Who is driving Russian climate policy? Applying and adjusting veto players theory to a non-democracy

International Environmental Agreements, published online 19.05.2015. DOI: 10.1007/s10784-015-9286-5. 15 p.

What is driving Russian climate policy? This article focuses on the veto player approach developed by George Tsebelis and its applicability for examining the power relations in climate change policy-making in Russia. It makes two original contributions: veto players analysis on Russian climate policy and proposals how to adjust to theory to be applied to non-democracies for comparison with democracies. After identifying the veto players and their preferences, and determining their equivalence in the decision-making process, two case studies are examined: the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and the establishment of one of the Kyoto flexible mechanisms, Joint Implementation, in Russia. Regarding the power play between actors, the latter emerges as far more accessible than the former, where scholars can generally observe only the domestic debate—which, due to the absorption of democratic decision-making institutions by the president, is detached from the actual decision-making process. Three proposals are made for adjusting the veto players approach to facilitate qualitative analysis of Russian decision-making: (1) select cases which involve also lower-level actors in charge of policy implementation; (2) due to implementation problems, changes in the status quo must be sought deeper than in statute-level changes; and (3) note that motivations of actors beyond the actual policy substance can facilitate explanations of puzzling outcomes in the process.