Increased Segmentation Complexity through Fragmentation

Global environmental governance is marked, first, by a new segmentation of policy-making, both vertically (multilevel governance) and horizontally (multipolar governance). The increasing institutionalization of world politics at the global level does not occur, and is indeed not conceivable, without continuing policy-making at national and subnational levels. Global standards need to be implemented and put into practice at the local level, and global norm-setting requires local decision-making to set the frames for global decisions. This results in the coexistence of policy-making at the subnational, national, regional and global levels in more and more issue areas, with the potential of both conflicts and synergies among different levels of regulatory activity. The international regulation of trade in genetically modified organisms serves as a prime example for such multilevel governance [34,35].

Likewise, the increasing institutionalization of world politics at the global level does not occur in a uniform manner that covers all parts of the international community to the same extent. In the case of the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, for example, various recent amendments have provided for new standards and timetables that are not accepted by all parties to the original agreement from 1987. This leads to a substantial multiplicity of sub-regimes within the overall normative framework. The most prominent example of such horizontal fragmentation of policies is humankind's response to the global warming problem. Here, we observe the emergence of parallel policy approaches that include equally important segments of international society and may develop into divergent regulatory regimes in global climate governance.

Divergent policy approaches within a horizontally and vertically segmented policy arena pose significant challenges. Lack of uniform policies may jeopardize the success of the segmented approaches adopted by individual groups of countries or at different levels of decision-making. Regarding climate policy, for instance, the global emissions trading regime as envisaged by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol may create perverse incentives if the United States is not party to the mechanism. The possibly strong economic implications of a stringent climate policy adopted by one group of states may have severe ramifications for other policy arenas, such as the world trade regime [36]. On the other hand, a segmented policy arena may also have advantages. Distinct policy arenas allow for the testing of innovative policy instruments in some nations or at some levels of decision-making, with subsequent diffusion in other regions or levels [37-39]. Also, sensible international policies could mitigate the negative political consequences of a horizontally and vertically segmented governance architecture, and innovative policies may assist in the step-by-step convergence of parallel approaches.

These challenges of interlinkages within a segmented governance system, however, have only poorly been addressed by students of global governance. Most scholars have focused on the emergence of international regimes and on their effectiveness in particular issue areas. The interlinkages of regimes in different environmental policy areas have been addressed but only recently [4044]. Yet, interlinkages of parallel policies and regimes within a horizontally and vertically segmented governance system in the same issue area have hardly been studied; there is a need to explore the consequences of divergent policies in global environmental governance and to analyze what sets of compatible or diverging norms and rules exist, how they predetermine the political opportunities for coordination, and of what response strategies policymakers could avail themselves. This research will also require better collaboration among distinct communities of researchers, especially those focusing on the international level and on international relations, and those concentrating on the national level and on comparative environmental politics [45,46].

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