Governing the invisible commons: Ozone regulation and the Montreal Protocol

Graham Epstein, Irene Pérez, Michael Schoon, Chanda L. Meek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The Montreal Protocol is generally credited as a successful example of international cooperation in response to a global environmental problem. As a result, the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances has declined rapidly, and it is expected that atmospheric ozone concentrations will return to their normal ranges toward the end of this century. This paper applies the socialecological system framework and common-pool resource theory to explore the congruence between successful resolution of small-scale appropriation problems and ozone regulation, a large-scale pollution problem. The results of our analysis correspond closely to past studies of the Protocol that highlight the importance of attributes such as a limited number of major industrial producers, advances in scientific knowledge, and the availability of technological substitutes. However, in contrast to previous theoretical accounts that focus on one or a few variables, our analysis suggests that its success may have been the result of interactions between a wider range of SES attributes, many of which are associated with successful small-scale environmental governance. Although carefully noting the limitations of drawing conclusions from the analysis of a single case, our analysis reveals the potential for fruitful interplay between common-pool resource theory and large-scale pollution problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-360
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of the Commons
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014


  • Air pollution
  • Common-pool resource theory
  • Global collective action
  • Ozone
  • Social-ecological systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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