The Fragmentation of Global Climate Governance

The Fragmentation of Global Climate Governance

Consequences and Management of Regime Interactions

New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series

Harro van Asselt

‘How do the different international institutions addressing climate change interact? What are the actual and potential synergies and conflicts? What are the most effective strategies to manage institutional interplay? Harro van Asselt’s expertise in both international law and international relations, as well as his intimate knowledge of the policy-making process, make him ideally equipped to address these fundamental questions. Based on detailed case studies, he provides a wide-ranging, lucid, and theoretically sophisticated study of climate change governance. Essential reading for international lawyers and international relations scholars alike.’ – Dan Bodansky, Arizona State University, US

Chapter 4: Types of regime interaction

Harro van Asselt

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental law, environmental politics and policy, law - academic, environmental law, international economic law, trade law, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, international relations


At the same time that fragmentation became a fashionable topic among international lawyers, international relations scholars started to acknowledge that regimes and institutions could not be studied in isolation. While traces of this realization date back to the 1970s, various research projects starting in the late 1990s put the issue of regime interaction high on the research agenda, especially in the area of global environmental governance. Rather than synthesizing this extensive body of research, I argue in this chapter that the starting points of the debates in international law and international relations are principally the same, and are founded on the increasing number of specialized regimes. In the context of international environmental law, Edith Brown Weiss has referred to this phenomenon as 'treaty congestion'. In international relations studies, the proliferation of regimes and international organizations has similarly been suggested to lead to a 'density of international regimes'. In this context, Kal Raustiala and David Victor introduced the notion of 'regime complexes', referring to 'an array of partially overlapping and non-hierarchical institutions governing a particular issue area', whereas Sebastian Oberthür and Olav Schram Stokke refer to 'institutional complexes' as 'two or more distinctive institutions that interact in their governance of the same activity, or aspects of the same activity, usually in a non-hierarchical manner'.

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