Research Portfolio Post #5: Research Puzzle Proposal

I am studying global climate initiatives because I want to find out what explains the variation in implementation of these initiatives in order to help my reader understand whether or not international action to combat climate change is effective and how solutions can be crafted to create equality in burden sharing and make significant environmental progress. With the rising threat of climate change comes a need for research on what can be done to make a change, which can hopefully be achieved through global, transnational cooperation. Through an analysis of international climate policies, looking at why some fail in their implementation, one can determine what can lead to more effective policies and hopefully positive environmental change. In my research, I have found discrepancies in how countries do their part to combat climate change after signing international environmental initiatives, and I would like to find out what countries follow through more than others and why, what these countries have in common, and what factors might be able to be used to predict a countries likelihood to implement these agreements.[1]

In the United Nations Paris Agreement from 2015, it reads “developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets.”[2] But, upon further research, I found that many developed countries’ voluntary pledges are not significant enough to hold off a 2 degree Celsius temperature rise, which is the goal of the Paris Agreement.[3] Even though the Paris Agreement has not seen significant success thus far, the Kyoto Protocol on the other hand, has been found to be successful in the reducing of certain greenhouse gas emissions, like carbon dioxide and methane, even without the participation of countries considered to be significant emitters, like the United States.[4] This points to the puzzle of why certain countries chose to participate in some climate agreements but not others, and why some are more effective than others.

As for scholarship on this topic, because some climate initiatives are more recent, there is not much discussion on the actual results of these policies, like the Paris Agreement which has yet to have its session to check on the status of its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).[5] Some scholars debate the effectiveness of certain mechanisms that exist in international environmental policy, such as Edwin Woerdman who argues that the joint implementation and the clean development mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol are more likely to result in success than emissions trading mechanisms.[6] Some scholars have published secondary source articles that connect data sets to international climate policy to look at the effectiveness of said policy, like Hiroki Iwata and Keisuke Okada in their article “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Role of the Kyoto Protocol”. This article shows the effects of the Kyoto Protocol from its adoption in 1997 through its initial commitment period ending in 2012 by comparing the emissions of various greenhouse gases. This basis of knowledge provides a basic understanding of the initial outcomes of the Kyoto Protocol, allowing me to see its successes and shortcomings.

On a smaller scale, as discussed by Jon Skjærseth in his article entitled, “Linking EU Climate and Energy Policies,” in 2008 the European Union adopted a climate and energy policy package with unanimous support of all member states, but by 2014, many of the Eastern European countries were questioning the initiative.[7] Some contribute this change in stance to the linkage of both climate and energy into one agreement, while others contribute it to economic struggles in Eastern Europe.[8] There are contradictions to each of these assumptions, for example, Poland became weary of the agreement, but still supported the energy policies and experienced economic growth at the time.[9] This points to a deeper puzzle, looking at why exactly implementation and viewpoints of these environmental policies varied. Skjærseth’s article establishes a good base for understanding the structure of transnational climate policy and how it is formulated, and also points to reasons as to why climate policy fails which can be used to analyze international environmental policy.

Through analysis of primary sources like the UN Paris Agreement and data sets like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Air and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions data, one can compare the conditions of the agreement and the data that describes what changes have actually been implemented and reach conclusions as to the effectiveness of that policy. In my research, I plan to further analyze many primary sources, such as the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, and the UNFCCC framework in order to gain a deeper understanding of international climate policy and the similarities and differences between existing policies.

  • What explains the varied implementation of global climate initiatives?
  • Why do primarily Islamic countries’ emissions continue to rise significantly even after signing and adopting global climate initiatives?[10]

[1] Wolfgang Obergassel et al., “Paris Agreement: Ship Moves Out of the Drydock,” Carbon & Climate Law Review 13, no. 1 (January 2019): 3, https://doi.org/10.21552/cclr/2019/1/4.

[2] “Paris Agreement,” United Nations, General Assembly. (Paris, France: October 2016), 4.

[3] Ibid, 3. See also OECD. “Air and GHG Emissions Indicator,” OECD Data, (Accessed: 29 September 2019).

[4] Hiroki Iwata and Keisuke Okada, “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Role of the Kyoto Protocol,” Environmental Economics & Policy Studies 16, no. 4 (October 2014): 338, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10018-012-0047-1. See also “Kyoto Protocol,” United Nations, General Assembly. (Kyoto, Japan: 1997), 3.

[5] Wolfang Obergassel et al., “Paris Agreement: Ship Moves Out of the Drydock,” 3.

[6] Edwin Woerdman, “Implementing the Kyoto Protocol: Why JI and CDM Show More Promise than International Emissions Trading,” Energy Policy 28, no. 1 (January 2000): 29–38, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0301-4215(99)00094-4.

[7] Jon Skjærseth, “Linking EU Climate and Energy Policies: Policy-Making, Implementation and Reform,” International Environmental Agreements : Politics, Law and Economics 16, no. 4 (2016): 510, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10784-014-9262-5.

[8] Skjærseth, “Linking EU Climate and Energy Policies”, 511.

[9] Ibid, 510.

[10] OECD. “Air and GHG Emissions Indicator”.

One thought on “Research Portfolio Post #5: Research Puzzle Proposal”

  1. Carly — you provide a good overview of your broad topic area here. Throughout the post there is a bit of slippage on what the overall phenomenon is that you are aiming to explain here (is it variation in implementation, in participation, or in efficacy?) so this is something to think about as you continue your research into the topic area and work on refining the puzzle. As you do this, make sure to keep focusing on the different types of explanations that scholars have offered for the phenomenon that you propose to explain, and keep collecting primary source data that demonstrates the concrete existence of the puzzle in the world.

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