Working Group III: Mitigation

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10.2.8 Implementation and Compliance

Since SAR, political science analysis in the field of effectiveness and implementation of international environmental agreements has focused on the process of implementation. That is, how intent is translated into action to solve international environmental problems and what are the real effects of these efforts (Sand, 1992; Haas et al., 1993; Young, 1994, 1999; Brown Weiss and Jacobson, 1998; Victor et al., 1998). Analysts distinguish “implementation” and “compliance” (Chayes and Chayes, 1993, 1995; Mitchel, 1994; Jacobson and Brown Weiss, 1995; Cameron et al., 1996; Underdal, 1998; Victor et al., 1998; Brown Weiss, 1999). See Box 10.1. for the definition of political science terms.

Box 10.1. Definitions of Political Science Terms

Implementation refers to the actions (legislation or regulations, judicial decrees, or other actions) that governments take to translate international accords into domestic law and policy (Jacobson and Brown Weiss, 1995; Underdal, 1998; Brown Weiss, 1999). It includes those events and activities that occur after authoritative public policy directives have been issued, such as the effort to administer the substantive impacts on people and events (Mazmanian and Sabatier, 1983). It is important to distinguish between the legal implementation of international commitments (in national law) and the effective implementation (measures that induce changes in the behaviour of target groups; see Zürn, 1996).

Compliance is a matter of whether and to what extent countries do adhere to the provisions of the accord (Jacobson and Brown Weiss, 1995; Underdal, 1998). The concept of compliance includes implementation, but it is generally broader. Compliance focuses not only on whether implementing measures are in effect, but also on whether there is compliance with the implementing actions. Compliance measures the degree to which the actors whose behaviour is targetted by the agreement (whether they be local government units, corporations, organizations, or individuals) conform to the implementing measures and obligations (Brown Weiss, 1999).

Effectiveness measures the degree to which international environmental accords lead to changes of behaviour that help to solve environmental problems, that is the extent to which the commitment has actually influenced behaviour in a way that advances the goals that inspired the commitment (Victor et al., 1998).

Enforcement refers to the actions taken once violations occur. It is customarily associated with the availability of formal dispute settlement procedures and with penalties, sanctions, or other coercive measures to induce compliance with obligations. Enforcement is part of the compliance process (Brown Weiss, 1999).

Although compliance is an important matter for the outcome of an agreement, it has to be distinguished from the effectiveness of the accord (Underdal, 1998; Victor et al., 1998; Brown Weiss, 1999; Young, 1999). This refers to the extent to which the commitment actually influences behaviour in a way that advances the goals that inspired the commitment.

Discussions are underway on how to enforce international commitments, that is to make parties to the international treaties conform with their international obligations through application of various tools (penalties, sanctions, etc.). Some researchers argue that enforcement might be especially difficult in international systems and, thus, is often unlikely unless a party persistently fails to comply18. Besides, non-compliance is frequently the product of incomplete planning and miscalculation rather than a wilful act (Victor et al., 1998). Thus, enforcement is often contrasted to the management of non-compliance and implementation failures (non-compliance is a problem to be solved, not an action to be punished), which includes greater transparency, non-adversarial forms of dispute resolution, technical and economic assistance, persuasion, and negotiation (Haas et al., 1993; Chayes and Chayes, 1995; Sand, 1995; Downs et al., 1996; Zürn, 1996; Peterson, 1997; Victor et al., 1998; Vogel and Kessler, 1998). However, there are also good reasons to consider coercive “enforcement” techniques–in cases of severe violations they may be more effective. In this debate, standard solutions do not exist and a mixed approach seems to be reasonable.

The challenge today is how decisions regarding compliance and implementation of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol should be undertaken to make these international mechanisms more effective in solving the problems of both combatting global climate change and changes in the behaviour of the targets (Victor and Salt, 1995; O’Riordan and Jäger, 1996; O’Riordan, 1997; Soroos, 1997; Grubb et al., 1999). Two crucial aspects of decision-making regarding implementation of the international climate change regime are:

  • how national governments have translated international commitments into national rules and policies, and promote changes in behaviour of stakeholders; and
  • how international institutions have aided monitoring of implementation and compliance, adherence to commitments, and adjustment of international rules by the parties.

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