Strategies of Environmental Treaty Participation by Authoritarian Regimes

Open Access
Bagozzi, Benjamin Edward
Graduate Program:
Political Science
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 15, 2013
Committee Members:
  • Subhanan Mukherjee, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Subhanan Mukherjee, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Philip A Schrodt, Committee Member
  • Christopher Jon Zorn, Committee Member
  • Karen Ann Fisher Vanden, Special Member
  • Environment
  • Authoritarian Politics
  • International Relations
Why do some authoritarian countries hastily join international environmental agreements (IEAs) while many others choose to delay IEA membership indefinitely? To answer this question, I formally model an authoritarian government's decision to join an IEA as the result of a strategic interaction between an autocrat and domestic "brown" industry owners. The model reveals that IEA ratification (uniquely) ties the hands of constitutionally unconstrained authoritarian leaders with high levels of brown industry dependence, guaranteeing that such autocrats make good on their commitments to provide cost-offsetting compensation to brown industry owners ex-post to an IEA's ratification. This credible commitment, in turn, compels brown industry owners to decrease their levels of government-directed opposition (in equilibrium), thereby enabling constitutionally unconstrained autocrats with high industry dependence to effectively prolong their tenure in office via IEA membership. On the other hand, the model also suggests that constitutionally constrained autocracies lack the incentives to use IEAs as signaling mechanisms, and thus higher levels of brown industry dependence will thereby raise the IEA rati cation costs for these regimes. Hence, autocracies with low constitutional constraints will ratify IEAs more quickly as their reliance on brown industry increases, and will survive longer in oce as a result, whereas the opposite holds true for constitutionally constrained autocrats. Using a novel data set of monthly IEA-ratification patterns among authoritarian regimes, I find robust empirical support for each prediction.