The Emergence of the Ozone Regime. An Explanation in the Light of International Relation Theories

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2012 19 Pages

Politics - Environmental Policy




Historical evolution of the stratospheric ozone regime
Problem of the stratospheric ozone depletion
Regime formation
The ozone regime
The neorealist approach
State coordination for the ozone regime formation in terms of neo-realism

The neoliberal approach
How the neoliberal approach explains the emergence of the ozone regime
The free- riding problem

The constructivist approach

The ozone regime explained in terms of the weak cognitive approach




Concern began to be expressed in the early 1970s that the Earth’s ozone layer was vulnerable to damage by ozone-depleting chemicals (ODC) (UNEP 2000: 4). In 1987, the Montreal Protocol was signed by 21 countries which was the first international environmental regime pertaining to a global ecological problem.

In spite of different national interests, all major developed countries, which together account for more than 80 percent of the world’s output of ODCs, signed the Montreal Protocol (Benedick 2007: 4).

It is of special interest for international relations scholars because it has dealt effectively with the different needs of industrialized and developing countries in fighting a common threat (Töpfer 2000). Therefore there is much that can be learned from the ozone regime for other international environmental problems. In my first part I will give historical overview about the development of the ozone regime, its main characteristics, as well as key assumptions and definitions of the Montreal Protocol.

This paper analyses why all of the major ODC-producing countries, as well as several developing countries dependent on ODCs for domestic development, “decided to sign the treaty after many had opposed a regulatory ozone treaty for over a decade” (Seaver 1997: 31). Because the United States (US) and the member states of the European Community (EC) had seemingly irreconcilable differences at the beginning of the negotiations, I will focus on these two major actors. While acknowledging that Japan and the former Soviet Union played also a crucial role.

This paper tries to explain the emergence of the ozone regime by using the neoliberalism and neorealism theory of international relations. The key variable for explaining the emergence of the ozone regime is interest in neoliberal terms and power in the neorealist school. Due to the fact that three schools of thought have shaped the discussion of regimes (Hasenclever et.al. 2000:5), I will also examine the constructivist approach to explain the ozone regime formation, because the other approaches neglect the influence of causal and social knowledge for the decision making of actors.

In my conclusion, I will follow Hasenclever et.al by assuming that none of the schools alone can explain the outcome and that the key variables “- interests, power, and knowledge - interact in bringing about and shaping international regimes” (Hasenclever et,al 2000: 6).

Historical evolution of the stratospheric ozone regime

Problem of the stratospheric ozone depletion

In 1974 scientists Mario Molina and Sherwood Rowland published an article in “Nature” magazine: they found a correlation between stratospheric ozone depletion and artificial chemicals containing fluorine, chlorine, and bromine (Thoms 2003: 799). Most significant was the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which had been developed in the 1920s as inert gas. CFCs were used for a variety of purposes from refrigeration and air-conditioning to propellants for hair spray. The thinning of stratospheric ozone layer can have drastic impacts, such as excessive exposure to UV/B radiation resulting in increased rates of skin cancer for human beings and an adverse impact on the immune response system as well as to the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems (Sprinz/ Vaahtoranta 1994: 82).

Regime formation

In 1977 the first conference was organized by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP): with governments, governmental and non-governmental organizations. This led to a World Plan of Action on the Ozone Layer, which contained 21 actions to more research the stratospheric ozone layer. In May 1977 the “Coordinating Committee on the Ozone Layer (CCOL)” was established, an expert panel where representatives of UN-organizations, non-governmental actors and governments who are interested in investigating the ozone layer come together (Dimitrov 2003: 130). The US-governments first attempt in 1977 to ban ODC internationally, failed. Instead the United States adopted a national ban in 1978 and continued to push towards the establishment of international rules (Benedick 2007: 5). In 1981 the Governing Council of UNEP authorized the “Ad Hoc Working Group of Legal and Technical Experts” to initiate a negotiation process for a global legal framework on ozone protection. Negotiations between 1981 and 1985 led to the conclusion of the Vienna Convention in 1985. This Framework agreement, in which states acknowledge “to cooperate in relevant research and scientific assessments of the ozone problem, to exchange information, and to adopt “appropriate measures” to prevent activities that harm the ozone layer” (Weiss 2008). However, it did not establish binding controls on the production and consumption of ozone depleting chemicals. That same year a team of British scientists discovered the ozone hole in the Antarctic which was considered an inexplicable anomaly. The actual evidence that the hole can be blamed on a man-made gas was given two weeks after the Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987 (Dimitrov 2003: 131). A working group under UNEP began negotiations on the Montreal Protocol, which were concluded in September 1987, only 9 months after the diplomatic negotiations started. “The Protocol represents the first international regulatory treaty pertaining to a global ecological problem” (Seaver 2008: 31). It controls the production and consumption of specific chemicals, and sets specific targets for reduction and a timetable for doing so (Weiss 2008).The Multilateral Fund for the Implementation of the Montreal Protocol was established to support countries with low consumption, typically developing countries, to meet their commitments by providing technical transfer and money (IISD RS). In 2009, the Montreal Protocol was signed by all UN member states (UNEP 2012).

The ozone regime

Regimes are identified by Krasner as sets of implicit or explicit “principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures around which actor´s expectations converge in a given area of international relations” (Krasner 1983 in Hasenclever et.al. 2000: 3). Regimes help states to overcome the problem of anarchy in the international system by creating transparency and shared expectations about appropriate behavior (Hasenclever et.al. 2000: 3).

The ozone Regime was based on two principles: first to protect the ozone layer through provisional actors to regulate the global emission of ozone-damaging chemicals; and second, that international cooperation is needed for the protection of the ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol includes the norm to reduce ozone-destroying chemicals on the basis of the development of scientific knowledge (Ozone Secretariat 2000: 14). Measures should be evaluated on the basis of new scientific, ecological, technical and economic knowledge (Benedick 2007: 26, 27). The established rules concern the reduction of ozone-destroying chemicals, rules for the specific needs of developing countries and rules within the regime to make amendments and adjustments of the reduction rules possible (Ozone Secretariat 2000: 12, 14).

The decision-making process was based in the ozone-secretariats which has its office with the UNEP in Nairobi. Their task is to work out and distribute reports, and the organizational planning for conferences. The conferences of the signatory parties are the highest organ and their primary function is the control and implementation of the protocol. It can make amendments and adjustments. There are also groups of experts within the regime which ensure regular evaluation and reviews of the measures. (Ozone Secretariat 2000: 14)

The neorealist approach

Some main assumptions are shared between the different scholars of neo-realism. In the following section I will try to create a theoretic version which is a synthesis of many scholars, with a great foundation in the works of Joseph S. Grieco. To explain the development of the ozone regime in realist terms, it will be more useful not to have a specific focus on one scholar.

For realists, states are the main actors which focus on their security and power; “international anarchy fosters competition and conflict among states and inhibits their willingness to cooperate even when they share common interests” (Grieco 1988: 485). As a result, the behavior of states is shaped by structure of the international system. Because there is no overwhelming Leviathan in form of a world government which fosters rules and monitors the compliance among states, individual states ”are pessimistic about the chances for international regime formation” (Rowland 1992: 28). States are self-interested-oriented rational actors, and an anarchic and competitive system pushes them to favour self-help over cooperative behavior (Lamy 2011: 119). But they recognize that regimes enable states to coordinate problems which they cannot solve alone. For them, regimes form when uncoordinated strategies produce suboptimal outcomes (Little 2011: 303). Grieco argues that they will cooperate to increase their own capabilities in terms of power and influence (Lamy 2011: 119). The problem of coordination among states is that they are not only concerned about absolute gains. “States worry that today's friend may be tomorrow's enemy in war, and fear that achievements of joint gains that advantage a friend in the present might produce a more dangerous potential foe in the future” (Grieco 1988: 487), creating a concern about the relative gains other achieve through cooperation (Bull 1977 in Rowland 1992: 30). States want to maintain their position in the international system, and so prefer to prevent others from gaining more power even at the cost of attaining the highest possible individual payoff (Grieco 1988: 498). Due to the fact that power is the central feature of regime formation and survival, states uses their power capabilities in situations requiring coordination to influence the nature of the regimes (Little 2011: 296). That implies that a hegemon[1] is essential for regime formation, because he not only has the power to influence others to cooperate, he even can provide order in the international system (Seaver 1997: 34).


[1] Charles P. Kindleberger is one of the scholars most closely associated with Hegemonic Stability Theory (HST).


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emergence ozone regime explanation light international relation theories




Title: The Emergence of the Ozone Regime. An Explanation in the Light of International Relation Theories