Institutional strength, intergovernmental relations, and national climate policy coordination: Australia and Canada compared

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The nature of climate change is such that no one state can solve the problem by itself, nor is any one state likely to incur the costs of emission mitigation without some assurance of comparable action by others (Olson 1965; Hardin 1968). This same dynamic is replicated in federal states: How can one attain joint objectives and coordinated actions from autonomous yet interdependent jurisdictions in the face of considerable incentives to defect? As of 2013, Canada has been unable to reach agreement on national objectives, policy mechanisms, or the allocation of costs between sources and Canadian provinces and has relied instead on uncoordinated, unilateral actions by the federal government and provinces. By contrast, in 2011 Australian jurisdictions agreed upon a coordinated plan, including national strategies and objectives on renewable energy, energy efficiency, adaptation and mitigation. How do we explain Australian success in achieving coordination, in contrast to Canadian failure over the same time period? While differences in political culture, geography, political economy and political leadership no doubt play a part, we suggest that the institutions of intergovernmental relations (IGR) in each country have had a significant effect on efforts to coordinate. Our objective is to explore whether there are meaningful differences in the institutions of IGR that create permissive or constraining conditions in these two countries.

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... Australia ratified the Kyoto Protocol only because it was granted a very weak mitigation target that allowed it to de facto increase its emissions (see (accessed 18 January 2015)). For the positive effects of federalism in Canada, see Rabe (2007), and for Canada and Australia, see Gordon and Macdonald (2014). 4 For more details on the Austrian case, see Steurer and Clar (2015), for Switzerland see Casado-Asensio and Steurer (2016b introduced jointly negotiated, goal-oriented federalcantonal contracts (called "convention programmes") that usually foresee co-financing (Fischer et al., 2010). ...
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The present paper analyses and compares how federalism in Austria and Switzerland affected climate change mitigation in the fully decentralized building sectors of the two countries during the Kyoto Period (1990–2012). This is of interest because the environmental significance of federal political systems is still contested. We first review the literature on federalism in the context of environmental and climate policymaking, and we show that the effects of federal political systems can be positive or negative (depending on interactions between politics and problem characteristics). We then summarize the two qualitative country studies. By analysing who initiated and coordinated respective policies at what time and why, we show that respective policy changes neither emerged bottom‐up nor diffused between provinces/cantons, although the latter are fully responsible for building policies. While most policy changes were triggered by federal and/or European Union interventions, the provinces/cantons usually delayed and/or watered down policy changes to smallest common denominator solutions. Based on these findings we conclude that the building sectors of the two countries became more efficient despite, not because of federalism. Against this background we recommend centralizing building policies, or to engage sub‐national actors in national target‐setting early on.
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When policy scholars assess the effects of federalism on climate change mitigation, they often look at countries that rejected binding commitments (in particular, the USA) and find that federalism enabled sub-national entities to partly fill national regulatory voids. In accordance with a similar case study on Austria, we find the exact opposite for Switzerland, a country that committed itself to an 8 % cut in 1990 greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. To reveal the detrimental effects of federalism, we focus our case study on the integration of climate change concerns into building policies, a policy field fully in the hands of Swiss sub-national authorities known as cantons. Apart from a few pioneer cantons, we found mainly federal departments concerned with integrating climate change mitigation into cantonal building policies and cantonal as well as federal actors struggling with the numerous pitfalls of Swiss federalism in their own ways. On the one hand, various federal departments tried repeatedly to facilitate a nationwide greening of cantonal building policies, and their interventions often resulted in lowest common denominator solutions that were difficult to improve once in place. On the other hand, Swiss federalism gave a few pioneer cantons the freedom to green their building policies early on, but their policies hardly diffused to other cantons. Resembling our main finding of the Austrian case study, we conclude that the 15 % emission decline in the Swiss building sector during 2008–2012 compared to 1990 levels happened despite, not because of Swiss federalism. This warrants caution against high hopes in assuming that decentralised or polycentric governance can fully compensate for failed national (or international) climate policies.
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In theory, lower-level governments (provinces, regional governments, or member states) operating in multilevel systems within and beyond the nation-state can choose from a wide repertoire of modes of policy coordination to solve collective problems non-hierarchically. These modes range from unilateral policy emulation over informal intergovernmental agreements to binding interstate law. The modes that governments are willing and capable to use, however, vary considerably across multilevel systems which affects governments’ collective problem-solving capacity. This paper argues that the nature of executive–legislative relations in lower-level governments is crucial to account for this variation. The presence (or absence) of power sharing shapes the willingness of lower-level governments to enter agreements that greatly constrain individual government autonomy. Power-concentrating governments, as opposed to power-sharing ones, tend to avoid such agreements. The type of power sharing affects the capacity to enter agreements that require legislative approval. Compulsory power-sharing governments, as opposed to voluntary power-sharing governments, should find it difficult to enter such agreements, since this type of power sharing invites inter-branch divides. To substantiate these arguments, we apply them to Canada, Switzerland, the United States, and the European Union.
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Compared to early expectations, the process of European integration has resulted in a paradox: frustration without disintegration and resilience without progress. The article attempts to develop an institutional explanation for this paradox by exploring the similarities between joint decision making (‘Politikverflechtung’) in German federalism and decision making in the European Community. In both cases, it is argued, the fact that member governments are directly participating in central decisions, and that there is a de facto requirement of unanimous decisions, will systematically generate sub-optimal policy outcomes unless a ‘problem-solving’ (as opposed to a ‘bargaining’) style of decision making can be maintained. In fact, the ‘bargaining’ style has prevailed in both cases. The resulting pathologies of public policy have, however, not resulted either in successful strategies for the further Europeanization of policy responsibilities or in the disintegration of unsatisfactory joint-decision systems. This ‘joint-decision trap’ is explained by reference to the utility functions of member governments for whom present institutional arrangements, in spite of their sub-optimal policy output, seem to represent ‘local optima’ when compared to either greater centralization or disintegration.
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While Australia has signed both the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, it has failed to ratify the latter. It is nevertheless committed to meeting its +8% Kyoto target for greenhouse gas emissions, and argues that it is on track to doing so. This paper examines Australia's non-ratification politics and greenhouse policy efforts in an attempt to explain its contrary position of resisting Kyoto, yet embracing and pursuing its emission reduction targets. Australia's behavior as a carbon-intensive nation is highly significant in the global context, and this paper focuses on the domestic factors of interests, ideas and institutions, while also considering international factors in trying to explain Australia's non-ratification of Kyoto and climate change policy development. It finds that while ideas and institutions have been modifying influences in the domestic context, political and economic interests have dominated Australia's greenhouse policy. (c) 2007 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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The authors use a comparative politics framework, examining electoral interests, policy-maker's own normative commitments, and domestic political institutions as factors influencing Annex 1 countries' decisions on Kyoto Protocol ratification and adoption of national policies to mitigate climate change. Economic costs and electoral interests matter a great deal, even when policy-makers are morally motivated to take action on climate change. Leaders' normative commitments may carry the day under centralized institutional conditions, but these commitments can be reversed when leaders change. Electoral systems, federalism, and executive-legislative institutional configurations all influence ratification decisions and subsequent policy adoption. Although institutional configurations may facilitate or hinder government action, high levels of voter concern can trump institutional obstacles. Governments' decisions to ratify, and the reduction targets they face upon ratification, do not necessarily determine their approach to carbon emissions abatement policies: for example, ratifying countries that accept demanding targets may fail to take significant action. (c) 2007 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Back in Print. Winner of the Martha Derthick Best Book Award from the Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations Section of the American Political Science Asscociation. Federal-provincial negotiation is a central feature of Canadian policy making, however much of this process takes place outside public view and goes unreported in the press. In Federal-ProvincialDiplomacy, Richard Simeon uncovers the mechanisms behind the policy negotiations taking place amongst Canada’s political leaders and bureaucrats. Simeon undertakes case studies exploring the creation of the Canadian and Quebec Pension Plan, the negotiations around financial and educational policies, and the early steps of putting together a new constitution. He then goes on to form a framework adapted from the literature of bargaining in international relations.First published in 1972 and reprinted in 1973, Federal-Provincial Diplomacy has become a classic of Canadian policy studies with an influence stretching far beyond Canada’s borders. Its importance was confirmed in 2005 when it was awarded the American Political Science Association’s prestigious Martha Derthick Award for the best book in federalism and intergovernmental relations published at least ten years earlier. Featuring a new afterword, Simeon’s work lives again for a new generation of policy analysts and students of federalism to enjoy and ponder.
Over the past decades, governments have increasingly been confronted with problems that transcend their boundaries. A multitude of policy fields are affected, including environment, trade and security. Responding to the challenges triggered by Europeanization and globalization, governments increasingly interact across different spheres of authority. Both theoretically and empirically, the puzzle of institutional choice reflected by the variety of arrangements in which intergovernmental cooperation takes place inside individual countries and across their borders remains surprisingly under-explored. In an attempt to solve this puzzle, the book tackles the following questions: Why are the intergovernmental arrangements governments set up to deal with boundary-crossing problems so different? To what extent do these institutional differences affect the effectiveness of intergovernmental cooperation? To address this gap theoretically and empirically, this book adopts a deductive, rationalist approach on institution-building. It argues that internal politics, the type of executive-legislative relations within the interacting governments, explains the nature of institutions set up to channel intergovernmental processes: while power-sharing governments engage in institution-building, power-concentrating governments avoid it. It also shows that these institutional choices matter for the output of intergovernmental cooperation. The approach is applied to Canada, Switzerland, the United States and finally the European Union. Disaggregating individual government units, the theoretical approach reveals how intragovernmental micro-incentives drive macro-dynamics and thereby addresses the neglect of horizontal dynamics in multilevel systems. The willingness and capacity of lower-level governments to solve collective problems on their own and to oppose central encroachment are crucial to understand the power distribution in different systems and their long-term evolutions.
The international climate regime, primarily designed to limit the emissions of pollutants causing global warming, has failed. Why has international cooperation to combat global warming been so difficult, and what factors must change to improve the situation - assuming it is even possible? Using Mancur Olson's classical theory of collective action, this article endeavors to explain the failure of the climate regime. Other international environmental agreements and the associated regimes, such as the Mediterranean Action Plan and the Montreal Protocol on ozone depletion, demonstrate that collective action to address international environmental problems is possible. Both agreements contain the ingredients that classical theory suggests are necessary to achieve collective action. But the flipside of collective action theory - that collective action in larger groups is very difficult or unlikely - can also apply to international agreements and action on climate change. Despite the Mediterranean and Montreal successes, relatively speaking, and in spite of so much effort over two decades to create an effective climate regime, it is by no means apparent that the elements for success will exist for the foreseeable future. We should expect a continued muddling along that may, at best, reduce slightly - but not reverse - global warming at some point in the relatively distant future. Climate change is with us to stay.
This article investigates Australia's economic success since the 1990s. As this was set in motion by fundamental political reforms, it asks to what extent Australian-type federalism has been an important factor in the reform process. By using two approaches - the market-preserving federalism approach of Weingast, which stresses the virtues of ‘limited government’, decentralisation and competition together with the intergovernmental coordination approach of Scharpf which argues for a ‘problem-solving’ orientation of territorial actors -, the structure of Australian federalism, changes in the working of the federal system in the 1990s, and effects on policy-making are scrutinised. The article demonstrates that a particular combination of a rather centralised federal structure and a particular type of intergovernmental coordination, i.e. collaboration, supplemented by the strong influence of new public management ideas, has been conducive to political reforms in Australia. This suggests that a decentralised and competitive version of federalism, as defended by Weingast, is not a necessary condition for embarking on a successful reform path in federal countries. In future research, both approaches or analytical dimensions should be used in order to better understand the relationship of intergovernmental relations and policy reforms.
“Executive federalism” or “federal-provincial diplomacy” has long been considered the defining characteristic of Canadian federalism, which combines federalism and Westminster-style cabinet government. However, these processes have come under increasing stress in recent years from a number of forces that have affected the nature and conduct of federalism and intergovernmental relations in Canada. Executive federalism has not been displaced, but has been increasingly informed by a set of practices that we call “collaborative federalism,” characterized more by the principle of co-determination of broad national policies rather than by the more traditional pattern of federal-leadership. Copyright 2002, Oxford University Press.
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This article looks at recent changes in political-administrative relationships in the intergovernmental arenas of the Australian federal political system. Some of the major structural tensions in these arenas of multi-level governance are identified, and some of the main problem areas for the conduct of effective problem solving are highlighted. Changes in some of these structural elements are considered to be a result of greater entanglement and closer collaboration between state and commonwealth governments, and three possible explanatory models for understanding the changes are considered. These changes are set in a context of wider administrative reforms in the constituent state and commonwealth governments. Two case studies are also given, each drawn from data collected as part of an ongoing research project on intergovernmental relations. The article concludes with a review of the explanatory power of the models of change, and a brief comment on the evolving character of multi-level governance in the federation.
The governance of natural resources used by many individuals in common is an issue of increasing concern to policy analysts. Both state control and privatization of resources have been advocated, but neither the state nor the market have been uniformly successful in solving common pool resource problems. After critiquing the foundations of policy analysis as applied to natural resources, Elinor Ostrom here provides a unique body of empirical data to explore conditions under which common pool resource problems have been satisfactorily or unsatisfactorily solved. Dr Ostrom uses institutional analysis to explore different ways - both successful and unsuccessful - of governing the commons. In contrast to the proposition of the 'tragedy of the commons' argument, common pool problems sometimes are solved by voluntary organizations rather than by a coercive state. Among the cases considered are communal tenure in meadows and forests, irrigation communities and other water rights, and fisheries.
Intergovernmental arrangements in federal systems are important instruments to co-ordinate policy making between subnational governments. We argue that the capacity of these arrangements to guide government behaviour is shaped by the arrangements' institutionalization, which is affected by the programmatic differences between the governmental parties embedded in them. This paper presents first a measure of government congruence, which captures the programmatic differences between subnational governments. Secondly, it explores the impact of government congruence on intergovernmental arrangements' institutionalization across six countries.
From recent debates about the performance of the Canadian federal system, two images of processes of intergovernmental relations can be extracted: a “competitive” and a “collaborative” image. Differing propositions about the effects on processes and outcomes of the framework of rules and institutions of intergovernmental relations are embodied in these contrasting images. Elinor Ostrom's framework for institutional analysis is applied to the investigation of these effects. Using Fritz Scharpf's analysis of the “pathological” effects of a specific set of collaborative arrangements in West Germany as points of departure and contrast, the working rules underlying Canadian intergovernmental relations are elaborated. The author concludes that a competitive dynamic underpins a high degree of flexibility in these arrangements. Proposals to implement a more collaborative set of arrangements through constitutional reform are critically evaluated in this light, and the author makes suggestions about the course constitutional reform might take following the failure to adopt the Meech Lake Accord.
In October 2006, state premiers and territory chief ministers gathered in Melbourne for the first meeting of the Council for the Australian Federation (CAF). This little-heralded event marked the beginning of the first formalised structure for state and territory only collaboration since Federation. This article describes the genesis and creation of this new structural response to ongoing state concerns about the trend to an increasingly centralised pattern of Commonwealth-state relations. It identifies the intended functions of the Council, which include: acting as a mechanism for coordinating approaches to negotiations with the Commonwealth; operating as a clearing house for policy ideas in Australia and internationally; harmonising regulatory frameworks; and developing improvements to service delivery in areas of state responsibility. Informed by interviews with key players involved with its establishment and documentary sources, this article assesses CAF's performance during its first 18 months of operation. It explores the hopes and aspirations of key CAF stakeholders, and some of the issues that have confronted the fledgling organisation. Personnel changes among the cohort of state and territory leaders, and the election of a federal Labor government in November 2007 have altered the dynamics of CAF. The article argues that CAF's emergence is an attempt by sub-national governments to develop new capacity and leverage to address the asymmetries that characterise contemporary Australian federalism. However, there are questions about CAF's future, particularly about state and territory governments' capacity to pursue collaborative agendas given the pace and scope of Kevin Rudd's ‘new federalism’ reforms and the demands it is placing on their policy and administrative systems.
This article is about diffusion processes behind the innovation of sub-national energy policy measures in a federal system. Typically for the federal political system in Switzerland, the elements of the energy policy field are shaped by the principle of subsidiarity. The aim is that cantons promote innovative problem solutions and regionally adapted implementation. For this reason, policy differences between cantons are large and create a need for coordination. More concretely, I will analyze the impact of inter-cantonal institutions on different innovations in the field of energy policy. The research question is approached with an event history analysis on three different innovative measures in the Swiss cantons from 1990 to 2007. A more comprehensive picture of diffusion in one policy field is drawn with this approach. The main contribution of this paper is the finding that intergovernmental institutions promote diffusion in one policy field only for measures with certain characteristics. The internal determinants are therefore not a sufficient explanation.
The study of comparative federalism is often hampered by the diverse range of federal institutional arrangements in practice, as well as the ambiguity surrounding the concept of federalism. This article identifies three main conceptual approaches to federalism – sociological, constitutional, and governmental – then proposes a revised governmental approach that takes account of the institutional effects of federalism, for application in comparative politics research. Minimally defined, all federations are products of institutional rules that create separate territorial spheres of authority. This article compares Canada, the United States, Australia, Austria, Germany and Switzerland along two key institutional dimensions that structure politics in the federal state: resource allocation, and the representation of constituent units in federal-level decision-making.
"Technology is not the answer to the population problem. Rather, what is needed is 'mutual coercion mutually agreed upon'--everyone voluntarily giving up the freedom to breed without limit. If we all have an equal right to many 'commons' provided by nature and by the activities of modern governments, then by breeding freely we behave as do herders sharing a common pasture. Each herder acts rationally by adding yet one more beast to his/her herd, because each gains all the profit from that addition, while bearing only a fraction of its costs in overgrazing, which are shared by all the users. The logic of the system compels all herders to increase their herds without limit, with the 'tragic,' i.e. 'inevitable,' 'inescapable' result: ruin the commons. Appealing to individual conscience to exercise restraint in the use of social-welfare or natural commons is likewise self-defeating: the conscientious will restrict use (reproduction), the heedless will continue using (reproducing), and gradually but inevitably the selfish will out-compete the responsible. Temperance can be best accomplished through administrative law, and a 'great to invent the corrective keep custodians honest.'"
Estudio sobre la forma cómo es organizado el gobierno central de Canadá, cómo apoya a la cabeza del régimen canadiense -el primer ministro- y los modos de ejercicio del poder político desde Ottawa, la capital del país. El autor describe las formas y las razones por las que trabaja de cierta manera el gobierno central con objeto de explicar cómo las decisiones y políticas nacionales son definidas desde Ottawa. Para el autor, la capital define y conforma las políticas, decisiones y operaciones gubernamentales y relaciones federales-provinciales con alcances mucho mayores de los que generalmente cree la población canadiense.
The article explores the nature of Australian federalism by examining four major themes in the period from Hawke to Howard. The investigation of these themes – Australian conceptions of federalism; the role of party in shaping federalism; the way problems and politics have influenced policy-making and thereby federalism; and the nature of federal judicial review – suggests that Australian federalism can most accurately be characterised as pragmatic. It appears as a federalism shaped by pressing problems, specific policy agendas and the prevailing political dynamic, rather than by overarching conceptions of federalism derived from political theory or articulated in party ideology. This pragmatic federalism explains important aspects of Australian federalism, especially the trend towards centralisation of authority. Yes Yes
In 2001, President George W. Bush confirmed that the US would not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Despite the US' withdrawal, its neighbor Canada chose to ratify the Kyoto Protocol the following year. The divergence of these two highly integrated countries is surprising, since Canada and the US accepted comparable commitments in the 1997 Kyoto negotiations, and both could expect the costs of compliance to be significant given the greenhouse-gas intensive nature of their economies. The divergence cannot be explained by politicians' electoral incentives since Canadian and US politicians alike faced strong business opposition and a relatively inattentive public. A strong normative commitment to international cooperation to protect the global commons was necessary to overcome political opposition to ratification, but still not sufficient. In particular, while both Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and US President Bill Clinton supported ratification, only Chrétien had the institutional capacity to deliver on his values. (c) 2007 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The debate on institutional reform of international environmental policy-making has gained momentum. This article discusses whether the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) should be replaced with a stronger world environment organization. First, it outlines different models of a world environment organization. It argues that the best option for the next decade would be to upgrade UNEP to a full-fledged international organization while maintaining the current system of decentralized, issue-specific international environmental regimes. In the long run, however, a world environment organization should lead to a closer integration and coordination of the myriad environmental treaties in the same manner in which the World Trade Organization has integrated the major trade agreements. Second, the article comments on the writings of both advocates and opponents of a world environment organization, with a focus on the contributions to this inaugural issue of Global Environmental Politics. Copyright (c) 2001 Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Australian Intergovernmental Relations and the National Emissions Trading Scheme
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Exploring Federalism
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Provincial Power Play: Breaking Away from Federal Inaction on Climate Change
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Four Biggest States Rebuffed on Carbon Tax Compensation
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The Weakest Link? First Ministers Conferences in Canadian Intergovernmental Relations
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COAG's Love-in All Over Now
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Parliamentary Canada and Intergovernmental Canada: Exploring the Tensions
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Rudd cools on Carbon Targets
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