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International Policy Instrument Prominence in the Climate Change Debate: A Case Study of the United States


  • K. Fisher-Vanden


This paper explores the factors influencing the types of policy instruments seriously considered and actively promoted by US policymakers over time in the climate change debate. A variant on Kingdon's model is used to describe how these factors and actor groups affect the pool of instrument considered-not only influencing which instruments go into the pool but also which ones bubble to the top and which ones sink to the bottom in prominence. In the model presented in this paper the following three process streams coupled with influence of time and historical experience determine the prominence of individual policy instruments in the pool: (1) a "politics/economics" stream which contains contextual factors (such as national mood and macroeconomic conditions) that constrain the type of policy instruments policymakers can consider; (2) a "policy options" stream which generates and promotes particular policy instruments; and (3) an "issues" stream which contains the policy goals faced by policymakers at the time. Actor groups can affect any of these streams and can act as "policy entrepreneurs" by advocating the use or disuse of certain instruments. With regard to formal (i.e., report-like) assessments, this paper finds that although formal assessments have seemingly had little direct impact on US policy responses in the past, it is not the case that they have had no indirect impact or will not have a larger direct impact in the future. This lack of direct impact could be explained by (a) the primary use of alternative channels of information (e.g., advisors, briefings, memos) by policymakers; (b) the lack of attention given in assessments to the contextual factors constraining policy instrument choice; (c) the discrepancies between the goals assumed by assessors (e.g., a specific environmental goal) and the actual goals faced by policymakers; and (d) the assessment's intended audience.

Suggested Citation

  • K. Fisher-Vanden, 1997. "International Policy Instrument Prominence in the Climate Change Debate: A Case Study of the United States," Working Papers ir97033, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:iasawp:ir97033

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stavins, Robert & Keohane, Nathaniel & Revesz, Richard, 1997. "The Positive Political Economy of Instrument Choice in Environmental Policy," Discussion Papers dp-97-25, Resources For the Future.
    2. Beder, Sharon, 1996. "Charging the earth: The promotion of price-based measures for pollution control," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(1), pages 51-63, January.
    3. Hahn, R.W. & Stavins, R.N., 1990. "Incentive-Based Environmental Regulation: A New Era From An Old Idea?," Papers 183d, Harvard - J.F. Kennedy School of Government.
    4. Schelling, Thomas C, 1992. "Some Economics of Global Warming," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(1), pages 1-14, March.
    5. Joaquim Oliveira Martins & Jean-Marc Burniaux & John P. Martin & Giuseppe Nicoletti, 1992. "The Costs of Reducing CO2 Emissions: A Comparison of Carbon Tax Curves with GREEN," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 118, OECD Publishing.
    6. Edmonds, Jae & Wise, Marshall & Barns, David W, 1995. "Carbon coalitions : The cost and effectiveness of energy agreements to alter trajectories of atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 309-335.
    7. Stavins, Robert & Whitehead, Bradley, 1996. "The Next Generation of Market-Based Environmental Policies," Discussion Papers dp-97-10, Resources For the Future.
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