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Who Ratifies Environmental Treaties and Why? Institutionalism, Structuralism and Participation by 192 Nations in 22 Treaties

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  • J. Timmons Roberts
  • Bradley C. Parks
  • Alexis A. Vásquez

Abstract

International environmental accords have become important mechanisms by which nations make promises to administer natural resources and manage the global environment. Previous studies, relying mainly on single cases or small-n data sets, have shed light on the proximate political causes of participation in these agreements. However, no study has yet systematically explained the deeper social determinants of why nations sign, ignore or resist environmental treaties. We offer a theoretically-sequenced model that exploits complementarities between rational choice institutionalism and world-systems theory. Key variables posited by realists and constructivists are also examined, using a new environmental treaty participation index based on ratifications of 22 major environmental agreements by 192 nations. Cross-sectional OLS regression and path analysis strongly supports the institutionalist claim that credibility-the willingness and ability to honor one's international environmental commit-ments-"matters." But these measures also lend considerable support to the world-systems hypothesis that state credibility is strongly influenced by a legacy of colonial incorporation into the world economy. Narrow export base-our proxy for disadvantaged position in the world-economy-directly and indirectly (through institutions and civil society strength) explains nearly six-tenths of national propensity to sign environmental treaties. A nation's natural capital, its ecological vulnerability, and international environmental NGO memberships had no explanatory power in the path analysis. Our results indicate that new theoretical, methodological and policy approaches are needed to address structural barriers to international cooperation. Copyright (c) 2004 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • J. Timmons Roberts & Bradley C. Parks & Alexis A. Vásquez, 2004. "Who Ratifies Environmental Treaties and Why? Institutionalism, Structuralism and Participation by 192 Nations in 22 Treaties," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 4(3), pages 22-64, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:glenvp:v:4:y:2004:i:3:p:22-64
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Tobias Böhmelt & Carola Betzold, 2013. "The impact of environmental interest groups in international negotiations: Do ENGOs induce stronger environmental commitments?," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 127-151, May.
    2. Ronald Davies & Helen Naughton, 2014. "Cooperation in environmental policy: a spatial approach," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 21(5), pages 923-954, October.
    3. Dasgupta, Shouro & De Cian, Enrica, 2016. "Institutions and the Environment: Existing Evidence and Future Directions," MITP: Mitigation, Innovation,and Transformation Pathways 240747, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    4. Christopher Marcoux & Johannes Urpelainen, 2012. "Capacity, not constraints: A theory of North-South regulatory cooperation," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 7(4), pages 399-424, December.
    5. Leo Wangler & Juan-Carlos Altamirano-Cabrera & Hans-Peter Weikard, 2013. "The political economy of international environmental agreements: a survey," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 387-403, September.
    6. repec:spr:ieaple:v:18:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s10784-018-9391-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Tobias Böhmelt, 2013. "A closer look at the information provision rationale: Civil society participation in states’ delegations at the UNFCCC," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 8(1), pages 55-80, March.
    8. repec:spr:ieaple:v:17:y:2017:i:6:d:10.1007_s10784-017-9365-x is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Gabriele Spilker & Vally Koubi, 2016. "The effects of treaty legality and domestic institutional hurdles on environmental treaty ratification," International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 16(2), pages 223-238, April.

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