The regimes shortterm influence Altering the logic of consequences

Negotiators have developed obligations, compliance mechanisms and procedures to encourage climate-protecting activities that actors would not otherwise undertake. The mechanisms invoke a logic of consequences, seeking to alter behaviour by altering the incentives actors face. In the short term, the success of these mechanisms can be evaluated against two different, but equally important, standards. First, will they induce significant behavioural change? That is, will they lead to lower GHG emissions than would have occurred otherwise? Second, will they promote compliance? Will most states have sufficient valid emission units to cover their actual emissions? It is tempting to view the former standard as the only relevant standard. Indeed, since climate change will be slowed only if emissions are reduced or sequestration increased, compliance without significant behaviour change would seem to have little value. Yet, precisely because averting climate change will require decades, indeed centuries, of social management, the ultimate contribution of the regime's compliance mechanisms during the first commitment period may stem as much from their ability to establish norms against climate-changing behaviours as from their ability to alter behaviour. Compliance that reflects significant behavioural change is certainly preferable to compliance that does not. Yet, although the current regime seems likely to create more compliance than behaviour change, that compliance may well help establish climate protection norms that make it preferable to noncompliance, even non-compliance with more stringent rules.

In predicting the short-term influence of the regime, it seems appropriate to adopt a 'logic of consequences' model, assuming that actors choose behaviours by evaluating the relative costs and benefits of the alternatives available to them in a context in which their values and normative commitments can be treated as fixed. In the short term, the regime can increase the costs (or decrease the benefits) of noncompliance and non-participation while decreasing the costs (or increasing the benefits) of compliance. However, the underlying values of actors, which determine how those costs and benefits are weighed, are unlikely to change in the short term. Given this, it helps to estimate the responses to the regime by categorizing actors into four groups: committed, contingent, resistant and intransigent. Committed states are 'leader' states whose polities are already committed to a norm of taking action to avert climate change and whose choices are relatively insensitive to the costs and benefits the regime seeks to manipulate (Sprinz and Vaahtoranta, 1994). Contingent states are those that have not fully accepted such a norm but believe that action is probably warranted, depending both on the extent of action by other states and on their beliefs about the likelihood of, and harm from, climate change. Resistant states are those, the US being the most notable current example, that have rejected the norm that they should take action based on a view that the economic costs of action exceed the environmental benefits. Intransigent states are laggards or draggers who completely reject the norm that they should take action and whose behaviour has little to do with the costs and benefits the regime can manipulate. The regime was formed, and is largely populated, by an alliance of committed and contingent states. Some resistant states may have joined the regime, either because they sought the political benefits of membership and do not face significant obligations, or because their calculus of costs and benefits have changed since they joined and they have not yet withdrawn. Intransigent states can be assumed to have refused to join the regime from the outset.

How might we expect states in these groups to respond to the regime's compliance system in the first commitment period? Committed states are unilateralists whose choice to comply has little to do with the regime's flexibility mechanisms. They are nonetheless influenced by the effect of the regime's provisions on the costs of compliance. By reducing costs, the regime's flexibility encourages these states to take more domestic action than required, to make more behavioural change than required, and even, perhaps, to overcomply by reducing emissions below their targets. Lower costs allow these states to contribute more to averting climate change for whatever financial expenditure they were committed to making. These states are the ones most likely to provide financial and technical assistance, to fund JI and CDM projects in an effort to build capacity as well as commitment to the regime in other states, and to follow the spirit of the regime's rules that trading and acquisition of emission units 'be supplemental to domestic actions' (Art 6(1)(d) and 17).

The regime's flexibility is likely to have its largest effect on contingent states. Relative to what would have happened without these mechanisms, many more contingent states are likely to comply, since the mechanisms allow countries to meet many of their targets through trading in credits likely to be quite cheap (Michaelowa, 2001). Because contingent states want to comply so long as enough others do and it is not too costly, the true-up period is likely to prove particularly influential. During that period they will have considerably more information than at present regarding how many other states have complied, what they did to comply, how much credits cost and the risks of climate change. This information clarifies the material and social costs of complying and not complying. And, if the response of committed states is strong, the costs of complying are likely to be less and those of not complying greater, making contingent states more likely to comply. Unlike the committed states, however, they will be more likely to minimize their compliance costs, engaging in more 'empty' compliance. They are more likely to acquire credits or reduce emissions only as required and urge a liberal interpretation of the requirement that trading 'be supplemental to domestic action'. They are less likely to provide financial and technical assistance, develop accurate and reliable inventory systems, and ensure emission credits are backed by real reductions. In short, contingent states will tend to follow the letter rather than the spirit of the agreement.

Resistant states are unlikely to respond to the flexibility mechanisms in the short term. These states start by assuming that compliance will be costly and that non-participation and non-compliance will have few costs. Since most resistant states will not be parties, formal compliance mechanisms cannot be applied. Like contingent states, resistant states are sensitive to new information. Those that are parties will be likely to withdraw if their initial assumptions regarding the costs of compliance prove true. However, if the decision to not participate proves to entail significant domestic or international political costs and compliance proves to be relatively easy and cheap, these states may revise their decisions. They may join the regime or comply with it, or they may remain outside the regime while reducing emissions or even acquiring credits which, were they a member, would constitute movement toward compliance. Intransigent states, however, are as dedicated to opposing the regime as committed states are to supporting it. Although this does not seem like a large group at present, such a group may grow in future commitment periods as the incidence of the costs of averting climate change become clear. Thus, oil-exporting states may increasingly oppose the regime if most member states comply by reducing oil consumption.

This analysis suggests that, in the short term, the incorporation of flexibility into the regime is likely to lead to high levels of compliance without frequent use of the enforcement provisions that have been so carefully developed (Downs et al, 1996). These high compliance rates will reflect compliance coupled with significant behavioural change by committed states, compliance with far less behavioural change by contingent states, and the unwillingness of resistant and intransigent states to become or remain parties to the treaty and its requirements. The regime's flexibility mechanisms encourage greater behavioural changes by committed states, will encourage greater compliance by contingent states even if not accompanied by significant behavioural change, and may induce resistant states to reevaluate their position vis-à-vis the climate regime.

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