An International Relations perspective on the global politics of carbon dioxide capture and storage

Heleen de Coninck, Karin Bäckstrand

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


With the publication of the IPCC Special Report on Carbon dioxide Capture and Storage (CCS), CCS has emerged as a focal issue in international climate diplomacy and energy collaboration. This paper has two goals. The first goal is to map CCS activities in and among various types of intergovernmental organisations; the second goal is to apply International Relations (IR) theories to explain the growing diversity, overlap and fragmentation of international organisations dealing with CCS. Which international organisations embrace CCS, and which refrain from discussing it at all? What role do these institutions play in bringing CCS forward? Why is international collaboration on CCS so fragmented and weak? We utilise realism, liberal institutionalism and constructivism to provide three different interpretations of the complex global landscape of CCS governance in the context of the similarly complicated architecture of global climate policy. A realist account of CCS's fragmented international politics is power driven. International fossil fuel and energy organisations, dominated by major emitter states, take an active role in CCS. An interest-based approach, such as liberal institutionalism, claims that CCS is part of a "regime complex" rather than an integrated, hierarchical, comprehensive and international regime. Such a regime complex is exemplified by the plethora of international organisations with a role in CCS. Finally, constructivism moves beyond material and interest-based interpretations of the evolution of the institutionally fragmented architecture of global CCS governance. The 2005 IPCC Special Report on CCS demonstrates the pivotal role that ideas, norms and scientific knowledge have played in transforming the preferences of the international climate-change policy community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-378
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS)
  • International organisations
  • International Relations
  • Climate governance
  • Energy
  • Fossil fuels


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