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The Globalization of World PoliticsAn Introduction to International Relations

The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations (8th edn)

John Baylis, Steve Smith, and Patricia Owens
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  • John Vogler


This chapter examines how environmental issues have become increasingly prominent on the international agenda over the last five decades. It considers whether globalization and development must come at the expense of the physical environment, whether state governments can cooperate to protect the planet, and whether climate justice is possible. The chapter first provides a brief history of the development of an international environmental agenda before discussing the functions of international environmental cooperation. It then explores efforts to addres the problem of climate change through the establishment of an international climate regime and highlights the neglect of environmental issues in traditional and realist international relations theory. Two case studies are presented, one dealing with the concept of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ and the other with the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and its influence on international climate politics.

Framing Questions

Must globalization and development come at the expense of the physical environment?

Can state governments cooperate to protect the planet?

Is climate justice possible?

Reader’s Guide

As environmental problems transcend national boundaries they become a feature of international politics. This chapter indicates that environmental issues have become increasingly prominent on the international agenda over the last 50 years, assisted by the effects of globalization. It shows how this has prompted attempts to arrange cooperation among p. 388states, and it surveys the form and function of such activity with reference to some of the main international environmental regimes. Because climate change has become a problem of such enormous significance, a separate section is devoted to the efforts to create an international climate regime. This is followed by a brief consideration of how some of the theoretical parts of this book relate to international environmental politics.


Although humankind as a whole now appears to be living well above the earth’s carrying capacity, the ecological footprints of individual states vary to an extraordinary extent. See, for example, the unusual map of the world (see Fig. 24.1), where the size of countries is proportionate to their carbon dioxide emissions. Indeed, if everyone were to enjoy the current lifestyle of those in the developed countries, more than three additional planets would be required.

Figure 24.1 Map of world in proportion to carbon dioxide emissions (World Bank Data 2015)

Source: © Copyright:

This situation is rendered all the more unsustainable by the process of globalization, even though the precise relationship between environmental degradation and the over-use of resources is complex and sometimes contradictory. Globalization has stimulated the relocation of industry, population movement away from the land, and ever rising levels of consumption, along with associated emissions of effluents and waste gases. While ever freer trade often generates greater income for poorer countries exporting basic goods to developed country markets, it can also have adverse environmental consequences by disrupting local ecologies and livelihoods.

On the other hand, there is little evidence that globalization has stimulated a ‘race to the bottom’ in environmental standards, and it has even been argued that increasing levels of affluence have brought about local environmental improvements, just as birth rates tend to fall as populations become wealthier. Economists claim that globalization’s opening up of markets can increase efficiency and reduce pollution, provided that the environmental and social damage associated with production of a good is properly factored into its market price. Similarly, globalization has promoted the sharing of knowledge and the influential presence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in global environmental politics. But whatever the ecological balance sheet of globalization, the resources on which human beings depend for survival—such as fresh p. 389water, a clean atmosphere, and a stable climate—are now under serious threat.

Global problems may need global solutions and pose a fundamental requirement for global environmental governance, yet local or regional action remains a vital aspect of responses to many problems; one of the defining characteristics of environmental politics is the awareness of such interconnections and of the need to ‘think globally—act locally’. NGOs have been very active in this respect (see Ch. 22). Despite the global dimensions of environmental change, an effective response still depends on a fragmented international political system of over 190 sovereign states. Global environmental governance consequently involves bringing to bear inter-state relations, international law, and international organizations in addressing shared environmental problems. Using the term ‘governance’—as distinct from government—implies that regulation and control have to be exercised in the absence of central government, delivering the kinds of service that a world government would provide if it were to exist.

Environmental issues on the international agenda: a brief history

Box 24.1 gives a chronology of events in the development of an international environmental agenda. Before the era of globalization there were two traditional environmental concerns: conservation of natural resources and the damage caused by pollution. Neither pollution nor wildlife respect international boundaries, and action to mitigate or conserve sometimes had to involve more than one state. There were also some (mostly unsuccessful) attempts to regulate exploitation of maritime resources lying beyond national jurisdiction, including several multilateral fisheries commissions and the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

Box 24.1 Chronology of events in international environmental involvement


International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling


UK Clean Air Act to combat ‘smog’ in British cities


International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Sea by Oil


Antarctic Treaty


Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring


Torrey Canyon oil tanker disaster


Greenpeace founded


At the Founex Meeting in Switzerland, Southern experts formulate a link between environment and development


United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) in Stockholm

Establishment of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)


MARPOL Convention on oil pollution from ships

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)


Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution Convention (LRTAP)


Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources


UN Law of the Sea Convention (enters into force in 1994)


Bhopal chemical plant disaster


Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer

Antarctic ‘ozone hole’ confirmed


Chernobyl nuclear disaster


Brundtland Commission Report

Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer


Establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)


Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes


Madrid Protocol (to the Antarctic Treaty) on Environmental Protection


United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held at Rio de Janeiro; publication of the Rio Declaration and Agenda 21; United Nations Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Biological Diversity (CBD) both signed


World Trade Organization (WTO) founded


Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC


Rotterdam Convention on Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides (PIC, prior informed consent)

Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters


Cartagena Protocol to the CBD on Biosafety

Millennium Development Goals set out


US President George W. Bush revokes signature of the Kyoto Protocol

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)


World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), Johannesburg


Entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol and introduction of the first international emissions trading system by the European Union


Copenhagen climate Conference of the Parties (COP) fails to provide a new international agreement


Nagoya Protocol to the CBD on access and benefit sharing


Durban climate COP aims to produce a new agreement by 2015


Rio + 20 Conference


Minimata Convention on mercury


IPCC Fifth Assessment Report


Paris Agreement at UNFCCC COP21

UNGA adopts Sustainable Development Goals


IPCC 1.5°C Report

UNFCCC COP24 agrees ‘rulebook’ to implement the Paris Agreement

Post-Second World War global economic recovery brought with it evidence of new pollution, leading to international agreements in the 1950s and 1960s covering such matters as discharges from oil tankers. This was, however, hardly the stuff of great power politics. Such ‘apolitical’ matters were the domain of new United Nations specialized agencies, for example the Food and Agriculture Organization, but were hardly central to diplomacy at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.

However, in 1968 the UNGA agreed to convene what became the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) ‘to focus governments’ attention and public opinion on the importance and urgency of the question’. This conference led to the creation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the establishment of environment departments by many governments. Yet it was already clear that, for the countries of the global South—constituting the majority in the UNGA—environmental questions could not be separated from their demands for development, aid, and the restructuring of international economic relations. This provided the political basis for the concept of sustainable development (see Box 24.2; also see Ch. 26). Before the Brundtland Commission formulated this concept in 1987 (WCED 1987), the environment had been edged off the international agenda by the global economic downturn of the 1970s and then by the onset of the second cold war (see Ch. 3).

Box 24.2 Sustainable development

Over 50 separate definitions of sustainable development have been counted. The 1987 Brundtland Commission Report provided its classic statement:

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

(Brundtland et al. 1987: 43)

Behind it lay an explicit recognition of limitations to future growth that were social, technological, and environmental. In addressing them, emphasis was placed on needs, and the highest priority was given to the needs experienced by the world’s poor. Central to the concept was the idea of fairness between generations as well as between the rich and poor currently inhabiting the planet.

By the time of the 2002 World Summit the concept had been subtly altered:

to ensure a balance between economic development, social development and environmental protection as interdependent and mutually reinforcing components of sustainable development.

(UNGA, A/57/532/add.1, 12 December 2002)

Ensuring environmental sustainability, by integrating sustainable development principles into national decision-making, was the seventh of eight UN Millennium Development Goals agreed in 2000. By 2015, these had been replaced by a comprehensive set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals that integrate poverty reduction, development, gender equality, and environmental goals to be achieved by 2030 (UN 2017b).

Since the 1970s new forms of transnational pollution such as ‘acid rain’ had been causing concern alongside dawning scientific realization that some environmental problems—the thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer and the possibility of climate change—were truly global in scale. The relaxation of East–West tension created the opportunity for a second great UN conference in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Its title, the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), reflected the idea of sustainable development and an accommodation between the environmental concerns of developed states and the economic demands of the global South. The 1992 UNCED or ‘Earth Summit’ was at the time the largest international conference ever held. It raised the profile of the environment as an international issue, while providing a platform for Agenda 21 (a substantial document issued by the conference), international conventions on climate change, and the preservation of biodiversity. The most serious arguments at UNCED were over aid pledges to finance the environmental improvements under discussion. On UNCED’s tenth anniversary in 2002, the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) met at Johannesburg. The change of wording indicated how conceptions of environment and development had shifted since the 1970s. Now discussion was embedded in recognition of the importance of globalization and of the dire state of the African continent. The eradication of poverty was clearly emphasized, along with practical progress in providing clean water, sanitation, and agricultural improvements. Ten years later, and in the shadow of a major downturn in the global economy, Rio + 20 met in Brazil. It attracted little public attention, but it did resolve to set ‘sustainable development goals for the future’ (SDGs).

While these UN conferences marked the stages by which the environment entered the international political mainstream, they also reflected underlying changes in the scope and perception of environmental problems. As scientific understanding expanded, it was becoming commonplace, by the 1980s, to speak in terms of global environmental change, as most graphically represented p. 390p. 391by the discovery of the ‘ozone hole’ and the creeping realization that human activities might be endangering the global climate. Alongside actual environmental degradation and advances in scientific knowledge, the international politics of the environment has responded to the issue-attention cycle in developed countries and the emergence of green political movements. They were fed by public reactions to what was seen as the industrial destruction of nature, exemplified by Rachel Carson’s influential book Silent Spring (1962). There was also a long series of marine oil spills and industrial accidents, which caused popular alarm. The failure of established political parties to embrace these issues effectively encouraged the birth of several new high-profile NGOs—Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and the World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund—alongside more established pressure groups such as the US Sierra Club and the British Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. In the developed world, public attention waxed and waned, reviving in the early years of the twenty-first century as the spectre of climate change appeared. More recently, public attention has shifted to the rapid increase of plastic and microplastic waste in the oceans, with dire consequences for marine wildlife. Here, as elsewhere, there were calls for international action and effective environmental governance, but what exactly does this entail? The next section addresses this question by reviewing the functions of international environmental cooperation.

Key Points

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, international environmental politics was strictly limited, but from around 1960 its scope expanded as environmental problems acquired a transnational and then a global dimension.

The process was reflected in and stimulated by conference diplomacy at the UN.

These UN conferences made the connection between the international environmental and development agendas, as expressed in the important concept of sustainable development.

Scientific investigation reveals extensive interconnections between what were once seen as separate aspects of the global ecosystem and its biodiversity and the need for appropriate governance.

The functions of international environmental cooperation

International cooperation establishes governance regimes to regulate transboundary environmental problems and sustain the global commons. International environmental cooperation may be regarded as part of a wider liberal approach to global reform (see Ch. 6).

As realists (see Ch. 8) would assert, the pursuit of power, status, and wealth is rarely absent from international deliberations. Discussions of international environmental cooperation often neglect this, even though many of the great international gatherings, and even some of the more mundane ones, clearly reflect struggles for national and organizational advantage. Organizations seek to maintain their financial and staff resources as well as their places within the UN system. For example, despite extensive debates over granting UNEP the higher and more autonomous status of a UN specialized agency, it remains a mere programme. Some suspect that much of the activity at international p. 392environmental meetings is simply to issue declarations to persuade domestic publics that something is being done, even if environmental conditions continue to deteriorate.

Transboundary trade and pollution control

When animals, fish, water, or pollution cross national frontiers, the need for international cooperation arises; the regulation of transboundary environmental problems is the longest-established function of international cooperation, reflected in hundreds of multilateral, regional, and bilateral agreements providing for joint efforts to manage resources and control pollution. Prominent examples of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) include the 1979 Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution Convention and its various protocols and conventions governing such things as the cross-border movement of hazardous waste and chemicals.

Controlling, taxing, and even promoting trade has always been one of the more important functions of the state, and trade restrictions can also be used as an instrument for nature conservation, as in the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The use of trade penalties and restrictions by MEAs has been a vexing issue when the objective of environmental protection has conflicted with the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) (see Box 24.3 and Ch. 27). Such a problem arose when the international community attempted to address the controversial question of the new biotechnology and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by developing the 2000 Cartagena Protocol to the UN Convention on Biodiversity. Opponents argued that measures to regulate the movement of GMOs were an attempt to disguise protectionism rather than to safeguard the environment and human health. Whether the WTO trade rules should take precedence over the emerging biosafety rules was debated at length until the parties agreed to avoid the issue by providing that the two sets of rules should be ‘mutually supportive’. The background to such arguments is a wider debate about the relationship between trade and the environment.

Box 24.3 Trade and the environment

The issue of the relationship between trade and environmental degradation is much broader than disputes over the relationship between the WTO and particular multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). Globalization is partly shaped by the efforts of the WTO to open protected markets and expand world trade. Many green activists argue that trade itself damages the environment by destroying local sustainable agriculture and by encouraging the environmentally damaging long-range transport of goods. The rearrangement of patterns of production and consumption has indeed been one of the hallmarks of globalization. Liberal economists and WTO advocates claim that if the ‘externalities’, such as the pollution caused, can be factored into the price of a product, then trade can be beneficial to the environment through allowing the most efficient allocation of resources. In this view, using trade restrictions as a weapon to promote good environmental behaviour would be unacceptable—and, indeed, the rules of the WTO allow only very limited restrictions to trade on environmental grounds (GATT Article XXg), and certainly not on the basis of ‘process and production methods’. A number of trade dispute cases have largely confirmed that import controls cannot be used to promote more sustainable or ethical production abroad, including the famous 1991 tuna–dolphin case which upheld Mexican and EC complaints against US measures blocking imports of tuna caught with methods that kill dolphins as by-catch. Developing country governments remain resistant to green trade restrictions as a disguised form of protection for developed world markets.

Norm creation

Over the last 30 years, the development of international environmental law and associated norms of acceptable behaviour has been both rapid and innovative. Some of these norms are in the form of quite technical policy concepts that have been widely disseminated and adopted as a result of international discussion. For instance, the precautionary principle has gained increasing, but not uncritical, currency. Originally coined by German policy-makers, this principle states that where there is a likelihood of environmental damage, banning an activity should not require full and definitive scientific proof. (This was a critical issue in the discussions on GMOs mentioned above.) Another norm is that governments should give ‘prior informed consent’ to potentially damaging imports.

The UN Earth Summits were important in establishing environmental norms. The 1972 Stockholm Conference produced its ‘Principle 21’, which combines sovereignty over national resources with state responsibility for external pollution. This should not be confused with Agenda 21, issued by the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, a complex 40-chapter document of some 400 pages that took two years to negotiate in UNCED’s Preparatory Committee. Agenda 21 was frequently derided at first, not least because of its non-binding character, yet this internationally agreed compendium p. 393of environmental ‘best practice’ subsequently had a wide impact and remains a point of reference supplemented by the SDGs.

Aid and capacity building

Frequent North–South arguments since Rio about the levels of aid and technology transfer that would allow developing countries to achieve sustainable development have been attended by many disappointments and unfulfilled pledges. In 1991, UNEP, UNDP, and the World Bank created the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), an international mechanism dedicated to funding environmental projects in developing countries. Most environmental conventions now aim at capacity building through arrangements for the transfer of funds, technology, and expertise, because many of their member states simply lack the resources to participate fully in international agreements. Agreement in the UNFCCC has increasingly come to depend on the willingness of wealthy countries to fully fund adaptation activities and to provide compensation for poorer countries facing the most serious effects of climate change.

Scientific understanding

International environmental cooperation relies on shared scientific understanding, as reflected in the form of some important contemporary environmental regimes. An initial ‘framework’ convention signals concern and establishes mechanisms for developing and sharing new scientific data, thereby providing the basis for taking action through a ‘control’ protocol. Generating and sharing scientific information has long been a function of international cooperation in such public bodies as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Disseminating scientific information on an international basis makes sense, but it needs funding from governments because, except in areas such as pharmaceutical research, the private sector has no incentive to do the work. International environmental regimes usually have standing scientific committees and subsidiary bodies to support their work. Perhaps the greatest international effort to generate new and authoritative scientific knowledge has been in the area of climate change, through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) (see Box 24.4).

Box 24.4 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Set up in 1988 under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and UNEP, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) brings together the majority of the world’s climate change scientists in three working groups: on climate science, impacts, and economic and social dimensions. They have produced five assessment reports, which are regarded as the authoritative scientific statements on climate change. The reports are carefully and cautiously drafted with the involvement of government representatives, and they represent a consensus view.

The Fifth IPCC review (2013–14) concluded that ‘Warming of the climate system is unequivocal and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and oceans have warmed, snow and ice have diminished and greenhouse gases have increased’ (IPCC 2013: 4). For the IPCC the ‘human influence’ on all this change ‘is clear’ (IPCC 2013: 15).

Governing the commons

The global commons are usually understood as areas and resources that do not fall under sovereign jurisdiction—they are not owned by anybody. The high seas and the deep ocean floor come into this category (beyond the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone), as does Antarctica (based on the 1959 Antarctic Treaty). Outer space is another highly important common, its use being vital to modern telecommunications, broadcasting, navigation, and surveillance. Finally, there is the global atmosphere.

The commons all have an environmental dimension, as resources but also as ‘sinks’ that have been increasingly degraded. The fish and whale stocks of the high seas have been relentlessly over-exploited, to the point where some species have been wiped out and long-term protein sources for human beings are imperilled. The ocean environment has been polluted by land-based effluent and oil, and other discharges from ships. International regulation is patchy and often avoids the 50 per cent of the world’s oceans that lie beyond sovereign control. In 2018, the process of drafting a new treaty commenced (under the UNCLOS) to provide an overarching regime to protect marine biodiversity ‘beyond national jurisdiction’.

It has also been a struggle to maintain the unique wilderness of the Antarctic in the face of increasing pressure from human beings, and even outer space now faces an environmental problem in the form of increasing amounts of orbital debris left by decades of satellite launches. Similarly, the global atmosphere has been degraded in a number of highly threatening ways, through damage to the stratospheric ozone layer and, most importantly, by the enhanced greenhouse effect p. 394now firmly associated with changes to the earth’s climate. These developments are often characterized as a ‘tragedy of the commons’. Where there is unrestricted access to a resource that is owned by no one, there will be an incentive for individuals to grab as much as they can and, if the resource is finite, there will come a time when it is ruined by over-exploitation as the short-term interests of individual users overwhelm the longer-run collective interest in sustaining the resource (see Box 24.5).

Box 24.5 The tragedy of the commons—local and global

Many writers, including Garrett Hardin (1968), who coined the term ‘tragedy of the commons’, have observed an inherent conflict between individual and collective interest and rationality in the use of property that is held in common. Hardin argued that individual actions in exploiting an ‘open access’ resource will often bring collective disaster as the pasture, fish stock (common pool), or river (common sink) concerned suffers ecological collapse through over-exploitation. Of course, no problem exists if the ‘carrying capacity’ of the commons is sufficient for all to take as much as they require, but this is rarely now the case due to the intensity of modern exploitation and production practices. At the same time, recent scientific advances have sharpened humankind’s appreciation of the full extent of the damage imposed on the earth’s ecosystems. Hardin’s solution to the dilemma—enclosure of the commons through privatization or nationalization—has only limited applicability in the case of the global commons, for two main reasons: it is physically or politically impossible to enclose them, and there is no central world government to regulate their use.

Within the jurisdiction of governments it may be possible to solve the problem by turning the common into private property or nationalizing it, but for the global commons such a solution is, by definition, unavailable. Therefore the function of international cooperation in this context is the very necessary one of providing a substitute for world government to ensure that global commons are not misused and subject to tragic collapse. This has been done through creating regimes for the governance of the global commons, which have enjoyed varying degrees of effectiveness. Many of the functions discussed above can be found in the global commons regimes, but their central contribution is a framework of rules to ensure mutual agreement among users about acceptable standards of behaviour and levels of exploitation, consistent with sustaining the ecology of the commons.

Enforcement poses difficult challenges due to the incentives for users to ‘free ride’ on these arrangements by taking more than a fair share, or refusing to be bound by the collective arrangements. This can potentially destroy regimes because other parties will then see no reason to restrain themselves either. In local commons regimes, inquisitive neighbours might deter rule-breaking; NGOs can perform a similar role at the international level. However, it is very difficult to enforce compliance with an agreement involving sovereign states, even when they have undertaken to comply. This is a fundamental difficulty for international law (see Ch. 19), and hardly unique to environmental regimes. Mechanisms have been developed to cope with this problem, but how effective they, and the environmental regimes to which they apply, can be is hard to judge, as this involves determining the extent to which governments are in legal and technical compliance with their international obligations. Moreover, it also involves estimating the extent to which a given international regime has actually changed state behaviour. Naturally, the ultimate and most demanding test of the effectiveness of global commons regimes is whether or not the resources or ecologies concerned are sustained or even improved.

For the Antarctic, a remarkably well-developed set of rules, designed to preserve the ecological integrity of this last great wilderness, has been devised in the framework of the 1959 Treaty. The Antarctic regime is a rather exclusive club: the Treaty’s ‘Consultative Parties’ include the states that had originally claimed sovereignty over parts of the area, while new members of the club have to demonstrate their involvement in scientific research on the frozen continent. Antarctic science was crucial to the discovery of a problem that resulted in what is perhaps the best example of effective international action to govern the commons. In 1985, a British Antarctic Survey balloon provided definitive evidence of serious thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer. A diminishing stratospheric ozone layer is a global problem par excellence, because the ozone layer protects the earth and its inhabitants from the damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. A framework convention was signed about the issue in 1985, followed in 1987 by the Montreal Protocol, imposing international controls over ozone-depleting chemicals. The further evolution of the ozone layer regime offers the paramount example of how international cooperation can achieve an effective solution to a global environmental problem. The problem’s causes were isolated, international p. 395support was mobilized, compensatory action was taken to ensure that developing countries participated, and a set of rules and procedures was developed that proved to be effective, at least in reducing the concentration of the offending chemicals in the atmosphere, if not yet in fully restoring the stratospheric ozone layer (see Box 24.6).

Box 24.6 The Montreal Protocol and stratospheric ozone regime

The thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer arose from a previously unsuspected source—artificial chemicals containing fluorine, chlorine, and bromine—which were involved in chemical reaction with ozone molecules at high altitudes. Most significant were CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), developed in the 1920s as ‘safe’ inert industrial gases and which had been blithely produced and used over the next 50 years for a whole variety of purposes, from refrigeration to air-conditioning and as propellants for hairspray. There was no universal agreement on the dangers posed by these chemicals and their production and use continued—except, significantly, when the US Congress decided to ban some non-essential uses in 1978. This meant that the US chemical industry found itself under a costly obligation to find alternatives. As evidence on the problem began to mount, UNEP convened an international conference in Vienna in 1985. It produced a ‘framework convention’ agreeing that international action might be required and that the parties should continue to communicate and to develop and exchange scientific findings. These proved to be very persuasive, particularly with the added public impetus provided by the dramatic discovery of the Antarctic ‘ozone hole’.

Within two years the parties agreed to a protocol under which the production and trading of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances would be progressively phased out. The developed countries achieved this for CFCs by 1996 and Meetings of the Parties have continued to work on the elimination of other substances since that time. There was some initial resistance from European chemical producers, but the US side had a real incentive to ensure international agreement because otherwise its chemical industry would remain at a commercial disadvantage. The other problem faced by the negotiators involved developing countries, which themselves were manufacturing CFC products. They were compensated by a fund, set up in 1990, to finance the provision of alternative non-CFC technologies for the developing world.

The damage to the ozone layer will not be repaired until the latter part of the twenty-first century, given the long atmospheric lifetimes of the chemicals involved. However, human behaviour has been significantly altered to the extent that the scientific subsidiary body of the Montreal Protocol has been able to report a measurable reduction in the atmospheric concentration of CFCs.

Key Points

International environmental meetings serve political objectives alongside environmental aims.

A key function of international cooperation is transboundary regulation, but attempts at environmental action may conflict with the rules of the world trade regime.

International action is needed to promote environmental norms, develop scientific understanding, and assist the participation of developing countries.

International cooperation is necessary to provide governance regimes for the global commons.

Climate change

Unlike the ozone layer problem, scientists have long debated climate change and the enhanced greenhouse effect, but only in the late 1980s did sufficient international consensus emerge to stimulate action. There were still serious disagreements over the likelihood that human-induced changes in mean temperatures were altering the global climate system. The greenhouse effect is essential to life on earth. Greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere insulate the earth’s surface by trapping solar radiation (see Fig. 24.2). Before the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere were around 280 parts per million, and have since grown continuously (to a 2017 figure of p. 396405ppm) due to burning of fossil fuels and reductions in some of the ‘sinks’ for carbon dioxide—notably forests. Methane emissions have also risen as agricultural production has increased. The best predictions of the IPCC are that, if nothing is done to curb intensive fossil fuel emissions, there will be a probable rise in mean temperatures of between 1.5°C and 4°C by 2099 (IPCC 2013: 20). By 2016 mean temperatures had already reached 1°C above the pre-industrial level.

Figure 24.2 Greenhouse gas contributions to global warming

Source: IPCC 2007, ‘Radiative Forcing Components’: 16. Source data from Solomon, S., et al. (eds.). Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK, and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press. Copyright © 2007, IPCC, Published by Cambridge University Press.

The exact consequences of this are difficult to predict on the basis of current climate modelling, but sea level rises and turbulent weather are generally expected, while catastrophic alterations to the planetary biosphere are possible. According to international consensus, the avoidance of dangerous climate change requires that global mean temperature rises should be held well below 2°C and that limiting it to 1.5°C would be desirable (Paris Agreement: Art.2a). In the first decades of the twenty-first century, unusual weather patterns, storm events, and the melting of polar ice sheets have added increasing public alarm to the fears expressed by the scientific community.

Climate change is really not a ‘normal’ international environmental problem—it threatens huge changes in living conditions and challenges existing patterns of energy use and security. There is almost no dimension of international relations that it does not actually or potentially affect, and it has already been discussed at G7 summits and in UN meetings at the highest political levels, although its urgency has sometimes been obscured by the persistent problems of the global economy.

To understand the magnitude of the climate problem, a comparison may be drawn with the stratospheric ozone issue discussed earlier. There are some similarities. CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) are in themselves greenhouse gases and the international legal texts on climate change make it clear that controlling them is the responsibility of the Montreal Protocol. Also, the experience with stratospheric ozone and other recent conventions has clearly influenced efforts to build a climate change regime based on a framework convention followed by a protocol.

The 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) envisaged the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and their removal by sinks, hoping that a start could be made by including a commitment from the developed nations to cut their emissions back to 1990 levels by 2000. In a US election year this proved to be impossible, and the parties had to be content with a non-binding declaration that an attempt would be made. There was, however, a binding commitment for parties to draw up national inventories of sources and sinks. As this included the developing nations, many of whom were ill-equipped to fulfil this obligation, funding was also provided for capacity building. The Convention also locked the parties into holding a continuing series of annual conferences—the Conferences of the Parties (COPs)—to consider possible actions and review the adequacy of existing commitments, supported by regular inter-sessional meetings of the subsidiary scientific and implementation bodies and working groups. At the second COP in Kyoto in 1997, the parties agreed a ‘control’ measure—the Kyoto Protocol—involving emissions reductions by developed countries (an average of 5.2 per cent, by 2012) facilitated by ‘flexibility mechanisms’ including emissions trading.

The problem faced by the framers of the Kyoto Protocol was vastly more complex and demanding than the problem their counterparts at Montreal had confronted so successfully in 1987. Instead of controlling a single set of industrial gases for which substitutes were available, reducing greenhouse gas emissions would involve energy, transport, and agriculture—the fundamentals of life in modern societies. Whether this must involve real sacrifices in living standards and ‘impossible’ political choices is a tough question for governments, although there are potential economic benefits from cutting emissions through the development of alternative energy technologies.

A second difference from the ozone regime experience was that, despite the IPCC’s unprecedented international scientific effort, there was no scientific consensus of the kind that had promoted agreement on CFCs. Disagreements over the significance of human activities and projections of future change have since narrowed dramatically, but there are still those who have an interest in denying or misrepresenting the science, and some nations even calculate that there might be benefits to them from climatic alterations. However, one generalization that can be made with certainty is that it is the developing nations, with limited infrastructure and major populations located at sea level, that are most vulnerable. In recognition of this, and on the understanding that a certain level of warming is now inevitable, international attention began to shift towards the problem of ‘adaptation’ to the occurring effects of climate change as well as ‘mitigation’ of its causes. Once again, the comparative simplicity and uniformity of the stratospheric ozone problem is evident—the effects of ozone depletion were spread across p. 397the globe and affected North Europeans as well as those living in the southern hemisphere.

The structural divide between North and South is at the heart of the international politics of climate change as a global environmental problem (see Chs 10 and 26). For the Montreal Protocol there was a solution available at an acceptable price, delivered through the Multilateral Ozone Fund. Once again, climate change is different. One of the most significant principles set out in the UNFCCC was that of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities’ (see Case Study 24.1). That is to say that, while climate change was the ‘common concern’ of all, it had been produced as a consequence of the development of the old industrialized nations and it was their responsibility to take the lead in cutting emissions.

Case Study 24.1 Common but differentiated responsibilities?

Severe fog and haze in the eastern Chinese city of Jiujiang

© humphery /

Written into the 1992 UNFCCC was the notion of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities’. This meant that although all nations had to accept responsibility for the world’s changing climate, it was developed (Annex 1) nations that were immediately responsible because they had benefited from the industrialization which was generally regarded as the cause of the excess carbon dioxide emissions that had generated mean temperature increases (see Fig. 24.1).

In the 1990s, the US emitted around 25 per cent of the global total but had only 4.5 per cent of the global population. Chinese figures were 14 per cent but with over 20 per cent of the world’s population, while the 35 least developed nations emitted less than 1 per cent. Under the Kyoto Protocol the developed countries were expected to make emissions cuts. However, by 2004 it was clear that an effective post-2012 regime would have to involve the fast-growing economies of the global South because their ‘respective capabilities’ had changed. In 2011, the CO2 emissions of six parties were responsible for over 70 per cent of the world total: China 29 per cent, US 16 per cent, EU 11 per cent, India 6 per cent, Russia 5 per cent, and Japan 4 per cent. It is important to remember that negotiation of a new climate agreement has occurred in the context of major structural change in the international system (see Ch. 5).

Finding a new basis for an equitable sharing of necessary emissions reductions is fraught with problems. (1) Because GHGs have long and variable atmospheric lifetimes, from 30 up to at least 100 years, past emissions must also be taken into account. Thus developing countries can argue that most of the allowable ‘carbon space’ has already been taken up by the historic emissions of the old industrialized economies, and that the latter should therefore continue to take the lead in reducing emissions. (2) Per capita emissions still vary widely between Northern and Southern economies. Treating them in the same way cannot be either just or politically acceptable. (3) A major part of current Chinese emissions is the direct result of the transfer of production of goods from the US and Europe. Who, therefore, bears the responsibility?

The 2015 Paris Agreement did not fully resolve these questions, but added the phrase ‘in the light of different national circumstances’ which indicated that the previous rigid distinction between Annex 1 countries and the rest was breaking down. The obligations placed on developed, developing, and least developed and small island states are subtly differentiated in the text of the agreement.

Question 1: Should the developed countries still make larger relative emissions reduction ‘contributions’ even if the emerging economies are now emitting the greatest proportion of GHGs?

Question 2: Would it be more just to design a future climate regime on the basis of per capita rather than total national emissions?

The achievement at Kyoto was to bind most of the developed nations to a set of varied emissions cuts. However it was soon undercut by US refusal to participate, leaving the EU to lead the development of the Kyoto system. By 2007, it was clear that an arrangement without both the US and China would never be adequate. In fact it turned out that the Montreal Protocol, by removing CFCs, which were also powerful greenhouse gases, had been five times more effective than the Kyoto Protocol (World Meteorological Organization 2011)! Plans were made to negotiate a new agreement involving all parties in mitigation and adaptation activities. The intention was that this should be finalized at the 2009 Copenhagen COP, and the EU and other developed countries made pledges of future emissions reductions. Hopes were raised by the arrival p. 398of President Obama and his commitment to climate action by the US, although not to a second period for the Kyoto Protocol.

The Copenhagen experience revealed the extent of international structural change reflected in the emergence of the BASIC group of Brazil, South Africa, India, and China as key players in climate diplomacy. They, along with other developing countries and the Alliance of Small Island States (see Case Study 24.2), continued to demand the retention of Kyoto and substantial development aid to assist with mitigation and adaptation. In the shadow of the 2007–8 global financial crisis, developed countries backed away from further commitment to Kyoto and the stalemate was reflected in a weak ‘Copenhagen Accord’—which was very far from a new comprehensive and binding climate agreement, but in retrospect contained the seeds of the 2015 Paris Agreement (see Box 24.7).

Case Study 24.2 The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)

Sea water incursion onto Funafuti Atol, the main island of the Tuvalu nation

© Ashley Cooper pics / Alamy Stock Photo

A number of key coalitions operate in climate diplomacy, including the Umbrella Group of non-EU developed countries; the Environmental Integrity Group that includes Switzerland, South Korea, and Mexico; and the Group of 77/China which has long attempted to represent the South in global negotiations. Because of the widening differences between its members, the G77/China often fractures into the BASIC countries, the fossil fuel exporters, less developed mainly African countries, and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

AOSIS, set up in 1990, has played a disproportionately large role. Its 44 members may represent only about 5 per cent of world population, but they are driven by an awareness that their national survival is at stake. For members such as Nauru, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, the sea level rise associated with climate change threatens inundation within the foreseeable future. AOSIS is an ‘ad hoc lobby and negotiating voice’ co-ordinated through the UN missions of its members. It was influential in the initial decision to set up the Kyoto Protocol and has agitated consistently for a 1.5°C rather than a 2°C threshold plus compensatory arrangements for loss and damage caused by climate change. After the Copenhagen COP in 2009, AOSIS was involved with the EU, Australia, and a range of other progressive and less developed countries in setting up the Cartagena Dialogue. This provided a diplomatic basis for the Durban Platform agreed in 2011. At Paris in 2015 the position of small island states received wide international support, resulting in the inclusion of a reference to 1.5°C in the agreement.

Question 1: AOSIS has had an influence on international climate politics disproportionate to the populations of its member states. Which, if any, theories of world politics might explain this?

Question 2: Small island states are already suffering the ravages of climate change. How should they be compensated for disasters not of their making?

Box 24.7 The 2015 Paris Agreement

Aims to limit global temperature increases to ‘well below 2°C’ and to pursue efforts to keep them under 1.5°C to achieve a peaking of emissions as soon as possible and carbon neutrality by 2050.

Asks all Parties to publish and improve on their ‘nationally determined’ emission-reduction ‘contributions’.

Enhances adaptation and loss and damage provision for the victims of climate change.

Obliges developed countries to provide finance, technology, and capacity building for developing countries.

Includes a ‘global stocktake’ every five years (starting in 2023) to measure and stimulate progress.

Renewed attempts after Copenhagen to find a basis for a new climate agreement came to fruition in the 2011 Durban Platform. It appeared that the strict division between Annex 1 countries (see Case Study 24.1) and the rest of the world’s states had begun to dissolve, and that there would now be a comprehensive agreement involving most of the world’s governments and supported by a new understanding between China and the US. However, what was finally agreed in Paris at the end of 2015 (COP 21) was very different from the old Kyoto regime because it had an essentially ‘bottom-up’ character in which countries made ‘nationally determined contributions’ p. 399rather than emissions-reduction commitments. The pursuit of climate justice for developing countries also meant that the scale of the Green Climate Fund was highly significant for the success of the new regime, and developed countries made promises of additional money.

By the end of 2015 most countries had published their intended national contributions, which varied widely. It has been calculated that they remain very inadequate and, without further reduction, they would lead to a temperature increase of 3.2°C (Climate Transparency 2018: 6). The Parties to the Paris Agreement then spent three years in intensive discussion of ‘modalities, procedures and guidelines’ required to make the Agreement operational. Meanwhile, the Trump administration in the US announced in mid-2017 that it intended to withdraw from the Agreement. It was not joined by other countries, which signalled the degree of international commitment, although both Russia and Turkey had failed to ratify or provide the required nationally determined contributions (see Opposing Opinions 24.1).

Opposing Opinions 24.1 The failure—so far—of the Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) to arrest the rising level of atmospheric greenhouse gases means that a solution must be sought elsewhere


Transnational and local, rather than international, actors are the key. Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom (2009) called for ‘polycentric governance’ where local initiatives and voluntary climate action at all social levels flourish in the absence of a global agreement. For example, over a thousand US mayors have agreed to work on local ways to reduce GHGs, just as the ‘Carbon Disclosure Project’ has created new incentives for businesses to achieve the same result. The ‘carbon divestment’ campaign has forced universities and corporations to reconsider investments in fossil fuel industries.

UN conventions have proved more useful for political grandstanding than progress. In the 20 years since it entered into force, the UNFCCC with its multilateral approach has failed to curb GHG emissions. The Convention was structurally flawed in that it avoided treating many of the key drivers of climate change and was prone to political ‘grandstanding’ and activities that had little to do with its stated purposes.

Funding should support adaptation activities and real human development, not schemes like the Kyoto Protocol. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol did not meet expectations and neither will the Paris Agreement. There should be a concentration on local action to ensure that even the poorest people can have access to low-carbon sustainable energy.


‘The Paris Agreement establishes the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis’ (President Obama, December 2015). This represents a near-consensus view among those involved at a high level in climate diplomacy, including the UN secretary-general and the Pope.

Leadership by state governments is essential for success. Only they can leverage the funds that will be required and commit their citizens to taking action to reduce GHGs. Moreover, state governments’ key long-term business investment decisions will be influenced by international commitments to reduce the use of fossil fuels, to encourage renewable energy, and perhaps to establish a global carbon price. The UNFCCC and Kyoto may have already stimulated such changes (IPCC 2014). However, as the protestors involved in the Extinction Rebellion movement have forcefully argued, government action has been so inadequate that civil disobedience is now essential to shame them into taking their Paris obligations seriously.

Lack of central monitoring risks climate cheating. A critical issue is the effectiveness of governmental contributions to reductions under the Paris Agreement. In the short time available, the Paris Agreement provides an essential mechanism not only to encourage nations to raise their level of ambition, but also to ensure that when others take action they are not undercut by ‘free riders’.


Is citizen action to promote divestment in fossil fuels likely to prove a more effective way of avoiding a climate tragedy than long-running discussions between governments?


The first ‘global stocktake’ of the Paris Agreement will come in 2023. Does the record of the UNFCCC suggest that this will be too late to achieve its objectives?


Is it possible to detect different theoretical positions underlying the debate about the utility of multilateral climate cooperation?

For advice on how to answer these questions, see the pointers

The critical mechanism, established in Paris, was a review process to encourage Parties to ‘ratchet up’ their mitigation and adaptation contributions once p. 400the agreement enters into force in 2020. The major G20 economies, which account for nearly 80 per cent of global GHG emissions, would be required to cut these in half by 2030. There are hopeful signs in the continuing fall in the costs of renewable energy, but emissions are still rising and despite their promised ‘contributions’ many G20 countries are still subsidizing fossil fuels (Climate Transparency 2018: 6). The COP commissioned a special IPCC report on what it would take to stay below the 1.5°C threshold, which gave a stark warning that an urgent reduction in emissions was essential, before 2030, if the world was not to be locked into a future of dangerous temperature increases (IPCC 2018: 16). While Russia, the US, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait refused to ‘welcome’ this report, the Katowice COP, held at the end of 2018, managed to flesh out the technical rulebook for implementing the Paris Agreement.

Key Points

Because of its all-embracing nature and its roots in essential human activities, climate change poses an enormous challenge for international cooperation.

A limited start was made with the Kyoto regime, but this was later undermined by the withdrawal of the US and other major emitters.

Although the 2009 Copenhagen Conference was a disappointment to climate activists, subsequent meetings mapped out a new universal basis for international climate cooperation.

The 2015 Paris Agreement involved ‘bottom-up’ national contributions by all parties, stressing the importance of adaptation and additional funding for developing countries. Its success will depend on the ratcheting up of ambition and the level of national efforts.

The environment and international relations theory

The neglect of environmental issues in traditional and realist IR theorizing is exemplified in Hans J. Morgenthau’s famous text, Politics among Nations (1955), which mentions the natural environment only as a fixed contextual factor or a constituent of national power.

However, over the last 30 years the academic study of the international relations of the environment has developed through the attempt to understand the circumstances under which effective international cooperation, for example the ozone regime, can occur. (The preceding discussion of climate change shows that this question remains important.) Those, such as Oran Young (1994), who try to explain the record of environmental treaty making tend to adopt a liberal institutionalist stance, stressing as a key motivating factor the joint gains arising from cooperative solutions to the problem of providing public goods such as a clean atmosphere. One important contribution made by scholars of environmental politics reflects the importance of scientific knowledge and the roles of NGOs in this area. Whereas orthodox approaches assume that behaviour is based on the pursuit of power or interest by states, students of international environmental cooperation have noted the independent role played by changes in knowledge (particularly scientific understanding). This cognitive approach is reflected in studies of the ways in which transnationally organized groups of scientists and policy-makers—often referred to as epistemic communities—have influenced the development of environmental governance (P. Haas 1990).

Liberal institutionalist analysis makes the important, but often unspoken, assumption that the problem to be solved is how to obtain global governance in a fragmented system of sovereign states. Marxist and Gramscian writers (Paterson 2001; Newell 2012) would reject this formulation (see Ch. 7). For them, the state system is part of the problem rather than the solution, and the proper object of study is the way in which global capitalism reproduces relationships that are profoundly damaging to the environment. The global spread of neoliberal policies accelerates those features of globalization—consumerism, the relocation of production to the South, and the thoughtless squandering of resources—that are driving the global ecological crisis (see Ch. 27). Proponents of this view also highlight the state’s incapacity to do anything other than assist these processes. It follows that the international p. 401cooperation efforts described here at worst legitimize this state of affairs and at best provide some marginal improvements to the devastation wrought by global capitalism. For example, they would point to how free market concepts are now routinely embedded in discussions of sustainable development and how the WTO rules tend to subordinate attempts to provide environmental regulation of GMOs. This argument is part of a broader debate among political theorists concerning whether the state can ever be ‘greened’ (Eckersley 2004). The opposing view would be that, within any time frame that is relevant to coping with a threat of the immediacy and magnitude of climate change, international cooperation remains indispensable to providing the global governance necessary to address it, and that we shall simply have to do the best we can with existing state and international organizational structures (Vogler 2005).

The other theoretical connection that must be made is to the pre-eminent concern of orthodox IR—security (see Ch. 15). This link can be thought of in two ways. First, it is argued that environmental change contributes to the incidence of internal conflict and even inter-state war, even though the causal connections are complex and involve many factors. It is already evident that desertification and the degradation of other vital resources are intimately bound up with cycles of poverty, destitution, and war in Africa. However, if we consider such predicted consequences of climate change as mass migrations of populations across international boundaries and acute scarcity of water and other resources, the outlines of potential future conflicts come into sharper focus. The link between environmental change and armed conflict is essentially an extension of traditional thinking about security, defined in terms of collective violence and attacks on the state (Homer-Dixon 1991, 1994). A more intriguing question is whether the idea of security should now be redefined to encompass environmental threats as well as those stemming from terrorism and war (see Ch. 15). The UK Chief Scientist once did this by arguing that climate change represented a more significant threat than terrorism (D. King 2004). As the public becomes more keenly aware of the full magnitude of the climate problem, political discourse begins to ‘securitize’ the environment—to characterize changes in the environment as a security problem (Buzan, Wæver, and de Wilde 1997). Because governments usually prioritize security matters, people wishing to mobilize political attention and resources, and to encourage potentially painful societal adaptation, will be tempted to stretch established definitions of security.

Key Points

IR scholars have been interested in identifying the conditions under which effective international cooperation can emerge.

They attach varying importance to different explanatory factors in their analyses of international environmental governance, including crude calculations of the power and interests of key actors such as states; cognitive factors such as shared scientific knowledge; the impact of non-governmental actors; and even the extent to which the system of states is itself part of the problem.

IR scholars are also interested in the extent to which the environment in general and particular environmental problems are now being seen as security issues in academic, political, and popular discourse.

There is debate over whether the securitization of the environment is something to be welcomed.


This chapter has shown how environmental issues have moved from the margins to an increasingly central place on the international agenda. Climate change is now widely perceived to be at least the equal of any other issue and arguably the most important faced by humankind. The rise to prominence of environmental issues is intimately associated with globalization due to the strain that it places on the earth’s carrying capacity in terms of consumption levels, resource depletion, and rising greenhouse gas emissions. Globalization has also facilitated the growth of transnational green politics and interventions by NGOs to raise public awareness, influence international conferences, and even monitor the implementation of agreements by states.

At every stage, two distinctive aspects of international environmental politics have played a central role. The first is the complex relationship between scientific understanding of the biosphere, politics, and policy, as exemplified by the interplay between the IPCC and the actions of governments building the climate regime. The second is the connection between the environment p. 402and development, which has been expressed in the shifting meanings given to the concept of sustainable development; the acknowledgement of this connection has been a precondition for international action on a whole range of environmental issues. Nowhere is this more evident than in debates about the future direction of the climate regime.

The international response to environmental change has been in the form of attempts to arrange global environmental governance through extensive cooperation among governments. This chapter has given some insight into the range and functions of such activities, which provide a basis on which the international community is attempting to grapple with the climate problem. The academic community has generally followed this enterprise by concentrating on the question of how environmental treaties can be negotiated and sustained. More critical theorists take a different view of the meaning of international cooperation (see Chs 11 and 12). Furthermore, the challenges posed to international relations theory by the global environmental predicament will undoubtedly involve the need to think through the connections between security, climate change, and globalization.

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What are the possible connections, both negative and positive, between globalization and environmental change?


Why did environmental issues appear on the international agenda and what were the key turning points?


How would you interpret the meaning of sustainable development?


Can international trade and environmental protection ever be compatible?


Why did the framework convention/control protocol prove useful in the cases of stratospheric ozone depletion and climate change?


How does the ‘tragedy of the commons’ analogy help to illustrate the need for governance of the global commons?


Describe the ‘free rider’ problem in relation to reducing global GHG emissions.


How does the 2015 Paris climate agreement differ from the Kyoto Protocol?


Consider the possible security implications of the climate predictions made by IPCC.


Could a realist analysis provide a convincing account of international climate politics?

Test your knowledge and understanding further by trying this chapter’s Multiple Choice Questions

Further Reading

  • Barnett, J. (2001), The Meaning of Environmental Security: Ecological Politics and Policy in the New Security Era (London: Zed Books). This lively and critical book is recommended for readers who wish to explore the growing connections between environmental and security issues.
  • Barry, J., and Eckersley, R. (eds) (2005), The State and the Global Ecological Crisis (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press). A provocative set of essays on the continuing relevance of the state, long forsaken by green activists, but still the fundamental unit of global environmental governance.
  • Brenton, T. (1994), The Greening of Machiavelli: The Evolution of International Environmental Politics (London: Earthscan). A diplomatic participant’s account of the international politics of the environment up to and including the Rio Earth Summit.p. 403
  • Dauvergne, P. (ed.) (2012), Handbook of Global Environmental Politics, 2nd edn (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar). This extensive collection of 30 essays covering states’ governance and security, capitalism, trade and corporations, civil societies, knowledge, and ethics will provide the reader with a more ‘advanced’ view of current concerns and controversies in the field.
  • Elliott, L. (2004), The Global Politics of the Environment (Basingstoke: Palgrave). This comprehensive text provides detailed and wide-ranging coverage of the field and of the key international agreements.
  • Kütting, G., and Hermann, K. (eds.) (2018), Global Environmental Politics: Concepts, Theories and Case Studies (Abingdon and New York: Routledge). This collection pursues many of the themes in this chapter in greater depth.
  • Newell, P. (2012), Globalization and the Environment: Capitalism, Ecology and Power (Cambridge: Polity Press). Examines the relationship between globalization and the environment from historical materialist and political ecology viewpoints.
  • O’Neill, K. (2012), The Environment and International Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). An excellent and comprehensive review of the theoretical literature in the field.
  • Vogler, J. (2016), Climate Change in World Politics (Basingstoke: Palgrave). Analyses the way in which the UNFCCC was initially framed and how the international system has shaped its development.
  • To find out more, follow the web links