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Handbook of Global Environmental Politics

Edited by Peter Dauvergne

The first Handbook of original articles by leading scholars of global environmental politics, this landmark volume maps the latest theoretical and empirical research in this young and growing field. Captured here are the dynamic and energetic debates over concerns for the health of the planet and how they might best be addressed.
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Chapter 7: Effectiveness, Capacity Development and International Environmental Cooperation

Stacy D. VanDeveer


Stacy D. VanDeveer Issues associated with states’ capacities (or abilities) to meet their international environmental commitments are now ubiquitous in the practice and analysis of international environmental cooperation. The number and complexity of environmental ‘problems’ seems to be growing, even as the number of multilateral and bilateral environmental agreements also increases. By 2003, there were over 770 multilateral environmental agreements and at least 1200 bilateral ones.1 These numbers do not include the many additional voluntary international agreements such as joint declarations, action plans and suggested guidelines and standards. If international environmental agreements are to address seriously the environmental and/or social problems they identify, they must influence the behaviour of various agents, including states or state bodies, consumers, NGOs, firms and societies. Recent research on the implementation of international environmental commitments and the domestic effects or impacts of environmental multilateralism identifies various types of ‘capacity’ as a central factor explaining states’ compliance with, or implementation of, particular commitments (Haas et al., 1993; Keohane and Levy, 1996; Victor et al., 1998; Weiss and Jacobson, 1998; Schreurs and Economy, 1997; Miles et al., 2002; Mitchell, 2003). Such work often focuses on the capabilities of states, viewing these as intervening variables or background conditions that help to explain the domestic impacts of international institutions such as law, regimes and assistance programmes (VanDeveer and Dabelko, 2001). As the effectiveness of international environmental agreements and its relation to state capacities became the subject of increased analytical attention over the last ten to 15 years,...

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