International Agreements and Cooperation Design Considerations: Generally

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International agreements on climate change do not exist in isolation, but rather must interact with (and conform to) existing legal and regulatory regimes on the national and international levels.  Apart from contextualizing the agreement, the chief concern is setting ambitious but achievable targets.  Overly ambitious emission reduction targets will deter more parties from joining, while insufficiently ambitious targets will fail to curb the rise of global carbon emissions and will fail to prevent or forestall the consequences of climate change.  As such, achieving broad participation (and so preventing free riding) while making meaningful reductions is the key criteria of success.

Design issues include: (1) the differences between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ law, and whether and in what circumstances each is appropriate; (2) how the opinions, voting, and activism of citizens affects the behavior of their negotiators and politicians in international forums; (3) whether and to what extent smaller coalitions and networks (or other variations on an agreement’s scope) can be a replacement for an all-encompassing agreement; (4) how non-state actors can complement or even substitute for state-led action by providing greater flexibility; and (5) the importance and perception of reputations in the international context and how reputational effects might shape (and aid in the enforcement of) climate agreements.