International Organizations, Environmental Cooperation, and Regime Theory
Paul D' Anieri
The imposing scope of environmental problems facing the world has provoked wide debate on what, if any, remedies are possible. One policy that seems obvious to many is that international cooperation to protect the environment must increase. While some environmental issues are localized, some of the most pressing are international "tragedies of the commons," requiring international cooperation for their resolution.
There is significant disagreement, however, on what the scope of such cooperation should, and will, be. Some argue that the conventional piecemeal approach taken to cooperation in arms control and trade simply will not work on the environment. On environmental issues, they contend, the complexity of the problems and solutions requires that states cede some sovereignty to international regulatory bodies, rather than negotiate new treaties for every new issue ( Chayes and Chayes, 1991; Prins, 1990).
Thus it seems that the nature of environmental problems will make international organizations more necessary for their solution than for other problems. If so, we can expect that states pursuing their self-interest will have a greater demand for international organizations (IOs) than in the past, and that IOs will play a larger role in the solution of environmental problems than they have in arms control and trade, the areas most focused on in the past.
Such expectations are debatable. In particular, one can argue that because environmental issues are less conflictual than trade and especially arms negotiations, less formal arrangements will be needed to create and maintain cooperation in this area. Indeed, some would argue that many environmental issues are problems of coordination rather than cooperation, 1 and are therefore more easily solved without formal institutions ( Young, 1989b:ch. 2).
This difference in views raises the question: what roles are international organizations likely to play in the future of international environmental cooperation? I investigate this question first from the perspective of mainstream