Norm Conflict in Climate Governance

Greenhouse Gas Accounting and the Problem of Consumption

Paul G. Harris, Jonathan Symons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)


Accounting rules used for compiling national greenhouse gas inventories play a significant role in constituting the global climate change regime's character. These rules have major political and policy implications. Production-based accounting and national production-based emissions targets contribute to the deadlock in climate negotiations by deflecting attention away from consumption patterns and by accentuating tensions among the climate regime's underlying norms. These dynamics contribute to inefficient domestic mitigation policies, conflict over the norm of "common but differentiated responsibility," weak international agreements, and continued political neglect of consumption as a driver of emissions. In contrast, consumption-based emissions accounting would shift attention from production to consumption. Consumption-based targets could potentially provide an alternative path by which differentiated responsibility could be implemented. Adoption of consumption-based inventories might also prompt reappraisal of underlying norms and opposing conceptions of justice among states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-29
Number of pages21
JournalGlobal Environmental Politics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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