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About this book

The impact of the environment in general, and climate change in particular, is now entrenched as a key political concern. The comprehensively revised third edition of this popular text provides an accessible, concise and international introduction to the politics of the environment in theory and practice at both the national and global level.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: The Political Dimension of Environmentalism

Abstract
It is only since the 1970s that the environment has become a salient political issue, and only since the latter half of the 1980s that it became a mainstream one. As a consequence, the study of environmental politics has discarded its Cinderella status. Indeed, by the late 1980s, we seemed to be entering a new Green era, where environmental concern had become the height of fashion. In the developed world at least, opinion polls revealed mounting public concern for the state of the environment; consumers demanded environmentally friendly products and producers, with varying degrees of honesty, sought to provide them; recycling centres and bottle banks flourished. Since the late 1980s, the environment has slipped down the issue agenda a little, overtaken by dramatic political and economic events. It is now established, however, as a permanently important feature of political and academic discourse. Sovereign states are now locked into a supranational structure of institutions and processes, initially set in train by the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment convened in Stockholm in 1972 and built upon at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held at Rio 20 years later, and at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Rio+10) held in Johannesburg in 2002.
Robert Garner

Chapter 2. The Environmental Crisis

Abstract
One reason for the growing importance of the environment as a political issue — albeit not the only or even the principal one — is the existence and recognition of severe environmental degradation, and this chapter is mainly concerned with an exploration of the nature and scope of these environmental problems. Documenting the objective reality of environmental problems is much more straightforward, however, than explaining why the environment has emerged as an important social and political issue. In particular, we cannot just assume that the former accounts for the latter. Indeed, some social scientists have argued that social and political concern for the environment is a product of either cultural or structural changes which are entirely independent of alleged environmental decay. The chapter begins by reviewing this literature.
Robert Garner

Chapter 3. Environmental Thought: Economics and Ethics

Abstract
This chapter explores the economic and ethical dimensions of environmental politics. The emergence of environmental problems, and the corresponding rise of an environmental protection movement, has been accompanied by the development of ideas which seek, on the one hand, to justify our preoccupation with environmental issues and, on the other, to lead us to the most appropriate solutions for the problems identified. As we indicated earlier, the major dichotomy in environmental thought can be crudely defined as being between radicals and reformists — between, that is, exponents of the Dark Green or ecocentric position on the one hand, and exponents of the Light Green or technocentric position on the other. The next three chapters seek to explore the constituent elements of these competing perspectives. The economic and ethical underpinnings are considered in this chapter, the relationship between Green thinking and mainstream political thought is the subject matter of Chapter 4, and Chapter 5 focuses on the relationship between environmental protection and social justice.
Robert Garner

Chapter 4. Green Political Thought

Abstract
This chapter is concerned with exploring the relationship between Western political ideas and the environment. The first part of the chapter is concerned with the fit between the needs of environmental protection and the character of a variety of ideological positions. Should environmentalism be seen as an offshoot of traditional ideological positions or is it distinct? The second part of the chapter explores the relationship between environmentalism and political concepts such as democracy, authoritarianism and decentralization. It asks what kind of political structure is most conducive to environmental protection? A separate chapter (Chapter 5) is devoted to the question of the relationship between the environment and social justice.
Robert Garner

Chapter 5. The Environment and Global Justice

Abstract
The relationship between environmental sustainability and a concept that is central to politics, justice, has become an increasingly important preoccupation of green political theorists (Dobson, 1998; Wenz, 1988). The question here is the degree to which protecting the environment can be regarded as just. The concept of justice has been a key concern for political philosophers dating back at least to the Greeks. A simplistic definition is that justice is about distributing benefits and burdens according to what recipients are due (Campbell, 1988: 19). Defining the concept is the easy task. It is a much more difficult, not to say contentious, matter to decide what these benefits and burdens are, how they are to be distributed, to whom and by whom. The advantage of securing the protection of the environment as a matter of justice is that it represents a strong form of entitlement, to be distinguished from charity or benevolence. Conventionally, in liberal democracies, justice will be protected through constitutionally entrenched provisions which cannot be undone by majoritarianism (Hayward, 2005).
Robert Garner

Chapter 6. Actors and Regimes in International Environmental Politics

Abstract
The modern politics of the environment is increasingly being fought out at the international level. Indeed, the historical chronology of the environment can be characterized by reference to international gatherings such as those held at Stockholm in 1972, Rio in 1992, Kyoto in 1997 and Copenhagen in 2009 as well as the influential, and impeccably internationalist, Brundtland Report published in 1987 (see Brenton, 1994; Elliot, 2004: ch. 1). What any sovereign state does in environmental terms, then, is now, to a great extent, dependent upon agreements reached at the supranational level. Equally importantly, it is widely recognized that the most critical environmental problems can only be tackled internationally. This is the first of two chapters which specifically explore the international dimension of environmental politics. It outlines the nature of international environmental regimes and identifies the actors involved in the issue, with particular reference to the European Union.
Robert Garner

Chapter 7. Understanding International Environmental Politics

Abstract
This chapter moves away from a description of the actors and regimes in international environmental politics towards an attempt to understand its character. It starts by examining in general terms the factors that help to explain the success or failure of environmental regimes before moving on to explore the extent to which international environmental politics can be understood by the theoretical approaches developed within the discipline of international relations. Traditional models — such as realism and liberal institutionalism — are examined initially, followed by newer approaches such as feminism and constructivism. An account of the international politics of climate change is provided in order to test the validity of the various theoretical approaches.
Robert Garner

Chapter 8. Environmental Policy-Making at the National Level

Abstract
Despite the increasingly global nature of environmental politics, considered in Chapters 6 and 7, it still remains the case that national governments exercise a great deal of influence in environmental policy-making. Many aspects of environmental policy are not subject to international agreement and, in any case, states are still the primary actors in international negotiations. Moreover, once decisions are reached, it is national governments who have the responsibility for putting them into effect. It is rare for international conventions to stipulate that agreements must be enshrined in national law and, even in the case of the European Union, the way in which European Union directives are implemented is left to national governments. As a result, as we shall see in Chapter 9, there is still plenty of scope for environmental groups to exercise influence at the national and sub-national levels.
Robert Garner

Chapter 9. Green Parties and Movements

Abstract
So far in this book we have examined the objective nature of environmental problems, ethical approaches concerned with how we ought to behave towards the natural environment, and policy-making at the national and international levels. This chapter examines the role of those agencies — pressure groups, social movements and political parties — whose task it is to act as the agents of environmental change. Particular attention is paid to the environmental movement in Northern liberal democracies, and particularly in Britain, not least because, as John McCormick (1991: 34) points out, ‘Britain has the oldest, strongest, best organized and most widely supported environmental lobby in the world’. However, in order to provide a contrast, some reference will also be made to the environmental movement in the South.
Robert Garner

Chapter 10. Conclusion: Towards a Sustainable Future

Abstract
It is clear that the environmental record of governments across the world falls hopelessly short of radical Green objectives, and, arguably — at least in public — environmentalists should stop expecting governments to achieve them. As Barry (1999: 27) points out: ‘The problem with deep ecology is that it brings green politics into irresolvable conflict with settled convictions, giving it a “fundamentalist” complexion which is a hindrance to convincing non-believers to support its political aims’. However, it should also be recognized that until relatively recently, many countries were governed according to a cornucopian ideology, which accepted the validity of unrestrained economic growth and an instrumental attitude towards the exploitation of the natural world, and was naively optimistic about science and technology’s ability to come up with solutions to environmental problems (Pearce et al., 1993: 18–9). It is a mark of how far the world has come that, in rhetoric at least, few governments would now subscribe to this ideology.
Robert Garner
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