When Do States Make Environmental Treaties Easy to Modify, and Does It Work When They Do?

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Join the Department of Social Sciences for this Great Problems, Great Minds seminar series event featuring Ronald B. Mitchell, a professor of political science and environmental studies at the University of Oregon.

Most environmental treaties provide that amendments become legally binding (“enter into force”) only when, and only for, those states whose legislatures ratify them. Some treaties, however, provide that amendments become legally binding on all treaty members after a short period during which states can object to their entry into force for their state. States added such “tacit acceptance” provisions (TAPs) to some treaties to address the long delays in amendment entry into force characteristic of the “ratification required” approach. They did so to increase the likelihood that amendments, once negotiated, would enter into force promptly for all member states. The contrast of these approaches to amendment entry into force raises two research questions: a) under what conditions do states, and which states, agree to delegate some control over the international obligations that bind them and b) do the sovereignty risks that such delegation entails actually “deliver” in bringing amendments into force more quickly and more broadly? The research takes up both questions: comparing how quickly, and which, states ratify “explicit ratification” vs. “TAPs” treaties and, separately, comparing the speed and breadth with which “ratification required” vs. “TAPS” amendments enter into force.

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