (1989). 'Institutions and international order,' in J. Rosenau and E.-O. Czempiel, eds., Global Changes and Theoretical Challenges. Boston: Lexington Books, pp. 51–74.Google Scholar
  80. Wettestad, J. (1999). Designing Regime Effectiveness: The Key Conditions. Cheltenham, U.K.: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  81. Wirth, T. E. (1996). 'Remarks by the Honorable Timothy E. Wirth, Under Secretary for Global Affairs, on behalf of the United States of America before the Second Conference of the Parties Framework Convention on Climate Change.' Geneva, Switzerland, July 17.Google Scholar
  82. White House (2002). 'Global climate change policy book.' Accessed via the worldwide web at www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/02/climatechange.html.Google Scholar
  83. World Bank (1992). World Bank Development Report, 1992: Development and Environment. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  84. The World C ommission on Environment and Development (WCED) (1987). Our Common Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  85. Yee, A. S. (1996). 'The causal effects of ideas on policies,' International Organization 50: 69–108.Google Scholar
  86. Young, O., ed. (1999). The Effectiveness of International Environmental Regimes: Causal Connections and Behavioral Mechanisms. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  87. Zürn, M. (1998). 'The rise of international environmental politics: A review of current research,' World Politics 50: 617–649.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Bernstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations