Different NGOs Different strategies resources and targets

A first observation is that non-state actors in the climate process not only include environmental groups, but also research and academic institutes, business and industry associations, labour organizations, religious bodies and consumer groups.3 Although our focus is on the green NGOs, this is not a homogenous group. On the one hand we have the traditional activist groups; on the other hand, there are more 'pure', research-based groups with the legal and/or technical expertise to promote environmental goals.

On this basis, we distinguish between activist organizations, which obtain funding and legitimacy through membership and popular support, and advisory organizations, which obtain funding and legitimacy through their ability to give policy recommendations and provide decision makers with legal, technical or scientific advice. NGOs that are clearly activist are Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth (FoE). Important advisory organizations or 'think-tanks' include the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), Environmental Defense (ED), the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development (FIELD) and several others.4 The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) arguably belongs to both categories.

Against this backdrop we differentiate between two main strategies.5 First, an NGO can pursue an insider strategy, seeking to attain influence by working closely with negotiators and governments by providing policy solutions and expert advice. There are many US-based groups in this category. They also engage in knowledge construction, producing research-based reports and papers on particular topics (Gough and Shackley, 2001, p338).

Second, NGOs can pursue an outsider strategy promoting compliance with international agreements by putting pressure on negotiators, governments and target groups through campaigning, letters of protest, rallying, direct actions, boycotts and even civil disobedience. The tactic here is to influence public opinion in order to induce states to be more flexible in international negotiations, to push governments to comply with international commitments, and to give polluters and environmentally harmful corporations negative public exposure.

Although the insider-outsider dimension is likely to vary among NGOs, several environmental organizations, especially the major ones with large resources, are likely to pursue a dual strategy. Global activists like Greenpeace and WWF also engage in knowledge construction, using scientists and analysts to acquire further understanding on complex issues. The increasing complexities of many international environmental issues, not least the climate issue, have necessitated this dual strategy. Advisory NGOs, however, usually rely on the insider strategy only.

The broad insider/outsider categories can be broken down in terms of what arenas (actors/institutions) the various types of NGOs target. We assume that NGOs seek to influence one or some combination of the following four arenas, depending upon the type of NGO:

1 International negotiations and processes: In our case, this involves efforts to promote a strong compliance system during the negotiating process. All green NGOs generally participate as observers during the various negotiating sessions. This channel is particularly important for the think-tanks, feeding ideas into the negotiating process, while pressure and various mechanisms of 'shaming' are more important for the activist NGOs. Most green NGOs participating in the climate change negotiations are united in the Climate Action Network (CAN). The major NGOs also have considerable independent international activities that take place outside the framework of CAN.

2 Domestic climate policy and ratification: This arena is also important for all major NGOs, but in somewhat different ways. The insider NGOs may participate in brainstorming and trying to 'sell' their ideas to their country's delegation and government. Activist NGOs may push for domestic ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and seek to influence the development of domestic climate policy instruments in both parties and non-parties to the Protocol. NGOs such as Greenpeace, WWF and FoE are particularly important in this regard as they have a large number of country offices and can concentrate resources on key countries in the ratification process.

3 Target groups climate policy and behaviour: There are several target groups for climate compliance: oil and natural gas companies, energy industries, transport, industry production involving greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, agriculture and waste are among the most important. As long as the Kyoto Protocol has not entered into force, and as long as most states have not yet established forceful domestic climate policies, strategies aimed at influencing target groups directly are potentially an important part of the activist NGOs' repertoire. This is likely to continue when/if the Protocol enters into force as behaviour change in target groups is ultimately the only way to reduce GHG emissions.

4 Public opinion: This is another important, but diffuse, target for the activist NGOs. They may try to influence public opinion and create awareness to put pressure on governments and target groups. For organizations relying on membership as a significant resource base, this is an important channel - not only to achieve actual influence, but also to attract new members.

This leads us to a final point regarding the potential for NGOs to influence climate policy in general and compliance more specifically: what kind of resources the various types of green NGOs have. There are several sources of leverage, or capital, that NGOs can rely on to transmit information and to influence decision makers, including the following:

1 Intellectual base: issue-specific knowledge held by the NGO and its ability to provide decision makers with expert advice and analysis.

2 Membership base: the number of members the NGO has, both nationally and internationally.

3 Political base: the NGO's access to decision makers and politicians in office.

4 Financial base: the financial resources that the NGO can channel into campaigns, lobbying, participation at conferences, commissioning of expert reports, etc.

Several categories could be added to the list, but the purpose is to show that the types of leverage an NGO can apply will contribute to defining the organization's opportunity set with regard to gaining political influence. Further, the resources that an NGO has at its disposal are closely linked to the types of strategies it will choose and the arenas it will target. The intellectual base is the prime weapon of advisory NGOs, but other major NGOs are equipped with this tool as well. The more specific expertise and know-how the relevant NGOs have concerning the system of compliance, the higher the potential for influencing the making of the compliance regime. We will lump the other three categories (membership, political and financial base) together and label them 'political clout'. This is relevant mostly to the large activist NGOs. We would assume that the higher the score on this aggregate dimension, the higher the possibility that green NGOs could influence climate policies and thereby increase compliance.

It is important not to confuse resources with actual influence in promoting compliance with the Kyoto Protocol. Resources are characteristics associated with an environmental organization that may or may not translate into political influence. A number of other variables will be decisive as well for promoting compliance. To sum up, two kinds of environmental NGOs will be investigated: activist NGOs and advisory NGOs. These types of NGOs are expected to differ somewhat on three dimensions relevant to promoting climate compliance: resources, levels targeted and strategies. The assumed relationship between NGO type and the three dimensions is set out in Table 8.1.

Table 8.1 Relationship between NGO type and resources, levels targeted and strategies

Activist NGOs

Advisory NGOs

Critical resource Membership base

Intellectual base

Arenas targeted

International negotiations International negotiations

Domestic policy Target groups Public opinion

Domestic policy (Target groups)


Dual strategy: insider and Insider only outsider

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