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Encouraging Environmental Cooperation Through the Pelly Amendment

Charnovitz, Steve
TheJournal of environment & development 1994 v.3 no.1 pp. 3-28
case studies, collaborative management, environmental law, trade, treaties, United States
How can sovereign nations encourage each other to cooperate on the environment? This is not a new question, but it has taken on greater importance in each new decade. There are three methods used for attaining cooperation - ropes, carrots and sticks. The article focuses on one type of stick — unilateral vigilantism through trade sanctions. In particular, it focuses on the history and operation of the U.S. Pelly amendment. Based upon case studies, it finds that since the Pelly amendment was enacted in 1971, this law has proven relatively effective in encouraging nations to join or adhere to international environmental treaties. In the 18 episodes reviewed, 50 percent were successful, 11 percent were partly successful, and 39 percent were unsuccessful. The overall success average success rate is 56 percent. In recent years, the success in using the Pelly amendment has declined. The Clinton Administration has been the least successful of any Administration in using this leverage. There are many valid grounds for objecting to the threatened use of such sanctions. But the objection most commonly raised — that such sanctions will be ineffective — appears to be invalid. The Pelly amendment should remain available as a tool of last resort. The U.S. government should aim to achieve a better balance between caution and credibility in the use of this tool.