Countries such as Denmark, Finland, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland have apparently turned in some of the most successful environmental policy performance in recent decades. The reason has much to do with their adoption of ecological modernization discourse. This discourse is most at home in prosperous consensual democracies, though it has spread to many countries, including developing ones, as well as to global governance. Ecological modernization sees environmental protection and conservation implemented by government as good for business, and so economic growth. The slogan “pollution prevention pays” is prominent. Ecological modernization is largely a moderate technocratic discourses that stresses green re-tooling of the capitalist economy, though more radical “strong” versions exist that would contemplate thoroughgoing structural change that moves beyond the liberal capitalist status quo.
This chapter focuses on the intersection of law and politics in global environmental governance. A key characteristic of global environmental governance is its fragmentation. The regulatory landscape is populated by a variety of hard and soft law regimes, institutions, processes, and actors, which address particular environmental challenges, or address them in particular ways. Yet there are core principles that are common to many of these regimes, including the precautionary principle, the prevention principle, the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities, and the concept of sustainable development. The chapter then turns to an in-depth analysis of global climate change governance. It traces the evolution of climate change governance from the creation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1994 to the present, focusing on the major legal-institutional milestones of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the 2015 Paris Agreement. Finally, the chapter returns to the problem of fragmentation, considering recent attempts to bring greater unity and coherence to global environmental governance.