EME 504
Foundations in Sustainability Systems

11.1 Global Environmental Governance

The different modes of analysis introduced in Modules 1-10 show that the question of how to obtain sustainability is multi layered and multifaceted. Issues of sustainability transcend national boundaries and have the potential of depleting even high-performing economies during catastrophic events, such as the ones that are beginning to occur as a consequence of global climate change. (For example, where do you relocate the entire population of an island nation?)

Please watch the following video: 2:07

Module 11 Video 
Credit: Dutton Institute. "EME 504 Module 11." YouTube.
Click for transcript.

PRESENTER: Globalization of production and trading has generated a rapidly evolving policy landscape. Gone are the days where you had a central government and the diplomats making agreements as to what the policy was going to be, and shaking hands and going back to their countries and implementing these approaches from the top down. And now, the reality, the policy-making reality, involves a wide variety of new actors and a wide variety of methodologies that previously operated at a much more limited scale. So what we're seeing now is we're seeing lobbying groups that are both rooted in activism, and are also in some cases financed by corporations. We're also seeing groups of scientists and engineers organizing themselves and being organized by different governments, entering into the equation of dictating and creating rules and regulations for the environment. Finally, we see cities emerging as models for how a certain type of mitigation may take place, and creating a number of different laboratories where concepts can be tested at a much smaller scale. Modern environmental governance may have diverse sources and diverse actors. However, the asymmetries between the developed north and the developing south still exist, and there is a great deal of mistrust that comes from a long history of interactions between countries with very different degrees of industrialization.

If we add to that the virulent public discourse regarding global climate change, biodiversity, forestry, water and energy resources, it becomes very clear that we are not only facing a question of how to obtain sustainability, but also what a sustainable future looks like and whether or not there is a societal desire to seek such future. Divergent visions of a sustainable future have resulted in equally diverse, decentralized responses to environmental changes coming from actors with a broad variety of agendas, levels of expertise, and spheres of influence. Biermann and Pattberg (2008) list several different groups to which these actors can belong.

Biermann and Pattberg (2008) observe that some of these actors used to be limited to the subnational level. Some existing actors have assumed new roles. In general, the proliferation of actors into the global stage has generated an increment in the volume and quality of available resources, which is particularly important in times of crisis and in developing nations. Although efforts in coordinating how these resources are distributed remain limited, international meetings such as the High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness have attempted to bring together a wide variety of actors. The most recent of these high level forums outlined the roles of these actors in the context of developed-developing nations in the Busan Outcome (2011).

  1. Activist groups.
  2. Multinational corporation lobbies.
  3. Public-private partnerships.
  4. Networks of experts.
  5. Intergovernmental organizations.
  6. International courts.