A recent study by Durham University Business School has found that regionally-focused environmental agreements are two and a half times more likely to be ratified than globally-focused ones. The research was conducted by Dr. Francesco Bellelli as part of his Ph.D. thesis in Economics, under the supervision of Professor Riccardo Scarpa and Associate Professor Ashar Aftab. The study explored the determinants of countries’ participation in environmental international agreements, with a special focus on lobbying and regional agreements.
The research used data from 263 multilateral environmental agreements and 198 countries between 1950 and 2017, and identified the potential ratifiers for each agreement. The findings revealed that regional agreements are more likely to tackle the challenges that the world faces, whereas global agreements risk alienating particular countries, potentially limiting the targets pursued in the agreements and therefore less effectively tackling key environmental challenges.
The results also showed that the probability of ratification decreases over time, being at its highest during the first three years since the initial agreement and decreasing quickly after five years. Symbolic ratifications by big players are most effective in the early stages of the agreement, in helping to encourage progress/change.
The researchers believe these findings offer novel insights to policymakers on the most effective ways to expand countries’ participation in tackling environmental challenges. Local, regional partnerships, though smaller, can generate greater commitment and overall success rate, in a shorter period of time.
The research also found that environmental lobbying positively affects countries’ participation in environmental agreements, while the effect of industrial lobbying is statistically insignificant. This suggests that civil society organizations, rather than business interest groups, can have a positive impact on countries’ environmental commitments.
“Whether it is air pollution, global warming, biodiversity loss or deforestation, most environment-related challenges cross national borders and simultaneously affect several nations – that is why international cooperation is required to solve some of the most severe environmental problems of our times,” says Professor Scarpa.
The findings suggest that regional treaties could be an effective tool for solving environmental issues because they can more easily engage small groups of countries in action. On the contrary, the negotiation of global agreements requires finding a compromise among many nations, which could end up penalising participation in the agreement or hindering its environmental effectiveness.
The research highlights the importance of international cooperation in tackling global environmental challenges. With many of these challenges crossing national borders and affecting several nations simultaneously, effective collaboration is key. The research suggests that regional agreements can be an effective tool for engaging small groups of countries in action, with greater commitment and overall success rates.
These findings offer valuable insights to policymakers and civil society organizations on how to effectively tackle environmental challenges. The study shows that civil society organizations can play an important role in promoting countries’ environmental commitments, while business interest groups have a statistically insignificant impact.