Order Out of Chaos: Public and Private Rules for Managing Carbon

22 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 16 Aug 2011

See all articles by Jessica F. Green

Jessica F. Green

University of Toronto - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2011


This paper examines the complex interactions among public and private actors in the area of carbon measurement and management. I expand upon Keohane and Ostrom’s work on actor heterogeneity and collective action, analyzing the effects of including private actors in the institutional mix. Although there are many overlapping institutions for carbon management, there emerges an unexpected order out of the apparent chaos. I argue that uncertainty - about the quality of other privately-created rules, the fluid nature of carbon governance and the status of future regulation - is a key factor in the interactions among heterogeneous actors. When private actors are included in the mix, uncertainty about the future and others’ behavior leads to complex interactions among public and private actors, which produce two surprising results. First, the diversity of actors has given rise to healthy competition, producing robust sets of rules in the landscape of climate governance. Despite concerns about the “wild west” of carbon markets, the dynamic effects of interaction over time has produced clear leaders in the market. Second, the presence of many private standards concerned about future regulation has produced a degree of convergence among the myriad rules and standards. This convergence has reaffirmed the centrality of public authority, in spite of the undetermined future of intergovernmental rules. Even if Kyoto fails, the rules of the CDM will almost certainly live on through private standards. The effect of actor heterogeneity, then, is to reinforce the stature of public authority. These findings suggest that under conditions of uncertainty, private actors can contribute to a more cohesive set of rules and practices with respect to the measurement and reduction of GHG emissions - potentially a positive outcome for collective action.

Keywords: climate change, public goods, private governance

Suggested Citation

Green, Jessica F., Order Out of Chaos: Public and Private Rules for Managing Carbon (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1900243

Jessica F. Green (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Department of Political Science ( email )

Sidney Smith Hall
100 St George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G3

HOME PAGE: http://https://green.faculty.politics.utoronto.ca/

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