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About this book

Debates about the causes and impacts of global environmental degradation go to the heart of economic and political systems and raise fundamental questions about power and inequity in a globalized world. The comprehensively revised 2nd edition of this popular text provides wide-ranging coverage of the international negotiations and on assessment of the international political economy of the environment, normative and policy debates on environmental governance, and of prospects for the pursuit of environmental security.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
One of the questions asked by many policy-makers, activists and scholars after the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) was ‘Did we save the earth?’ Needless to say, the answers varied: some answered yes, some answered no and some answered maybe but it’s too soon to tell. The ideas explored in this book, however, canvass more than responses to that specific, albeit important question. The main purpose of this text is to focus attention on a more fundamental question, ‘how should we save the earth?’, and to examine the often competing answers offered in response. In many respects, in fact, it is no longer helpful to talk simply about the global politics of the environment. The agenda of protecting the environment is now inextricably linked with protecting people, with sustainable development, with the disproportionate impacts of a globalized economy, with the relationship between rich and poor, and with the demands of global justice. While the issues discussed in Chapters 2 and 3 take concerns about the environment as their starting point, the analysis there demonstrates that these are also concerns about the nature of economic activity, social exploitation and power and powerlessness.
Lorraine Elliott

Chapter 1. From Stockholm to Rio to Johannesburg

Abstract
The globalization of environmental politics was shaped by two landmark events — the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (the Stockholm Conference) and the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the Rio Conference or the Earth Summit). The Stockholm Conference is frequently described as a watershed in the development of international environmental law, as the beginning of serious international cooperation on the environment and as ‘the event where international debate on the environment began’ (Tolba, El-Kholy et al., 1992, p. 742). Two decades later, the Rio Conference was hailed as firm evidence that environmental concerns had moved to occupy a central place in the agenda of world politics. It established new benchmarks for global attention to environmental decline and the importance of sustainable development. The plan of action adopted at Rio — Agenda 21 — became the focal point for a continuing review process, through the annual meetings of the Commission on Sustainable Development, the 1997 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (sometimes called Rio+5) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 (Rio+10). This chapter traces these key ‘moments’ and introduces the institutional and normative themes which are examined in more detail in later chapters.
Lorraine Elliott

Chapter 2. The Global Politics of Conservation: Species, Resources and Habitat

Abstract
Conservation issues have been fundamental to the globalizing environmental agenda. Traditional concerns with the preservation of nature and wildlife in pristine wilderness areas have shifted to encompass concerns about the conservation of species and biodiversity, the protection of living, renewable and supposedly inexhaustible resources and the protection of habitat and ecosystems, including biologically productive land. Collective action is now necessary for the management and protection of endangered wildlife, species, genetic diversity, habitat and resources. Political tensions arise over more than appropriate management strategies. They have become bound up in disagreements over sustainable use, commodification and intellectual property rights, utility rather than amenity value, the imperative of sovereign ownership of natural resources, conflicting values and cultural traditions, and disputes about what constitutes a local or global problem.
Lorraine Elliott

Chapter 3. The Global Politics of Pollution

Abstract
As the scope of environmental concerns expanded in the 1970s and 1980s, greater attention was paid to the transboundary and then global aspects of pollution, as pollutants dispersed across state borders through air and ocean currents, or were physically displaced through trade or dumping. Political action often followed scientific concern and pressure for action from non-governmental environmental organizations. Debates have centred on whether pollution should be regulated or prevented and increasing attention has come to be given to precautionary action, at least in principle. The problems and difficulties in the negotiations echo those demonstrated in Chapter 2: competing interests between polluter and victim states, the imperatives of sovereignty, compromises between substantive agreements and declaratory frameworks, resistance to targets and firm commitments, and permissive compliance and verification procedures. The chapter begins with an examination of the problem of the transboundary dispersal and displacement of hazardous waste and toxic chemicals. It then turns to the management of pollution in the oceans and the atmosphere which provide the second and third case studies in this chapter.
Lorraine Elliott

Chapter 4. Global Environmental Governance: The State and Institutional Design

Abstract
The globalization of environmental problems described in the first three chapters of this book demands international agreements that can respond to incomplete but changing scientific information and that establish environmental standards and compliance mechanisms by which those standards can be verified and, if necessary, enforced. Environmental governance needs to be cooperative and collective because unilateral action by states is ultimately ineffective in the face of transboundary and global problems and inefficient in the face of shared or common problems. Environmental agreements and the procedures by which they are negotiated also need to account for the interests of a range of stakeholders including environmental non-governmental organizations, grassroots movements, indigenous peoples, industry, financial institutions, scientific bodies and intergovernmental organizations as well as states and governments.
Lorraine Elliott

Chapter 5. Global Environmental Governance: Democratization and Local Voices

Abstract
Debates about participation in and democratization of global environmental governance have involved two themes. The first, which is primarily institutional, emphasizes international pluralism and the inclusion of new, non-state players in the processes of negotiation and governance. Agenda 21 devotes several chapters to what are there defined as the ‘major groups’ or the ‘independent sector’, identifying for such actors and sectors of the community an important role in the pursuit of sustainable development. This participation of non-state actors is deemed to be important to environmental governance for reasons based on democratic efficiency. Multilateral decision-making and the implementation of environmental agreements is argued to be more effective if all stakeholders are represented and if other actors besides states are recognized as having legitimate interests and a legitimate role to play. In a speech in 1987, Gro Harlem Brundtland argued that a political system that secures effective participation in decision-making is a major prerequisite for sustainable development (cited in Starke, 1990, p. 64). This kind of pluralist analysis of participatory sustainable development tends to focus on the roles that non-governmental actors play and the strategies they adopt as they seek to influence governments and intergovernmental organizations in the making and implementation of international environmental policy.
Lorraine Elliott

Chapter 6. Normative Challenges: Justice, Obligations and Rights

Abstract
The third dimension of environmental governance explored here is the normative framework. A framework of norms and principles provides ethical as well as legal and practical guidance (should they choose to follow it) for actors involved directly or indirectly in making, implementing and enforcing decisions about how best to respond to the globalized challenges of environmental change. As earlier chapters have shown, the global politics of the environment has become characterized by fundamental inequities and injustices. At the same time, there is some confusion about the range of rights and responsibilities which attend upon states and other actors in dealing with environmental challenges in a way which takes account of and seeks to overcome those inequities.
Lorraine Elliott

Chapter 7. The International Political Economy of the Environment

Abstract
In spite of assertions of a ‘common future’ (the title of the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development) and the claims in Agenda 21 about a ‘global partnership for sustainable development’, the international political economy of the environment is shaped by differences over how that common future is to be defined, what principles should inform it and what strategies should be adopted to achieve it. Those issues have been touched upon in earlier chapters but they are given greater attention here and in Chapter 8. This chapter begins with an analysis of sustainable development, a concept which has become a defining motif of contemporary environmental politics or what some prefer to think of as a ‘privileged narrative’ (Bourke and Meppem, cited in Hobson, 2002, p. 97). The concept is often deployed as if its meaning is undisputed. Yet, as this chapter demonstrates, nothing could be further from the truth. Disputes over sustainable development and the ‘common agenda’ are almost always couched, at some point, in terms of a divide between the industrialized and richer countries of the North and the developing, usually poorer countries of the South. Tensions arise not only over what principles should inform and manage the relationship between rich and poor countries but over how those principles should be put into practice. Those tensions and principles are explored in the second part of this chapter.
Lorraine Elliott

Chapter 8. Strategies for Sustainable Development

Abstract
Three categories of strategies designed to give effect to sustainable development and to the idea of common but differentiated responsibilities are discussed in this chapter: transfer mechanisms; reform of the structures of and processes within the globalized political economy; and the application of economic instruments to environmental protection. These are, however, not simply technical or regulatory exercises. As the discussion here shows, they involve political and social issues which relate to competing interests, the distribution of costs and benefits, and implementation.
Lorraine Elliott

Chapter 9. Environmental Security

Abstract
Security is an increasingly contested concept. A reevaluation of what it means to be secure in a post-Cold War world, and how best to achieve this, has been motivated by the collapse of the familiar bipolarity of the latter half of the twentieth century and the need to understand new configurations of power and the changing nature of threats. A range of problems (or ‘risk environments’) bound up with the complex and confusing processes and consequences of globalization and fragmentation, are now being defined as possible sources of violence and instability, intra- and interstate conflict, transgression of state borders and threats to international peace and security. Environmental degradation is now widely accepted as one such possible threat, a relationship captured in the phrase ‘environmental security’. This is a relatively new idea in both the security lexicon and in the lexicon of global environmental politics. Perhaps because of this, the meaning of the term, the processes it describes and the policy prescriptions it engenders continue to be contested.
Lorraine Elliott

Chapter 10. The Global Politics of the Environment

Abstract
There has clearly been no lack of attention to the global environment in the years since the Rio Conference. Thousands of committed people have worked hard to keep environmental issues on the agenda. Negotiation and debate on environment-related issues continue apace. Within the UN system and outside it, there are any number of committees, working groups, expert panels, subsidiary bodies, workshops, commissions and other fora, convened by governments, intergovernmental organizations and NGOs, which have focused and continue to focus on a wide range of transboundary and global environmental issues. Much has also been made in those years of the imperative for a global partnership (as Agenda 21 has it) in support of our common future (as the World Commission on Environment and Development described it).
Lorraine Elliott
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