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The Road not Taken: Climate Change Policy in Canada and the United States


  • Kathryn Harrison


In 2001, President George W. Bush confirmed that the US would not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Despite the US' withdrawal, its neighbor Canada chose to ratify the Kyoto Protocol the following year. The divergence of these two highly integrated countries is surprising, since Canada and the US accepted comparable commitments in the 1997 Kyoto negotiations, and both could expect the costs of compliance to be significant given the greenhouse-gas intensive nature of their economies. The divergence cannot be explained by politicians' electoral incentives since Canadian and US politicians alike faced strong business opposition and a relatively inattentive public. A strong normative commitment to international cooperation to protect the global commons was necessary to overcome political opposition to ratification, but still not sufficient. In particular, while both Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and US President Bill Clinton supported ratification, only Chrétien had the institutional capacity to deliver on his values. (c) 2007 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Kathryn Harrison, 2007. "The Road not Taken: Climate Change Policy in Canada and the United States," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 7(4), pages 92-117, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:glenvp:v:7:y:2007:i:4:p:92-117

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    Cited by:

    1. Christoph Böhringer & Nicholas Rivers & Thomas Rutherford & Randall Wigle, 2015. "Sharing the burden for climate change mitigation in the Canadian federation," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 48(4), pages 1350-1380, November.
    2. Christian Engau & Volker Hoffmann, 2011. "Corporate response strategies to regulatory uncertainty: evidence from uncertainty about post-Kyoto regulation," Policy Sciences, Springer;Society of Policy Sciences, vol. 44(1), pages 53-80, March.
    3. Burkard Eberlein & Dirk Matten, 2009. "Business Responses to Climate Change Regulation in Canada and Germany: Lessons for MNCs from Emerging Economies," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 86(2), pages 241-255, March.
    4. David J. Gordon, 2015. "An Uneasy Equilibrium: The Coordination of Climate Governance in Federated Systems," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 15(2), pages 121-141, May.
    5. Stefanie Bailer & Florian Weiler, 2015. "A political economy of positions in climate change negotiations: Economic, structural, domestic, and strategic explanations," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 10(1), pages 43-66, March.

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