Handbook of Ecological Economics
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Handbook of Ecological Economics

Edited by Joan Martínez-Alier and Roldan Muradian

This Handbook provides an overview of major current debates, trends and perspectives in ecological economics. It covers a wide range of issues, such as the foundations of ecological economics, deliberative methods, the de-growth movement, ecological macroeconomics, social metabolism, environmental governance, consumer studies, knowledge systems and new experimental approaches. Written by leading authors in their respective areas of specialisation, the contributions systematize the “state of the art” in the selected topics, and draw insights about new knowledge frontiers.
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Chapter 16: Global environmental governance

Arild Vatn


Two observations form the basis for this chapter. First, environmental problems are increasingly globalized. Climate change, biodiversity loss, stratospheric ozone depletion, ocean acidification and the expansion of biogeochemical cycles like that of nitrogen are among the most important as recognized over the last decennia. The list illustrates also that the concept of ‘global’ means different things across the field of environmental issues. While the climate change process is driven by changes in an atmosphere that is common across the globe, biodiversity loss – while a global phenomenon – is more localized as to its dynamics. Nevertheless, Rockstrom et al. (2009) talk about planetary boundaries in relation to all the above examples. Second, the existing systems for governance of the involved resources are not well adapted to the kind of problems faced. Key actors are nation states and multinational corporations. This implies that the main political decision-making power is vested in units that have jurisdictions that are highly limited with respect to the geographical scale, while those deciding about production processes so important for the creation of environmental problems operate globally. This is an uneven battle based on dogmas of free trade, creating conditions that are not favorable for establishing the necessary cooperation that a solution to global environmental challenges demands. We have certainly managed to develop a set of international organizations and treaties directing efforts into reducing the abovementioned type of problems. These are, however, weak.

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