A Strong Institutional Climate: Regional Trade Networks and Climate Action
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Climate change has been described as a malign, wicked, and super wicked problem. I focus on key characteristics that make international collective action challenging: asymmetry, fear of free riding, scientific uncertainty, and inherent interdependencies. I argue that an institution designed to tackle such a complex problem requires a key set of features: leadership, linkage, quality information, differentiated obligations, monitoring/enforcement, transparency, and flexibility. I assess the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Kyoto Protocol to determine what aspects are missing. I then ask why the European Union (EU), with incentives to the contrary, set broad unilateral goals. I argue that the framework of political and economic integration made deep cooperation possible. Lastly, I consider whether this experience is specific to the EU and ask whether regional trade networks have a role in the global arsenal of climate change solutions.