The regimes longterm influence Altering the logic of appropriateness

The climate regime's short-term influence is likely to be rather limited, since committed states would have taken much of the action anyway and contingent states are likely to comply through relatively minimal action and small expenditures to acquire credits. Yet these small near-term contributions to averting climate change may provide a foundation for long-term success at attracting participation, encouraging compliance and reducing GHG emissions. Flexible mechanisms that alter the logic of consequences in the short term may foster a broader social transformation in the logic of appropriateness surrounding efforts to protect the global climate. Changing behaviours by altering the logic of appropriateness, i.e. by altering the norms and values that inform the behaviours people and states choose, involves indirect and long-term processes. To the extent that climate regime components initiate social processes that provide sustained support for climate-protecting norms and values, their influence is likely to be positive and may well be considerable, however hard it may be to isolate analytically.

The contribution that flexibility mechanisms make to inducing most parties to comply may foster new norms regarding climate-related behaviours. Clearly, policies and programmes that produce real reductions in emissions and innovations in sequestration are important to such a shift. Yet, even where such efforts fail, the social signal sent by states engaging in such efforts reinforces the notion that taking action to avert climate change is the appropriate thing to do. Contingent states may find that compliance, which was initially engaged in because it was easy, over time becomes expected behaviour, deviation from which requires explanation (Young, 1992). When states comply with their targets, they simultaneously affirm the norm held by committed states that taking action to avert climate change is good while undermining claims by resistant states that it is excessively costly. The regime's flexibility also undermines claims of resistant states that the norm is illegitimate because it does not recognize that state's particular circumstances, or that the norm does not apply to its behaviour because it is not capable of complying. If incapacity is often used to defend against accusations of environmental non-compliance (Brown Weiss and Jacobson, 1998), the ability to comply by purchasing relatively cheap credits in a market created for this purpose removes such excuses. Regular meetings of the Conference of the Parties and subsidiary bodies provide opportunities for states to evaluate their progress and learn from others how to meet their commitments at lower cost. The Facilitative Branch provides a forum in which states can request help in meeting their commitments. All these provisions and institutions make it easier for a state to comply and, thereby, make it more difficult for it to claim it should not have to.

Perhaps the largest influence of the regime lies in its effect on how behaviours that contribute to climate change are framed. The Kyoto targets constitute rules 'around which actors' expectations converge' (Krasner, 1983). Although their nominal purpose is to create legal categories of compliant and non-compliant behaviours, their more important effect may be as foundations for social categories of identity. They become the basis for a broader social definition in which those that strive to reduce emissions below 1990 levels are considered 'green' and those that do not are considered 'brown'. Such social definitions need not strictly correspond to the regime's specific provisions. Governments that fall short of their Kyoto commitments may still be considered green if others believe they strived toward those targets. Equally importantly, resistant states may be considered brown whether or not they have accepted the treaty's provisions. The US, or any other country that does not ratify the agreement, can avoid the legal consequences of not reducing its GHG emissions but may not be able to avoid social condemnation by the international community - and perhaps its own polity - for failing to adopt climate-friendly policies. The condemnation of India and Pakistan for their nuclear policies (although neither has joined the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty), and of Norway for whaling that is legally compliant with the whaling treaty, illustrates how international norms can simultaneously stem from but not be constrained by the compliance definitions of international legal instruments. These pressures are reinforced by regular meetings of regime bodies (and associated media coverage), as well as by periodic reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), other scientific bodies, NGOs, and statements by governments and international bodies about the need to avert climate change. 'Strictly economic decisions' become increasingly viewed as 'economic decisions that contribute to climate change'. 'Economic decisions that contribute to climate change impacts' are increasingly viewed as socially inappropriate.

These processes, if sufficiently widespread, are likely to induce a deep transformation in the values that people, and the states they populate, hold. They will reinforce the convictions of committed states that action to protect the climate is justified and warranted. They will increase the ranks of committed states by convincing at least some contingent states that compliance is the right thing to do even if it is costly, rather than simply when it is less costly than non-compliance. It will cause some resistant states to re-evaluate their assessment of costs and benefits within a context in which climate protection receives greater attention and praise than it does currently, leading them to join the regime during the second commitment period as contingent states. Such a transformation is by no means assured. However, the flexibility mechanisms incorporated into the climate regime help make such a transformation more likely. Whether it occurs will depend on whether the many other determinants of norms collectively foster or impede such a transformation.

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