Thursday, February 22, 2018

Environmental Governance Primer

Environmental governance is essential to the management of the global challenges we face. This includes climate change, biodiversity loss, and ocean degradation. Here is a condensed summary of all that you need to know to be well versed on the basics of environmental governance. It includes definitions, lists, and summaries of many of the key features and issues associated with environmental governance. If you want to add something please do so in the comments section at the end. 

Basic terms

Environmental governance: A concept in political ecology and environmental policy that advocates sustainability (sustainable development) as the supreme consideration for managing all human activities—political, social and economic. Governance includes government, business and civil society, and emphasizes whole system management. To capture this diverse range of elements, environmental governance often employs alternative systems of governance, for example watershed-based management. It views natural resources and the environment as global public goods, belonging to the category of goods that are not diminished when they are shared. This means that everyone benefits from for example, a breathable atmosphere, stable climate and stable biodiversity.

Pollution: Any chemical, physical, or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the physical environment.

Greenhouse gases: A gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range. This process is the fundamental cause of the greenhouse effect causing planetary warming. Greenhouse gases include Water vapor (H. 2O), Carbon dioxide, Methane, Nitrous oxide (N. 2O), Ozone, Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), Hydrofluorocarbons (incl. HCFCs and HFCs)

Mitigation vs. adaptation: Because we are already committed to some level of climate change, responding to climate change involves a two-pronged approach: Reducing emissions of and stabilizing the levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (“mitigation”); Adapting to the climate change already in the pipeline (“adaptation”).

Developed vs. developing country groups: Classification of countries around the world based on their level of economic and industrial development.

Business-as-usual: An unchanging state of affairs despite difficulties or disturbances

Precautionary Principle: A strategy to cope with possible risks where scientific understanding is yet incomplete, such as the risks of nano technology, genetically modified organisms and systemic insecticides.  The principle that the introduction of a new product or process whose ultimate effects are disputed or unknown should be resisted. It has mainly been used to prohibit the importation of genetically modified organisms and food

Afforestation/deforestation/reforestation: Reforestation refers to establishment of forest on land that had recent tree cover, whereas afforestation refers to land that has been without forest for much longer. Deforestation is the removal of forests.

Governance gaps: A perceived governance gap between levels of corporate influence and impact, and related levels of accountability. It is one factors driving wider current trends on responsible business conduct and its governance 

Intergenerational equity: A concept that says that humans hold the natural and cultural environment of the Earth in common both with other members of the present generation and with other generations, past and future (Weiss, 1990, p. 8).

Global environmental justice: The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Bioapartheid: A world bifurcated according to immunization. Those with the proper vaccines or genetic codes live, insecurely, in protected areas; those without are doomed

Ecology and ecosystems

Biotic / Abiotic: The living things in an ecosystem are called biotic factors. Living things include plants, animals, bacteria, fungi and more. The non living parts of an ecosystem are called abiotic factors. In an ecosystem some abiotic factors are sunlight, temperature atmospheric gases water and soil. 

Ecology: 1. the branch of biology that deals with the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings. 2. the political movement that seeks to protect the environment, especially from pollution.

Levels of Ecology: Levels of organization in ecology include the population, community, ecosystem, and biosphere. An ecosystem is all the living things in an area interacting with all of the abiotic parts of the environment.

Ecosystem: The interaction of living and nonliving things in an environment

Ecosystems biomes: A specific geographic area notable for the species living there. A biome can be made up of many ecosystems. For example, an aquatic biome can contain ecosystems such as coral reefs and kelp forests.

Ecosystem services: Grouped into four broad categories: provisioning, such as the production of food and water; regulating, such as the control of climate and disease; supporting, such as nutrient cycles and crop pollination; and cultural, such as spiritual and recreational benefits.

Energy Flow Through Ecosystems. Ecosystems maintain themselves by cycling energy and nutrients obtained from external sources. At the first trophic level, primary producers (plants, algae, and some bacteria) use solar energy to produce organic plant material through photosynthesis.

Introduced Species: An introduced species is a species living outside its native distributional range, which has arrived there by human activity,

Native Species: Native species are either endemic or indigenous and are often considered native in multiple locations throughout the year due to migration.

Invasive Species: An invasive species is a plant, fungus, or animal species that is not native to a specific location (an introduced species), and that has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health.

IAS: invasive alien species. No international convention on invasive alien species: The globalisation of trade and the power of the Internet are challenging impediments to the control the spread of IAS


Biodiversity: The variety of life in the world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem.

Extinction rates (trends): Scientists estimate we're now losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day. In its latest four-year endangered species assessment, the IUCN reports that the world won't meet a goal of reversing the extinction trend toward species depletion by 2010.  Unsustainable exploitation, climate change, ocean acidification and other anthropogenic impacts have resulted in growing global extinction rates.

Ecosystem biodiversity: A type of biodiversity. It is the variation in the ecosystems found in a region or the variation in ecosystems over the whole planet. Ecological diversity includes the variation in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Species richness: The number of different species represented in an ecological community, landscape or region. A count of species that does not take into account the abundances of the species or their relative abundance distributions

Climate and Environment

Anthropocene: Relating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

Climate Change Affecta (18)

Rising seas and increased coastal flooding
Longer and more damaging wildfire seasons
More destructive hurricanes
More frequent and intense heat waves
Military bases at risk
National Landmarks at Risk
Widespread forest death
Costly and growing health impacts
An increase in extreme weather events
Heavier precipitation and flooding
Increase drought risk in certain regions
Increased pressure on groundwater supplies
Our aging electricity infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable
Changing Seasons
Melting ice/melting glacier
Disruptions to food supplies
Destruction of coral reefs
Plant and animal range shifts

Planetary resilience (boundaries): A concept of nine Earth system processes which have boundaries proposed in 2009 by a group of Earth system and environmental scientists led by Johan Rockström from the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Will Steffen from the Australian National University.

Planetary Boundaries (9)
  • Stratospheric ozone depletion
  • Loss of biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and extinctions)
  • Chemical pollution and the release of novel entities
  • Climate Change
  • Ocean acidification
  • Freshwater consumption and the global hydrological cycle
  • Land system change
  • Nitrogen and phosphorus flows to the biosphere and oceans
  • Atmospheric aerosol loading
  • The 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world: GOAL 1: No Poverty
  • GOAL 2: Zero Hunger
  • GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
  • GOAL 4: Quality Education
  • GOAL 5: Gender Equality
  • GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
  • GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
  • GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
  • GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
  • GOAL 13: Climate Action
  • GOAL 14: Life Below Water
  • GOAL 15: Life on Land
  • GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
  • GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal
Economic and social

Benefits: In social science there is a school of thought that argues the economy benefits from moves towards environmentalism

Kuznets Curve: In economics, a Kuznets curve graphs the hypothesis that as an economy develops, market forces first increase and then decrease economic inequality. Facets Exerting Pressure: Energy, transport, urbanization and globalization

Public Goods: A commodity or service that is provided without profit to all members of a society, either by the government or a private individual or organization. "a conviction that library informational services are a public good, not a commercial commodity" the benefit or well-being of the public. "the public good clearly demands independent action" A public good is a product that one individual can consume without reducing its availability to another individual, and from which no one is excluded. Public goods are non-rivalrous—a natural resource enjoyed by one person can still be enjoyed by others—and non-excludable—it is impossible to prevent someone consuming the good (breathing). Public goods are recognized as beneficial and therefore have value. Global public good covers necessities that must not be destroyed by one person or state.The non-rivalrous character of such goods calls for a management approach that restricts public and private actors from damaging them.

Common Pool Goods: A resource that benefits a group of people, but which provides diminished benefits to everyone if each individual pursues his or her own self interest.

The tragedy of the commons: An economic problem in which every individual tries to reap the greatest benefit from a given resource. As the demand for the resource overwhelms the supply, every individual who consumes an additional unit directly harms others who can no longer enjoy the benefits.

Utilitarianism: The dominant approach to the environment has been utilitarian: the natural world exists for humankind's consumption; it is to be used to further the end of human needs. The fruits of nature are commodities.

Market Failure: Many economists have described climate change as an example of a market failure. Policy interventions may be required to increase the price of activities that emit greenhouse gases, thereby providing a clear signal to guide economic activity.

Costs of inaction vs. action: The benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions outweigh the costs by trillions of dollars. Combining the results of the report by the German Institute of Economic Research and Watkiss et al. (2005) studies, we find that the total cost of climate action (cost plus damages) by 2100 is approximately $12 trillion, while the cost of inaction (just damages) is approximately $20 trillion.

Stern Review:  A 700-page report released for the Government of the United Kingdom on 30 October 2006 by economist Nicholas Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics (LSE) and also chair of the Centre. The report concludes there is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, if we take strong action now. The scientific evidence is overwhelming: climate change is a serious global threat, and it demands an urgent global response

Economic globalization: One of the three main dimensions of globalization commonly found in academic literature, with the two other being political globalization and cultural globalization, as well as the general term of globalization.

Freeganism: Freeganism is a practice and ideology of limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources, particularly through recovering wasted goods like food. The word "freegan" is a portmanteau of "free" and "vegan".


Climate Change (UNFCCC): In 1992, countries joined an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, as a framework for international cooperation to combat climate change by limiting average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and coping with impacts

The UNFCCC (general history): An intergovernmental treaty developed to address the problem of climate change. The Convention, which sets out an agreed framework for dealing with the issue, was negotiated from February 1991 to May 1992 and opened for signature at the June 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) — also known as the Rio Earth Summit. The UNFCCC entered into force on 21 March 1994, ninety days after the 50th country’s ratification had been received. By December 2007, it had been ratified by 192 countries

International Committee on the Red Cross (ICRC): Established in 1863, the ICRC operates worldwide, helping people affected by conflict and armed violence and promoting the laws that protect victims of war. An independent and neutral organization, its mandate stems essentially from the Geneva Conventions of 1949.  They are based in Geneva, Switzerland

Youth climate movement: International Youth Climate Movement refers to an international network of youth organisations that collectively aims to inspire, empower and mobilise a generational movement.

International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources: An international organization working in the field of nature conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

Treaties and conventions 

Global Environmental Facility: Established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems

Rio Conventions:  The convention on Biological Diversity (cBD), the United nations convention to combat Desertification (UnccD), and the United nations Framework convention on climate change (UnFccc) – address the need for adaptation to climate change through their activities.

Common but differentiated responsibilities: (CBDR) was enshrined as Principle 7 of the Rio Declaration at the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The declaration states: “In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities 

Kyoto Protocol: An international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which commits its Parties by setting internationally binding emission reduction targets

The Clean Development Mechanism:(CDM) is one of the Flexible Mechanisms defined in the Kyoto Protocol (IPCC, 2007) that provides for emissions reduction projects which generate Certified Emission Reduction units (CERs) which may be traded in emissions trading schemes. 

The Paris agreement: The Paris Agreement, Paris climate accord or Paris climate agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020

Green Climate Fund: The Green Climate Fund is a fund established within the framework of the UNFCCC to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change. The GCF is based in the new Songdo district of Incheon, South Korea

NDCs: According to Article 4 paragraph 2 of the Paris Agreement, each Party shall prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that it intends to achieve. Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions.

REDD—Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation: The role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries REDD+ was first negotiated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2005.

CITES: The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Atmospheric test ban treaty (three prohibitions): Treaty of 1963 prohibits nuclear weapons tests "or any other nuclear explosion" in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water.


Desertificatio: A type of land degradation in which a relatively dry area of land becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its bodies of water as well as vegetation and wildlife. It is caused by a variety of factors, such as through climate change and through the overexploitation of soil through human activity.

Desertication features: The permanent degradation of previously fertile land. Human causes of desertification include overgrazing, the buildup of salt in irrigated soils, and topsoil erosion. Permanent changes in climate, particularly rainfall, are responsible for natural desertification.

UN Convention to Combat Desertification: Convention to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought through national action programs that incorporate long-term strategies. Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (UNCCD)

Oceans and rivers

Threats to oceans (12):
  • NOx and SOx
  • Ocean Acidification 3. Ozone Depleting Substances
  • Dredging
  • Sea Water Level Rising
  • Ocean Dumping
  • Pollution from Cruise Ships
  •  Marine Debris
  • Noise Pollution from Ships
  • Oil Spills
  • Plastic
  • Warming
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS): Lays down a comprehensive regime of law and order in the world's oceans and seas establishing rules governing all uses of the oceans and their resources. The international agreement that resulted from the third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS III), which took place between 1973 and 1982.

UNCLOS: Beyond any one nation’s jurisdiction, shared by all. Dates to the 1970s—needs to be updated, there is no separate secretariat.

Limitations/weaknesses of UNCLOS
  • Large and complex Convention
  • non-compliance with its norms and principlea
  • United States is not a party to it
  • East Asia conflicts of interest between regional countries on law of the sea issues
  • ambiguity of UNCLOS in several of its key regimes
  • Geographical complexity of the region
  • territorial sea baselines
  • navigational regimes
  • exclusive economic zones (EEZs)
  • piracy, hot pursuit and the responsibilities of flag states
  • domestic politics and regional tensions
  • Need for regional consensus on aspects of the Convention
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)
  • Clearly defined geographical space
  • Recognized
  • Dedicated
  • Managed
  • By legal and other effective means
  • To achieve long-term conservation of nature
* Stand apart from other measures because they protect all

MPAs need
  • Definitions
  • Objectives
  • Criteria
  • Decision Making process
  • MPA Management Measures
  • Management Authority
  • Implementation and Monitoring
Ecologically or biologically significant areas: Enhanced protection to areas of the oceans and coasts that are ecologically or biologically significant. They are not based on regulation, and are not managed in the way Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are managed.
International Whaling Commission: Thirty years after the International Whaling Commission (IWC) implemented the moratorium on commercial whaling – an agreement that ultimately saved many great whale populations from certain extinction – cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) worldwide are facing grave and growing threats from a range of human activities

Transboundary threats to rivers; transboundary cooperation: The ecosystem services provided by the world's transboundary river basins support the socioeconomic development and wellbeing of the world's population. These basins, which cover most of the earth's land surface, continue to be impacted and degraded by multiple and complex human-induced and natural stressors. This is nowhere more destabilizing than in river basins that cross political boundaries. But experience shows that in many situations, rather than causing open conflict, the need for water sharing can generate unexpected cooperation. Despite the complexity of the problems, records show that water disputes can be handled.

Transboundary cooperation (examples) for rivers:
  • Central Asia (Syr Darya River)
  • Eastern, Central and Northern Europe (Rivers Tisza, Drin, Dnister, Vuoksi)
  • Dutch river basins on the North Sea side
World Commission on Dams: The World Commission on Dams existed between April 1997 and 2001, to research the environmental, social and economic impacts of the development of large dams globally.

Hazardous substances

Basel Convention on Trade in Hazardous Substances: usually known as the Basel Convention, is an international treaty that was designed to:

1. Reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations
2. Specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs). It does not, however, address the movement of radioactive waste
3. Minimize the amount and toxicity of wastes generated
4. Ensure their environmentally sound management as closely as possible to the source of generation
5. Assist LDCs in environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate

Basel Convention Role of the United States: The United States have signed the Convention but not ratified it. US is one of ten that are not party to it. The United States is a notable non-Party to the Convention and has a number of such agreements for allowing the shipping of hazardous wastes to Basel Party countries. OECD countries to continue trading in wastes with countries like the United States that have not ratified the Basel Convention

Basel convention Prior informed consent: The original Convention did not prohibit waste exports to any location except Antarctica but merely required a notification and consent system known as "prior informed consent" or PIC. least developed countries and environmental organizations argued that it did not go far enough. Many nations and NGOs argued for a total ban on shipment of all hazardous waste to LDCs.

Food security

Food security: Almost two decades ago, the Food and Agriculture Organization declared food security exists “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”

Global food waste scandal: Food waste uses up to '1.4 billion hectares of land – 28 per cent of the world's agricultural area'. Moreover, “globally, the blue water footprint for the agricultural production of total food waste in 2007 is about 250km3, which is more than 38 times the blue water footprint of USA households

Feeding the 5,000: A feedback global flagship campaigning event to shine a light on the global food waste scandal, champion the delicious solutions and catalyse the global movement. At each event, they serve a delicious communal feast for 5000 people made entirely out of food that would otherwise have been wasted

Conflict and war

Overview: Human conflict and environmental scarcity make global security a priority issue in the in the 21st century. This is also related to economic instability, climate change, and energy scarcity.

Deep causes of social conflict: Economic inequality, antagonistic group identities, polarized ideologies, and scarcities of natural resources. 

Resource curse in human conflict: It is resource abundance, rather than scarcity, that is the bigger threat to create conflict. Some countries with abundant natural resources have experienced what has been coined the “resource curse”—corruption, economic stagnation, and violent conflict over access to revenues

Structural violence of forced displacement (human rights): Structural violence is noted through four themes: internal displacement and development, food and politics, water and sanitation, and social services

Environmental impacts of war: There are both environment and health impacts associated with war. The application of weapons, the destruction of structures and oil fields, fires, military transport movements and chemical spraying are all examples of the destructive impact war may have on the environment.

Other war related environmental impacts
  • Unexploded ordnance
  • Agent Orange
  • Testing of nuclear armaments
  • Strontium 90
  • Depleted uranium munitions
  • Fossil fuel use
  • Intentional flooding
Environmental impacts of war are evident in all conflicts including Vietnam, Rwanda, and the Gulf War

Ecocide: destruction of the natural environment, especially when willfully done

Eco-violence: Violence against nature

Types of eco-violence: Deliberate or neglectful harm of animals, eco-sabotage, ecocide, Maximalist vs. minimalist definitions of ecocide

War, environmental degradation, climate change and conflict: Increased risk of conflict and war associated with climate change and environmental degradation especially in Africa (80% of African countries experienced civil conflict)

Water scarcity: Dives importation of food, making vulnerable more vulnerable Scarce water resources also contrtibutes to desertification, urbanization and competition over resources

Middle East: Water shortages, desertification, sped up urbanization. Competition over scarce resources: As the refugee problem has swollen, competition with locals for scarce resources has increased, posing a security risk

Sudan: Four categories of resources linked to conflict as contributing causes (oil and gas reserves, nile waters, hardwood timber, rangeland and rain-fed agricultural land). 

Human security: An emerging paradigm for understanding global vulnerabilities whose proponents challenge the traditional notion of national security by arguing that the proper referent for security should be the individual rather than the state.


Social-ecological systems (SES):  A compelling science based approach for improved environmental management through the application of transdisciplinary and resilience concepts enabling people, organizations, and societies to better resolve their conflicts and innovate in response to complex problems. This highly interdisciplinary approach, draws on political science, economics, environmental studies, geography, cognitive science, social psychology, and complex systems theory 

Recommendations for key elements of international frameworks: Emissions trading, renewable energy, energy efficiency, efficient transport, carbon capture use and storage, reduction of non-CO2 greenhouse gases, improved land use, climate action, mitigation and adaptation

Multi-scaled adaptive governance—key features: connecting actors and institutions at multiple organisational levels to enable ecosystem stewardship. A central characteristic of such adaptive governance is collaborative, flexible and learning-based issue management across different scales.

Multi-level interactions (i.e., local, national, international/global) among, but not limited to, three main actors, i.e., state, market, and civil society, which interact with one another, whether in formal and informal ways.

Finance flows: Develop finance pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resiliece. Finance for developing countries for both climate change mitigation and adaptation. The financials flows can flow from developed to developing countries (North-South), from developing to developing countries (South-South), from developed to developed countries (North-North) and domestic climate finance flows in developed and developing countries

Cap and trade: Emissions trading, or cap and trade, is a government-mandated, market-based approach to controlling pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants

Environmental impact assessments (EIA): The process of examining the anticipated environmental effects of a proposed project - from consideration of environmental aspects at design stage, through consultation and preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR)

Environmental security paradigm (3 key dimensions): Environmental security is environmental viability for life support, with three sub-elements:
  • preventing or repairing military damage to the environment
  • preventing or responding to environmentally caused conflicts, and
  • protecting the environment due to its inherent moral value.
Food Justice and Sustainability project· Alternatives: 'Feeding Citizenship' urban agriculture program · sustainable development (Aunio)

Hope through global commons (Elinor Ostrom)

Ostrom's work on the global commons (shared responsibility, conditional access, effective enforcement) demonstrated in meticulous detail that people can and do work together to manage shared resources sustainably, and have been doing so for hundreds of years.

Resources were developed largely by examining local commons involving natural resources.  Key characteristic distinguish such commons from more complex commons involving global resources and the risks

Shared responsibility: When individuals have to answer for their actions to others depending on the same resources, their approach to shared responsibility changes.

Conditional Access: Evolutionary approaches to understand the development of norms. One of those is the indirect evolutionary approach, which posits that there are two types in a population: conditional cooperators norm users and rational egoists.

Effective enforcement: Property rights to forest resources must be enforced. Enforcement is a major undertaking that involves collective action.

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