Private standards in the climate regime: The greenhouse gas protocol

Jessica F. Green

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper seeks to explain the success of two NGOs in creating standards for calculating and reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the level of an entire company. These emissions accounting standards, called the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, have been widely adopted by multinational firms, emissions reporting registries, and even an emissions trading scheme. The paper traces the widespread adoption of the standards, and then offers an explanation for this successful instance of private regulation. It presents a supply and demand model of private entrepreneurial authority - where private actors project authority without delegation by states. The two NGOs were successful rule-makers because they were able meet a demand for three benefits to potential users of the standard: reduced transaction costs, first-mover advantage, and an opportunity to burnish their reputation as environmental leaders. The paper also explains the supply of private authority - that is, why we see entrepreneurial authority rather than delegation by states. The disagreement among developed countries on the appropriate role for emissions trading in the climate regime delayed action on developing firm-level accounting methodologies. Moreover, the relative weakness of the focal institution in the climate regime - the climate change Secretariat - meant that there was no obvious international organization to take up the task of creating new measurement tools.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number3
    JournalBusiness and Politics
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Oct 28 2010


    • private governance
    • regulation

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Industrial relations
    • Political Science and International Relations


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