State power and diffusion processes in the ratification of global environmental treaties, 1981–2008

Yoshiki Yamagata, Jue Yang, Joseph Galaskiewicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


There have been many explanations for why countries ratify global environmental treaties. They range from neorealist theory, to hegemony theory, world society theory, and network embeddedness theory. Drawing on hegemonic transition theory, this paper provides evidence that prior to the fall of the Soviet Union, strong and weak countries ratified a treaty if the USA or the USSR ratified the treaty first. After the fall of the Soviet Union, countries’ proximity to world society institutions increased the likelihood of ratifying a treaty, and only weaker countries emulated the ratifications of the USA and Russia. However, weaker countries also emulated economic, religious, and language peers, diplomatic ties, and neighbors as well. In contrast, more powerful countries ratified treaties more independently. We studied the ratifications of eight universal environmental treaties by 166 countries between 1981 and 2008 and showed that as the geopolitical context changed, the diffusion process changed. The paper argues that the hegemonic transition which took place in the late 1980s and early 1990s was an enabling event that helped to explain the new roles that major powers assumed in the 1990s and 2000s and opened the door to the ascendency of global institutions and broader participation in the environmental regime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)501-529
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Aug 1
Externally publishedYes


  • International environmental agreements
  • Policy diffusion
  • Social networks
  • State power

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Law


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