Climatic Change

, Volume 120, Issue 1–2, pp 1–12 | Cite as

A new strategy for global climate protection

  • Richard B. Stewart
  • Michael Oppenheimer
  • Bryce Rudyk


This essay proposes an innovative institutional strategy for global climate protection, quite distinct from but ultimately complementary to the UNFCCC climate treaty negotiations. Our “building block” strategy relies on a variety of smaller-scale transnational cooperative arrangements, involving not only states, but also subnational jurisdictions, firms, and civil society organizations, to undertake activities whose primary goal is not climate mitigation but which will achieve greenhouse gas reductions as a byproduct. This strategy avoids the problems inherent in developing an enforceable, comprehensive treaty regime by mobilizing other incentives—including economic self-interest, energy security, cleaner air, and furtherance of international development— to motivate a range of actors to cooperate on actions that will also produce climate benefits. The strategy uses three specific models of regime formation (club, linkage, and dominant actor models) which emerge from economics, international relations, and organizational behavior, to develop a variety of transnational regimes that are generally self-enforcing and sustainable, avoiding the free rider and compliance problems endemic in collective action to provide public goods. These regimes will contribute to global climate action not only by achieving emissions reductions in the short term, but also by creating global webs of cooperation and trust, and by linking the building block regimes to the UNFCCC system through greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting systems. We argue that the building blocks regimes would thereby help secure eventual agreement on a comprehensive climate treaty.


Emission Trading System Dominant Actor Policy Entrepreneur Linkage Strategy International Aluminum Institute 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors gratefully acknowledge the superb assistance of Rachel Goodwin, Phillip Hannam, Nadia Harrison, and John Mei. Thanks also to Scott Barrett for stimulating this effort to find a fresh approach to solving the climate collective action challenge, and to David Victor, Dan Cole, Rob Howse, Bob Keohane, Jake Werksman, Michael Livermore, Jessica Green, Maria Damon, Chris Faris, and Annie Petsonk for helpful insights.


  1. Abbott KW (2012) The transnational regime complex for climate change. Environ Plan C Gov Policy 30:571–590CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Abbott KW, Snidel D (2009) The governance triangle: regulatory standards institutions and the shadow of the state. In: Mattli W, Woods N (eds) The politics of global regulation. Princeton University Press, Princeton, pp 44–88Google Scholar
  3. Aldy JE, Stavins RN, Frankel JA, Summers LH (2007) Architectures for agreement: addressing global climate change in the post-Kyoto world. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barrett S (2003) Environment and statecraft the strategy of environmental treaty-making. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  5. Benedick R (1998) Ozone diplomacy: new directions in safeguarding the planet. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. Bradford A (2013) The Brussels effect. Northwest Univ Law Rev 107:1–67Google Scholar
  7. Buchanan JM (1965) An economic theory of clubs. Economica 32:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carraro C, Egenhofer C (2007) Climate and trade policy: bottom-up approaches towards global agreement. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited, CheltenhamGoogle Scholar
  9. Cole DH (2011) From global to polycentric climate governance. Climate Law 2:395–413Google Scholar
  10. Das S (2012) Achieving carbon neutrality in the global aluminum industry. J Miner Met Mater Soc 64:285–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Downs GW, Rocke DM, Barsoom PN (1998) Managing the evolution of multilateralism. Int Organ 52:397–419CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Elahee K (2010) Heat recovery in the textile dyeing and finishing industry: lessons from developing economies. J Energy S Afr 21:9–15Google Scholar
  13. European Commission (2003) Maritime safety: IMO introduces new double-hull requirements at world-wide level to close the gap with new EU safety rules. Accessed 8 Jan 2013
  14. Falkner R, Stephan H, Vogler J (2010) International climate policy after Copenhagen: towards a “building blocks” approach. Glob Policy 1:252–262CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ghosh A (2011) Seeking coherence in complexity? The governance of energy by trade and investment institutions. Glob Policy 2:106–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gilligan MJ (2004) Is there a broader-deeper trade-off in international multilateral agreements? Int Organ 58:459–484CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gupta J, van der Grijp N (2010) Mainstreaming climate change in development cooperation. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Heal J, Kunreuther H (2011) Tipping climate negotiations. Nat Bureau Econ Research Working Paper 16954. Accessed 15 Jan 2013
  19. Hoffmann MJ (2011) Climate governance at the crossroads : experimenting with a global response after Kyoto. Oxford University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Huq S, Reid H, Murray LA (2006) Climate change and development links. IIED Gatekeeper 123:1–24Google Scholar
  21. International Aluminum Industry (2011) Results of the 2010 anode effect survey. Accessed 8 Jan 2013
  22. International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) (2011) Fostering low carbon growth: the case for a sustainable energy trade agreement. Accessed 2 Jan 2013
  23. Kanter D, Mauzerall DL, Ravishankara AR, Daniel JS, Portmann R, Grabiel P, Moomaw W, Galloway J (2013) A post-Kyoto partner: considering the stratospheric ozone regime as a tool to manage nitrous oxide. Proc Natl Acad Sci 110:4451–4457Google Scholar
  24. Keohane RO, Victor DG (2011) The regime complex for climate change. Perspect Polit 9:7–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kwok VW (2009) Weaknesses in Chinese wind power. Forbes. Accessed 2 Jan 2013
  26. Menon S, Koch D, Beig G, Sahu S, Fasullo J, Orlikowski D (2010) Black carbon aerosols and the third polar ice cap. Atmos Chem Phys 9:4559–4571CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mitchell RB (1994) Regime design matters: intentional oil pollution and treaty compliance. Int Organ 48:425–458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nagesha N, Balachandra P (2006) Barriers to energy efficiency in small industry clusters: multi-criteria-based prioritization using the analytic hierarchy process. Energy 31:1969–1983CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Newell P (2011) The governance of energy finance: the public, the private and the hybrid. Glob Policy 2:94–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Oye K, Maxwell J (1995) Self-interest and environmental management. In: Keohane RO, Ostrom E (eds) Local commons and global interdependence: heterogeneity and cooperation in two domains. SAGE Publications Ltd, London, pp 191–223Google Scholar
  31. Rayner S (2010) How to eat an elephant: a bottom-up approach to climate policy. Clim Policy 10:615–621CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Stewart RB, Oppenheimer M, Rudyk B (2013) Building blocks for global climate protection. Stanford J Environ Law 33: forthcomingGoogle Scholar
  33. United Nations Environment Program (2011) Near-term climate protection and clean air benefits: actions for controlling short-lived climate forcers :1–78Google Scholar
  34. United States Department of State (2012) The climate and clean air coalition to reduce short-lived climate pollutants initiative. Accessed 8 Jan 2013
  35. Victor DG, House JC, Joy S (2005) A Madisonian approach to climate policy. Science 309:1820–1821CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Weischer L, Morgan J, Patel M (2012) Climate clubs: can small groups of countries make a big difference in addressing climate change? Rev Eur Commun Int Environ Law 21:177–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wilson E, Zhang D, Zheng L (2011) The socio-political context for deploying carbon capture and storage in China and the U.S. Glob Environ Change 21:324–335CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Woebbeking M (2010) The new guidelines for the certification of wind turbines, edition 2010. Gerson Lehrman Renewables Certification. Accessed 2 Jan 2013
  39. Wright C (2011) Export credit agencies and global energy: promoting national exports in a changing world. Glob Policy 2:133–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard B. Stewart
    • 1
  • Michael Oppenheimer
    • 2
  • Bryce Rudyk
    • 1
  1. 1.School of LawNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Woodrow Wilson School and Department of GeosciencesPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

Personalised recommendations