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Edited by Ross Dowling and David Newsome

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Edited by Ross Dowling and David Newsome

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Edited by Ross Dowling and David Newsome

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J. Samuel Barkin

Questions about the relationship between the environment and international trade have been asked in a variety of different ways, and have yielded a range of answers. This chapter looks at three ways in which the relationship has been studied, and at how each way has developed its own constellation of questions, methods, and epistemologies. It labels the three constellations as the critical, institutionalist, and positivist approaches. The critical approach looks at ways in which globalization, in part through the growth of international trade, can threaten the environment. The institutionalist approach examines the institutions of trade and environmental cooperation with a focus on their legal structures, procedures, and precedents. The positivist approach looks for correlations between the environmental performance of countries and their trade patterns and membership in international trade agreements. The chapter concludes by arguing that scholars can usefully communicate across these approaches more effectively than is often the case.

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Erika Weinthal

The creation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and subsequent Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has reinvigorated research on sustainable development. Through exploring the MDGs and SDGs through a sustainability lens, this chapter seeks to explicate the ways in which the SDGs are shaping global environmental governance across different scales. By engaging with debates over the design of the SDGs, this chapter claims that global environmental politics (GEP) scholars can offer a critical perspective regarding what constitutes sustainable development in the Anthropocene and more broadly about participation and rights in the design of policies for both planetary and human well-being. The SDGs, thus, highlight the need for GEP scholars to devise a clear research agenda that can connect the crosscutting global challenges associated with the SDGs to the needs of communities and peoples at the local level through a framework that takes into account human rights and justice.

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Lars H. Gulbrandsen

This chapter examines research on nonstate governance institutions in the shape of diverse sustainability certification programs. It reviews research findings and insights related to two main analytic themes: the emergence and evolution of sustainability certification programs; and the effectiveness of these programs in resolving or ameliorating the problems that motivated their establishment. While we know a great deal about the emergence and evolution of sustainability certification, more research is needed to better understand its achievements and challenges, as well as the institutional and longer-term consequences of certification programs. There is a need for cumulative research beyond single-case studies in order to understand patterns of institutional evolution and change, the direct effects and broader consequences of certification, program interactions, and certification’s intersection with governmental, intergovernmental, and civil society initiatives to address environmental and social problems arising from the practices of global production, distribution, and consumption.

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Jennifer Clapp and Phoebe Stephens

This chapter focuses on the global political dynamics at the interface of food systems and environmental systems, especially at the international level. Scholars across a range of disciplines have drawn attention to the ecological impact of food production methods, the environmental consequences of an increasingly globalized food distribution system, and the sustainability implications of dietary choices. The complexity of food supply chains at the global level has at times obscured these issues from the public’s view, but a growing amount of research on these themes has made them more visible in recent years, contributing to greater societal pressure and political debate over how best to ensure that food systems are more sustainable. We conclude by pointing to what we consider to be the most promising theoretical and methodological frameworks for research in this area, including interdisciplinary approaches and methods that draw on a range of data sources.

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Justin Alger and Peter Dauvergne

Following the rapid growth in scholarship in global environmental politics since the 1990s, it is time for a reinvigorated research agenda in the field. This chapter outlines the current state of global environmental politics research through the lenses of global political economy, international institutions and nonstate governance, ecological crisis, climate politics, and scholar activism and engaged research. By identifying gaps and emerging issues, it distills a research agenda for current and future scholars of global environmental politics. There is, in particular, a growing need for research that: (a) more closely connects social phenomena to global environmental impacts and change; and (b) asks more innovative and expansive questions rather than filling niches on issues with already extensive scholarship. As it is a relatively new field that seeks to address an escalating global environmental crisis, there is still plenty of room for emerging scholars of global environmental politics to ask big questions.

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Geoffrey Jones

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Geoffrey Jones