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Edited by Ross Dowling and David Newsome

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Felicia Peck

This chapter focuses on a shortcoming in global environmental politics (GEP) research: the largely neglected role of the material environment itself as a force upon environmental politics. The knowledge deficiencies that result from inadequate incorporation of environmental influences in political analysis are illustrated through the case of the role of “carbon” in climate governance, and examples of GEP research that are strengthened by attentiveness to the materiality of climate governance are given. Methodological approaches most apt to support the incorporation of materiality in GEP research include discourse analysis, multi-scalar consideration, and the pairing of inductively and deductively gathered evidence. The case of carbon and climate outlined in the chapter suggests that the efficacy of the carbon-based, econometric, and techno-managerial modes of global climate politics is in need of further investigation by scholars.

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J. Timmons Roberts

Is the arc of history bending towards climate justice? This chapter outlines Boston Abolitionist minister Theodore Parker’s argument about the arc of history bending towards justice, and then reviews the history of climate governance, weighted by two variables: equity and adequacy. Both are required to reach a lasting solution to the problem of climate change. This history raises crucial lessons for efforts to make our field more impactful in the future, so the chapter describes the work of one hybrid group of activist-researchers who have spent over a decade seeking to build workable indicators of climate justice and make them part of the global governance system. The chapter discusses some possible areas for useful research, concluding that researchers could have far more impact if they engaged in joint work with actors in the governance system. Scholarly models of publishable research need rethinking, and university hiring and tenure criteria need rewriting.

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Harriet Bulkeley, Mark Cooper and Johannes Stripple

The attention to new kinds of actors, including sub-national governments, private sector organizations, and transnational associations, has broadened the idea of what constitutes climate governance in international relations, and thus what kinds of studies it is legitimate to pursue. Students of GEP should resist the tendency to approach climate governance as a general, abstract, and undifferentiated entity, and instead explore the specific instances, places, processes, and materials through which climate governance is encountered. The chapter recommends approaches that (1) rely on productive and relational accounts of power, (2) pay attention to the socio-material dimensions of carbon and climate, and (3) are attuned to the cultural politics of climate change. Encountering climate’s new governance implies getting close to how climate issues are woven into the socio-material and cultural fabric of our lives. Such a research agenda has the potential to cast a new light on what is considered global, environmental, and political.

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Timothy Adivilah Balag’kutu, Jason J. McSparren and Stacy D. VanDeveer

This chapter explores the potential for global environmental politics scholarship to contribute to extractives governance and practice. The extractives sector causes substantial environmental and social impacts, especially in the developing world, and these in turn often drive activism and mobilization. Civil society responses to the socio-environmental externalities of the extractive sector have led to the emergence of various transnational governance mechanisms. The sector and its impacts are growing, in terms both of large corporate-operated mines and of large areas of artisanal mining, often worsening deplorable environmental conditions. GEP scholarship to date has neglected the environmental consequences of extractives as an area of study. This chapter calls for increased GEP research on the extractive sector, proposing that many common themes in GEP research can be applied to aspects of the sector’s impacts, transnational governance arrangements, artisanal mining challenges, and civil society roles and influence.

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Kate J. Neville and Matthew Hoffmann

This chapter examines the contradictions and complications of global environmental politics (GEP) scholarship in turbulent times. It identifies a series of cross-cutting pressures that challenge GEP scholars: institutional pressure for particular forms of research; external pressure for “policy relevant” research; a climate of skepticism about expertise and science; and a growing sense of environmental catastrophe. It argues for four pathways to address these challenges, whereby analytically rigorous research is underpinned by: normative transparency; the development of methods to address incomplete information and dynamic systems; diverse understandings of scholarly engagement; and increased community building. The goal of the intervention is to identify both opportunities and challenges for increasing research transparency, improving relationships of trust between researchers and other communities, and enhancing the plurality of perspectives and diversity of debates in environmental politics.

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Susan Park

What is the relationship between money and the environment? Money is used as a means to buy, sell, produce, distribute, and invest. Money can grease the wheels of the international political economy, which generates environmental harms. Can we tackle environmental problems with money? States, as well as non-state actors like corporations, make international financial commitments to address a myriad of environmental issues. This chapter examines private sector efforts to mitigate environmental damage as well as state financing for (sustainable) development through the multilateral development banks and the Global Environment Facility. It also analyzes the more recent green funds for their role in supporting the multilateral environmental agreements, including the various mechanisms of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The chapter highlights the research findings and theoretical insights on green financing, the gaps and emerging issues, and recommendations for future research.

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Kate O’Neill

This chapter addresses the global political economy of waste in the twenty-first century. It identifies new topics and trends in this critical field, including the international scrap trade, food waste, electronic waste, and the rise of new transnational activist movements. Wastes have become a commodity traded from North to South, from South to North, and among Southern countries. The chapter outlines challenges to conventional wisdom about international production and transfer of wastes. Global environmental politics (GEP) scholarship has yet to fully engage with this new waste landscape and its political implications, although other fields are engaging, notably geography, and a new, multidisciplinary field, discard studies. By the same token, these fields can gain from the insights GEP and other fields of global politics can provide. This chapter draws on diverse bodies of literature, data, and journalism to show the complexities, linkages, and cross-scalar dynamics that characterize the “new” global political economy of waste.

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Sonja Klinsky

This chapter argues that we ought not to treat climate change as a case study of some broader phenomena but need to engage with its core characteristics in order to focus on it as a problem in its own right. It suggests that five characteristics of climate change have direct ramifications for our ability to conduct research that meaningfully engages with the issue. Specifically, climate change: (a) does not have natural boundaries; (b) is politically contentious; (c) is multi-scalar and multi-sited; (d) inevitably raises questions about justice and inequalities; and (e) is a cultural phenomenon. The chapter then briefly discusses each of these characteristics and reflects on some of the broader implications for research directions and approaches.

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Elizabeth R. DeSombre

Global governance for the oceans is both necessary and difficult. Scholarship on the topic has focused on international institutions and international law, detailing the negotiation and effectiveness of the international legal architecture created to address collective problems of the oceans. The large number of individual agreements addressing a variety of environmental problems of the oceans has also led to a productive (yet unresolved) exploration of the relative merits of global versus regional governance, and of comprehensive versus functionally separated governance. More recently, scholarship has moved to also consider some of the important nonstate actors and governance mechanisms involved in addressing problems of the oceans, focusing especially on information-provision and market-based strategies. Opportunities for analysis remain, including empirical attention to specific governance arrangements by issue area or location, and comparative studies, as well as more critical approaches.