The authors use a comparative politics framework, examining electoral interests, policy-maker's own normative commitments, and domestic political institutions as factors influencing Annex 1 countries' decisions on Kyoto Protocol ratification and adoption of national policies to mitigate climate change. Economic costs and electoral interests matter a great deal, even when policy-makers are morally motivated to take action on climate change. Leaders' normative commitments may carry the day under centralized institutional conditions, but these commitments can be reversed when leaders change. Electoral systems, federalism, and executive-legislative institutional configurations all influence ratification decisions and subsequent policy adoption. Although institutional configurations may facilitate or hinder government action, high levels of voter concern can trump institutional obstacles. Governments' decisions to ratify, and the reduction targets they face upon ratification, do not necessarily determine their approach to carbon emissions abatement policies: for example, ratifying countries that accept demanding targets may fail to take significant action.
The European Union has played a leading role in pushing for the establishment, ratification, and meaningful implementation of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, although it still has significant efforts to make to achieve its target of an 8 percent cut of greenhouse gas by 2008–2012 relative to the 1990 level. This article explores the political factors behind continued EU leadership in climate change. It argues that a few individual states (including Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, and the UK) played an essential role in establishing the EU's agenda in this domain. However, the decentralized governance structure of the EU has also encouraged a process of mutual reinforcement, whereby individual states, the European Commission, and the European Parliament are competing for leadership.
On November 5, 2004, the Russian Federation ratified the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, effectively saving the treaty. Battling domestic interests, in which a majority of pro-Kyoto voices were countered by a small but powerful minority of Kyoto opponents, had little influence on the decision due to the centralized institutional environment in Russia which allows the President great autonomy in foreign policy. President Putin ratified the treaty because Russia would likely gain leverage in other international negotiations and contribute to an image of itself as a good member of the club of advanced industrialized states. He delayed ratification to clarify evidence about gains versus losses from Kyoto provisions and to secure concessions from other Kyoto ratifiers in other international negotiations. Existing implementation efforts are slow but indicate that Russia's strategy will emphasize maximizing profits through treaty mechanisms over maximizing emissions reductions.
In 2001, the Japanese government committed to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change against industry pressures and in spite of the US decision to withdraw from the agreement. This commitment was crucial for the survival of the protocol. Japan has subsequently introduced substantial—yet, mostly voluntary—measures. To explain the puzzle of Japan's ratification, this article builds upon the agenda-setting literature and advances the concept of embedded symbolism. During the 1990s, political leaders elevated climate change and the Kyoto Protocol to the level of a national symbol. Thus, although in 2001 successful implementation of the Kyoto target looked extremely difficult and industry opposition was strong, the symbolism of Kyoto backed by strong public support tipped the balance in favor of ratification.
In 2001, President George W. Bush confirmed that the US would not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Despite the US' withdrawal, its neighbor Canada chose to ratify the Kyoto Protocol the following year. The divergence of these two highly integrated countries is surprising, since Canada and the US accepted comparable commitments in the 1997 Kyoto negotiations, and both could expect the costs of compliance to be significant given the greenhouse-gas intensive nature of their economies. The divergence cannot be explained by politicians' electoral incentives since Canadian and US politicians alike faced strong business opposition and a relatively inattentive public. A strong normative commitment to international cooperation to protect the global commons was necessary to overcome political opposition to ratification, but still not sufficient. In particular, while both Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and US President Bill Clinton supported ratification, only Chrétien had the institutional capacity to deliver on his values.
While Australia has signed both the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, it has failed to ratify the latter. It is nevertheless committed to meeting its 18% Kyoto target for greenhouse gas emissions, and argues that it is on track to doing so. This paper examines Australia's non-ratification politics and greenhouse policy efforts in an attempt to explain its contrary position of resisting Kyoto, yet embracing and pursuing its emission reduction targets. Australia's behavior as a carbon-intensive nation is highly significant in the global context, and this paper focuses on the domestic factors of interests, ideas and institutions, while also considering international factors in trying to explain Australia's non-ratification of Kyoto and climate change policy development. It finds that while ideas and institutions have been modifying influences in the domestic context, political and economic interests have dominated Australia's greenhouse policy.