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Handbook of Global Environmental Politics

Edited by Peter Dauvergne

The first Handbook of original articles by leading scholars of global environmental politics, this landmark volume maps the latest theoretical and empirical research in this young and growing field. Captured here are the dynamic and energetic debates over concerns for the health of the planet and how they might best be addressed.
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Chapter 12: Towards a Political Economy of Global Environmental Governance

Peter Newell


Peter Newell The Global Environmental Outlook report for 2000 notes: The global human ecosystem is threatened by grave imbalances in productivity and in the distribution of goods and services…. This unsustainable progression of extremes of wealth and poverty threatens the stability of the whole human system, and with it the global environment … Environmental gains from new technology and policies are being overtaken by the pace and scale of population growth and economic development. The processes of globalisation that are so strongly influencing social evolution need to be directed towards resolving rather than aggravating the serious imbalances that divide the world today. (UNEP, 1999: xx) Despite acknowledgments such as this, that patterns of globalization render the fragile systems of global environmental governance irrelevant or impotent, current theorization of the challenge of managing global environmental change within International Relations (IR) continues to look to international regimes for the answers. Even if it can be argued that this focus is appropriate for IR specialists wanting to account for institutional arrangements that have been constructed at the global level to protect the environment, this question cannot increasingly be divorced from an understanding of the nature of the contemporary global political economy and its implications for the future direction of environmental politics. This is especially so amid increasing evidence of private actors assuming public functions of regulation and stewardship with regard to natural resources. As Saurin notes, ‘international political analysis continues to be conducted as if environmental goods and bads are produced, accumulated and...

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