Domestic dynamics and international influence: What explains the passage of climate change legislation?

Working Paper 156


This paper analyses national and international factors that drive the adoption of legislation on climate change.

Our unique dataset of climate laws identifies 419 pieces of national legislation, policies and strategies addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation in 63 countries. We find that the passage of climate legislation is influenced by both domestic and international factors.

Domestically, climate legislation tends to be boosted by high-profile “flagship laws”, on which subsequent legislation is based. Climate legislation is a fairly bi-partisan affair. There is no significant difference in the number of laws passed by left-wing and right-wing governments, except perhaps in Anglo-Saxon countries. However, left-leaning governments are more inclined to pass broad, unifying flagship legislation. In terms of international factors, the propensity to legislate is heavily influenced by the passage of similar laws elsewhere, suggesting a strong role for peer pressure and/or learning effects. The prestige of hosting an international climate summit is also associated with a subsequent boost in legislation.

Legislators respond to the expectations of climate leadership that these events bestow on their host. The impact of the Kyoto Protocol is more equivocal, although there is some indication it has increased legislation in countries with formal obligations under the treaty.

Sam Fankhauser, Caterina Gennaioli and Murray Collins