Common‐Pool Resources and International Environmental Politics
Environmental Politics, Volume 5, Issue 3, 1996
Posted: 4 Aug 2012
Date Written: January 1, 1996
International Relations scholars have traditionally treated international environmental and resource issues as public‐goods problems. This characterisation is misleading. These issues are more accurately defined as common‐pool resource problems. The difference between the two is more than just semantic. It has profound theoretical and practical implications. At a minimum, the issue of scarcity makes common‐pool resource problems both more prone to conflict spirals and less prone to solution through institutional mechanisms designed to alleviate market failure than public‐goods problems. Recasting environmental problems as common‐pool resource problems is important two particular ways. First, it provides a more accurate description of these problems by focusing the researcher's and policy‐maker's attention on the political nature of these problems and their solutions. Distributional issues associated with the maintenance and consumption of environmental goods, unimportant in a pure public‐goods situation, are emphasised. Second, it highlights how the political dynamics of bargaining, problem recognition, and maintenance change as resource limits are recognised and goods formerly thought of as public are recognised as common‐pool.
Keywords: common pool resources, club goods, toll goods, environmental politics, environment
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