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Article

Thomas Bernauer and Anna Kalbhenn

Freshwater is one of the most valuable natural resources on Earth. However, many of the more easily accessible freshwater resources at local and regional levels have suffered from overexploitation due to increasing population density, economic activity, and unsustainable water management practices. Sustainable management of domestic water resources is a challenging task mainly due to water allocation, pollution, and other problems on international rivers. Social science research has contributed in a variety of ways to identifying sources of international conflict and cooperation, water management options, and institutional solutions for achieving sustainable international water management. The scholarly literature has tackled a wide range of crucial questions arising from the politics of international freshwater resources, such as: whether there is sufficient evidence for the “water wars” claim—that is, whether water-related factors influence the probability of armed conflict; the determinants of international river basin cooperation, in terms of policy output and policy outcome or impact; how we can determine whether international water management efforts are successful in terms of solving problems that motivate cooperation; and the extent to which the literature offer insights into institutional design options that are effective in terms of problem solving. These studies have produced a considerable amount of policy-relevant analytical concepts and empirical findings. For example, fairness (equity) is one of the key concerns of all governments when they engage in international water cooperation, and integrated water resources management may look nice on paper but does usually not produce the desired results.

Article

Jörg Balsiger and Stacy D. VanDeveer

Only recently has international environmental politics scholarship focused more explicitly on “regionalism” as a distinct phenomenon, one which has received much more sustained attention among specialists in international security and international political economy. By the early twenty-first century, regional environmental governance had become commonplace. Since the term “region” has had different connotations in different disciplines, the analytic and empirical scope of studies of regional environmental governance has varied considerably. As such, analyses of regional environmental cooperation have incorporated both constructivist views of regions that transcend the nation-state grid, and rescaling arguments placing greater emphasis on subnational governments, transboundary mobilization, and the importance of ecoregional initiatives. Regional agreements increasingly point to some sort of ecoterritoriality, state actors are increasingly complemented by nonstate or substate actors, and the thematic scope increasingly expands beyond purely environmental issues to encompass broader notions of sustainable development. There are three typical types of regional agreements: interstate regional environmental governance, ecoregional environmental governance, and ecoregional sustainable development governance. Interstate regional environmental governance is most typical of regional economic organizations with an environmental mandate that covers single or multiple environmental issues. Meanwhile, ecoregional environmental governance is widely seen in agreements for mountain ranges, regional seas, or river basins. Case studies on marine and mountain regional environmental governance illustrate that various regional arrangement remain in quite different states of institutionalization. Yet they also illustrate the growth of ecoregionalism in transnational environmental governance.

Article

Joana Setzer and Karen Anderton

Subnational diplomacy has become an increasingly important part of foreign policy and international relations. This observation concerns a state of affairs that is not necessarily obvious or given. First, by definition, subnational governments usually conduct subnational activities and address problems that affect their constituencies. Second, in many countries subnational governments undertake such an agenda without an actual legal framework authorizing such initiatives. However, with an intensified global interdependency, policy areas such as environmental protection, human rights, immigration, and trade, just to name a few, require action both at the international and territorialized levels, as many of them transcend political administrative boundaries. As a result, in the early 21st century it is possible to determine various forms of international relations conducted by subnational leaders. This activity involves direct interactions undertaken by subnational leaders and bureaucrats with other actors across borders (private, non-governmental, and governmental—national or subnational), participation in transnational networks, and/or participation in international policymaking. Because subnational governments are closer to the people and can test experimental or groundbreaking policies with less risk, oftentimes they can become pioneers of measures that can be rolled out or replicated elsewhere in the international domain. Such policy leadership is just one element of subnational engagement in the diplomatic arena whereby subnational governments move across jurisdictional levels, breaking the fixed scales in which they would traditionally operate. In the past years, scholars investigating the external relations undertaken by subnational governments have dedicated great effort to understanding the motivations for regions to go into the international arena. What these studies lack, however, is an understanding of what the implications are of subnational governments’ engagement in international relations.

Article

Among the many strengths of higher education is the adaptability of faculty to create curricula in response to the changing needs of society. Since the 1950s, there has been a growing awareness of the consequences of modernity on natural environmental processes. This, in turn, has led to a dramatic increase in course offerings on many subjects related to the environment and sustainability, including substantial teaching and research activity in global environmental politics. Examining what is being taught in the nation’s classrooms provides an opportunity to gain insight into how college teachers are preparing students for the world they live in. One way to demonstrate the complex ways in which global environmental politics can be taught is by viewing it through the lens of Shulman’s framework, called “pedagogical content knowledge.” Derived from principles in contemporary learning theory, Shulman proposed approaching pedagogy by having teachers work through six steps: comprehension, transformation, instruction, evaluation, reflection, and new comprehension. Viewing the teaching of global environmental politics through these six steps is useful to seeing the depth and complexity of teaching in this particular subject area. Using this framework, an analysis of how college teachers have approached their course preparation shows that most professors continue to use conventional approaches to teaching. These approaches include a traditional way of teaching, mostly lecture with classroom interaction and group work and a traditional choice of content, with an emphasis on literature with western epistemological worldviews. From this examination, one can conclude that the teaching of global environmental politics can be strengthened by integrating Shulman’s framework into the classroom: setting the context; building positive social norms; emphasizing inquiry, discovery, and synthesis; and creating the possibility of transformation.

Article

Climate politics presents difficulties for study given its interdisciplinary nature and the scientific complexities involved in climate change. Climate change politics had got its start in the mid- to late 1980s, as climate science became more and more accessible to policy makers and the general public. Yet prior to 2008, climate politics was only touched upon in major publications on international relations, with the exception of policy journals. Climate change was frequently referenced in articles on a range of topics, but it was not the primary focus of analysis. The recent years have seen an explosion in literature focusing on the topic, however. The potential for massive economic, political, and ecological dislocation from the consequences of climate change as well as from the potential policies to address the problem have since resulted in an extensive literature, with scholars addressing aspects of climate politics from every paradigm within international relations, as well as drawing on research in numerous other related disciplines. In addition, efforts to address the consequences of climate change have evoked controversial ethical and distributive justice questions that have produced an important normative literature. Overall, the literature on climate politics centers on two issues: how we can explain the international political response to climate change, as well as how the international community should respond to climate change.

Article

Matthias Finger and David Svarin

Transnational corporations (TNCs) refer to businesses that cross over borders, armed with capital as well as products, processes, marketing methods, trade names, skills, technology, and most importantly management. TNCs have drawn the interest of political scientists and specialists of international relations as they reflect a new, transnational, or even global economic reality. The shift towards trade liberalization and the expansion of market economies have enabled TNCs to grow in size and expand their operations all over the world. Thus, they also affect the natural environment. Three hypotheses or ideas have been put forward by various authors about TNCs’ relationships with the global environment: TNCs as “dirty industries” hypothesis, pollution haven hypothesis, and “business advantage of environmental standards hypothesis.” TNCs are said to operate in some sort of a political and legal vacuum, which they try to shape by defining private environmental standards and at the same time take advantage of this very vacuum to the detriment of the environment. However, they are obliged to deal with other actors such as environmental groups, governments, and consumers. TNCs are engaged in various environmental initiatives and activities relating to environmental protection, including voluntary initiatives, often mandatory environmental reporting, and private certification standards. Given their impact on the environment, it is important to engage TNCs in a global environmental governance processes and for states to adopt restrictive measures and foster international collaboration in order to regulate TNCs which neglect their environmental and social responsibilities.

Article

Environmental politics refers to the examination of the environmental stances of both mainstream political parties and environmental social movements. It also includes the analysis of public policymaking and implementation affecting the environment, at multiple geo-political levels. In most cases, the United States is the most important country involved in international environmental politics, being the world’s largest consumer and polluter of natural resources. For instance, the United States surpasses any other countries in the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), except China. With less than one-twentieth of the world’s population, the United States produces nearly one-fourth of the world’s GHGs. However, by diminishing its emissions of such pollutants, the United States could have an immensely disproportionate positive impact on international environmental problems. Having the world’s largest economy, the United States has considerable financial resources that can be directed at environmental problems internationally, and its technological advancement has great potential in this regard. The United States can either boost or delay multinational negotiation of agreements, thereby influencing whether there will be effective environmental protection on the ground throughout the world. It is important to note the significance of studying the role of the United States in international environmental politics in order to better understand the major issues exercising US policy, and to reveal that the forces shaping US environmental foreign policies are complex and disparate.