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Voluntary Global Business Initiatives and the International Climate Negotiations: A Case Study of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol

Hickmann, Thomas. 2017. Voluntary Global Business Initiatives and the International Climate Negotiations: A Case Study of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol. Journal of Cleaner Production, 169: 94-104.


The past few years have witnessed the emergence of a plethora of transnational climate governance experiments. They have been developed by a broad range of actors, such as cities, non-profit organizations, and private corporations. Several scholars have lately devoted particular attention to voluntary global business initiatives in the policy domain of climate change. Their studies have provided considerable insights into the role and function of such new modes of climate governance. However, the precise nature of the relationship between the various climate governance experiments and the international climate negotiations has not been analyzed in enough detail. Against this backdrop, the present article explores the interplay of a business sector climate governance experiment, i.e. the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) with the international climate regime. On the one hand, the article underscores that the GHG Protocol has filled a regulatory gap in global climate policy-making by providing the means for the corporate sector to comprehensively account and report their GHGs. On the other hand, it reveals that the application of the GHG Protocol guidelines depends to a large extent on the existence of an overarching policy framework set up by nation-states at the intergovernmental level. Only if private companies receive a clear political signal that stringent mandatory GHG emission controls and a global market-based instrument are at least likely to be adopted will they put substantial efforts into the accurate measurement and management of their GHGs. Thus, this article points to the limits of climate governance experimentation and suggests that business sector climate governance experiments need to be embedded in a coherent international regulatory setting which generates a clear stimulus for corporate action.

The article is available here.


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