To date, much of the work on “regime complexes”—loosely connected nonhierarchical institutions—has excluded an important part of the institutional picture: the role of private authority. This paper seeks to remedy this shortcoming by examining privately created standards within the regime complex for climate change and their relationship to public authority. Public rules in the Kyoto Protocol serve as a “coral reef,” attracting private rulemakers whose governance activities come to form part of the regime complex. Using original data, I conduct a network analysis of public and private standards for carbon management. Surprisingly, I find evidence of policy convergence—both around public rules and a subset of privately created rules: there is an emerging order in the complex institutional landscape that governs climate change. The observed convergence arises from private standards' concerns about demonstrating credibility and providing benefits for users. These findings are important for scholars of institutional complexity and climate politics: public rules on carbon accounting have the potential to outlast their current incarnation in the Kyoto Protocol, as perpetuated through private authority.

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Author notes

* The author would like to thank Josh Busby, Bob Keohane, Ron Mitchell, and three anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on earlier drafts, as well as the participants of the 2011 Conference on International Relations and Climate Change, and the 2011 APSA Panel on Local Commons and Global Interdependence.