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Drivers of national climate policy

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Patterns of national climate policy performance and their implications for the geopolitics of climate change are examined. An overview of levels of emissions performance across countries is first provided. Substantial changes in emissions trends over time are documented, notably with GHG emissions trajectories, which are shaped less and less by the developed/developing country divide. Various patterns of policy convergence and divergence in the types of policies states implement are then surveyed. Four broad types of explanation that may account for these trends are then explored: (1) variation in the institutional form of country-level governance regimes, (2) patterns of dependence on fossil fuel energy, (3) broad systemic differences among states (specifically in their population densities, carbon intensity, and per capita incomes, and (4) variations in the traditions of economic intervention by states. The article contributes to the growing body of work on comparative climate policy, and provides a first attempt at exploring the comparative politics of instrument choice. The analysis challenges the continued importance of a North–South divide for the future of climate policy, thus reinforcing a sense of the ‘new geopolitics’ of climate change. Some of the implications of the analysis for debates about the form of future international agreement on mitigation policy are also explored.
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