Energy and Climate Change Policies

What international negotiators promise and domestic policymakers adopt: Policy and politics in the multi-level climate change regime

Abbildung Bild Forschungsprojekt

This project develops an interdisciplinary theory to explain countries’ motivation in a multilevel governance system to translate their international commitments regarding climate change mitigation into their domestic policies (i.e., policy objectives and instruments).
The goal of the Paris Agreement to keep global warming well below 2°C can only be reached if countries commit to and adopt ambitious mitigation action. However, we often witness a gap between both aspects.

This project numerically captures and explains this gap. We advance beyond the two-level decision-making metaphor and develop an interdisciplinary theory on multi-level games that explain such gap. To measure vertical policy harmonization, we innovate a vertical policy harmonization index.


Dr. Marlene Kammerer
Tel.: +41 31 684 48 22


Dr. Marlene Kammerer
Prof. Dr. Karin Ingold
Prof. Dr. Katja Michaelowa (UZH)
Prof. Dr. Axel Michaelowa (UZH)
Dr. Paula Castro (ZHAW)
Victor Kristof (EPFL)
Dr. Dominic Roser (UNIFR)
Prof. Dr. Detlef Sprinz (PIK)
Jack Baker

Project partners

Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI (consultant), Prof. Dr. Martin Grosjean (UniBE, OCCR), Dr. Patrik Hofstetter (WWF Switzerland), Prof. Dr. Jesse Keenan (Tulane University, USA), Luca Lo Re (IEA), Melissa Low (IEA), Dr. Mari Luomi (IISD), Sara Moarif (IEA), Dr. Benito Müller (Oxford University)
Funding Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS)
Project duration January 2021 – December 2022

Explaining the gap, we probe relevant macro-economic (e.g., population, GDP, trade) and political (e.g., composition of international delegations, country interactions, national politics) factors. Further, the project examines normative questions linked to vertical policy harmonization, like democratic legitimacy at both levels of decision-making, the relative success of autocracies in international bargaining agreements, and the type of bargaining strategies most beneficial to protecting the global climate.
Our analysis combines positivistic (political science and economics) and normative (philosophical) approaches, pooling the strength of the different backgrounds of the applicants. We combine several research traditions including policy network analysis, expert interviews, econometric analysis, and forecasting political negotiation outcomes. We use both qualitative (e.g., interviews and text analysis) and quantitative data collection methods (e.g., online surveys, web scraping, natural language processing). In addition, a computer scientist will develop, maintain, and store large-scale datasets.
Our results will provide normative guidance on the set-up of institutions and specific advice for actors striving to reduce the gap between international commitments and domestic policy adoption. By taking into account the political and economic constraints of the national adoption process, they also provide a basis for a more realistic prediction of the level of the ambition gap. We partner with several NGOs to involve external and practical expertise in almost all research tasks and to disseminate the results to UNFCCC delegates, national governments, and other decision-makers.

Related publications:

  • Kammerer, M. (2018). Climate Politics at the Intersection between International Dynamics and National Decision-making: A Policy Network Approach. Dissertation, University of Zurich. 
  • Ingold, K.; Pflieger, G. (2016). Two Levels, Two Strategies: Explaining the Gap Between Swiss National and International Responses Toward Climate Change. European Policy Analysis Journal, 2(1), 20-38. DOI: 10.18278/epa.2.1.4.

Project results

We have developed a prototype web tool to display results of the Vertical Policy Harmonization Indices: