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The Political Economy of Weak Treaties

Marco Battaglini () and Bard Harstad

No 11713, CEPR Discussion Papers from C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers

Abstract: In recent decades, democratic countries have signed hundreds of international environmental agreements (IEAs). Most of these agreements, however, are weak: they generally do not include effective enforcement or monitoring mechanisms. This is a puzzle in standard economic models. To study this phenomenon, we propose a positive theory of IEAs in which the political incumbents negotiate them in the shadow of reelection concerns. We show that, in these environments, incumbents are prone to negotiate treaties that are simultaneously overambitious (larger than what they would be without electoral concerns) and weak (might not be implemented in full). The theory also provides a new perspective for understanding investments in green technologies, highlighting a channel through which countries are tempted to rely too much on technology instead of sanctions to make compliance credible. We present preliminary evidence consistent with these predictions.

Keywords: elections; environmental agreements; international agreements; political economy; sanctions; technology. (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 F55 Q58 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-agr, nep-env and nep-pol
Date: 2016-12
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