Linking sound economics with global politics

In honor of the 2014 Upton Scholar Robert N. Stavins


Stabilizing the world’s climate entails a massive, global policy push. That, in turn, implies coordination at an unprecedented scale. Progress on such a coordinated, global, ‘top-down’ solution has been slow, to put it mildly. It’s no wonder then that emphasis has shifted toward a more ‘bottom-up’ solution. Policies, after all, are enacted at the national, regional, or local level. And each country or jurisdiction needs to find its own, ideal policies before then linking up with others.

There’s a lot to that logic. In particular, basic economics shows how linking of domestic emissions trading systems can only be good: it allows for more ambitious climate action at lower cost than separate domestic policies. That reasoning is sound. However, it does not absolve us of thinking hard about the political dynamics that have made a global climate deal so difficult. The need for coordination does not go away in a bottom-up approach to climate policy. It merely moves to a different plane.

Full text: “Linking sound economics with global politics” (December 31, 2014)

Paper written for the 2014 Upton Forum at Beloit College, Wisconsin, in honor of the 2014 Upton Scholar Robert N. Stavins. This essay is based on joint work with Jessica F. Green and Thomas Sterner, published in Nature Climate Change as: “A balance of bottom-up and top-down in linking climate policies.”


Wagner, Gernot. 2015. “Linking sound economics with global politics.” Forthcoming in Annual Proceedings of the Wealth and Well-Being of Nations in honor of 2014 Upton Scholar Robert N. Stavins.

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