Private Governance in Developing Countries: Drivers of Voluntary Carbon Offset Programs

Liliana Andonova, Yixian Sun

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14 Citations (SciVal)


In the Paris Agreement era of climate governance, private market-based initiatives are expected to play a catalytic role in achieving global commitments. However, the literature has been largely silent on the political causes of the variable and often limited uptake of such initiatives in the Global South. This article uses original project-level data to investigate the participation in voluntary carbon offset (VCO) programs across developing countries. We argue that, paradoxically, access to formal international institutions and linkages with domestic priorities are key factors for participation in voluntary carbon markets, reducing asymmetries in information, capacity, and interest in developing contexts. Our statistical analysis finds that institutions such as the Clean Development Mechanism and targeted foreign aid, as well as domestic concerns such as climate vulnerability and advancing renewable energy, shape in important ways the variable engagement in VCO projects. Our analysis also suggests that the design of private regulations can be fine-tuned to better capture synergies between local concerns and transnational climate action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-122
Number of pages24
JournalGlobal Environmental Politics
Issue number1
Early online date25 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
* We are grateful to the journal editors and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive com-ments. Earlier versions of this article were presented at the Swiss Political Science Association Conference, St. Gallen; the Interconnections Conference in Bonn; and the ISA Hong Kong con-ference. We appreciate the feedback received at these conferences and other venues, including feedback from Katja Michaelowa, Vally Koubi, Paula Castro, Aya Kachi, Tom Hale, Charlie Roger, James Hollway, and Dario Piselli. We also thank Aseem Prakash and Graeme Auld for sharing their data on ISO14001 and FSC, respectively. We are grateful for the opportunity to have drawn our initial sample from the database on Transnational Climate Initiatives (Andonova, Hale, and Roger 2017). The research of Yixian Sun was supported by a Swiss National Science Foundation Doc.CH grant (162177). The research of Liliana Andonova was supported by the Swiss Network of International Studies (SNIS project 3369).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Political Science and International Relations


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