restricted access Toward Effective International Cooperation on Climate Change: Numbers, Interests and Institutions

Arild Underdal's "law of the least ambitious program" is properly pessimistic about the prospects for cooperation in the international system where nations must give their consent to be bound by meaningful commitments. Those pessimistic expectations are now being revealed in the collective efforts to address the problem of climate change, notably through the Kyoto Protocol. Overcoming Underdal's law requires narrowing the numbers of countries that participate in key climate agreements and tailoring membership so that just the most important countries are engaged and there are strong incentives to avoid defection. At the same time, the effectiveness of cooperative efforts would gain from fuller use of nonbinding instruments, review procedures and high level conferences—as were put to effective use in the North Sea cooperation, for example—in addition to legally binding international law through instruments such as the Kyoto Protocol. Sadly, most of the conventional wisdom runs the opposite direction, favoring binding treaties among large numbers of countries.