Regulatory Unilateralism: Arguments for Going It Alone on Climate Change

Global Policy, 2016 (online)

RegNet Research Paper No. 2016/114

20 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2016  

Peter Drahos

Australian National University (ANU) - Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS); Queen Mary University of London, School of Law; School of Regulation & Global Governance (RegNet)

Christian Downie

University of New South Wales; RegNet

Date Written: August 18, 2016

Abstract

Climate change is a collective action problem that has often been analysed as a Prisoner’s Dilemma. States have an incentive to free ride on the efforts of others. Yet around the globe national and sub-national governments are introducing regulatory measures to reduce emissions that can be fairly characterised as unilateral actions. The US and China, the world’s two largest emitters, are at the forefront. Indeed the evidence of states beginning to depart from business-as-usual behaviour raises the possibility that the characterizations of climate change as a Prisoner’s Dilemma may apply less strongly to the problem and that something else may be starting to happen. Accordingly, this paper considers:

(i) to what extent nations are taking unilateral action to address climate change; and

(ii) in the context of climate change, which is considered one of the greatest global collective action problems the world has faced, what are the possible economic explanations for nations to act in a unilateral fashion and what are the normative reasons for doing so.

We justify regulatory unilateralism on economic, geopolitical and moral grounds, and argue that regulatory unilateralism may offer the best hope of triggering a race to cut emissions. A race rather than prolonged negotiations is what is required at this moment in climate history.

Keywords: climate change, emissions reduction, regulatory measures, collective action, regulatory unilateralism

JEL Classification: K29, K32

Suggested Citation

Drahos, Peter and Downie, Christian, Regulatory Unilateralism: Arguments for Going It Alone on Climate Change (August 18, 2016). Global Policy, 2016 (online); RegNet Research Paper No. 2016/114. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2825777

Peter Drahos (Contact Author)

Australian National University (ANU) - Research School of Social Sciences (RSSS) ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200
Australia

Queen Mary University of London, School of Law

67-69 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
London, WC2A 3JB
United Kingdom

School of Regulation & Global Governance (RegNet) ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200
Australia

Christian Downie

University of New South Wales ( email )

Sydney, NSW 2052
Australia
+61 (2) 9385 0571 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.christiandownie.com

RegNet ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200
Australia

HOME PAGE: http://www.christiandownie.com

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