Global Environmental Politics

Master's Degree Programs in Global Environmental Policy and in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development


GEP Alum Published in Foreign Policy

2009 GEP alum Ma Tianjie has been published in Foreign Policy! His article, “China’s New Megacity: The Anti-Beijing,” discusses the April 1st resolution issued by the the government to develop a new mega city similar to Shenzhen and Shanghai’s Pudong New District. The development of the new area, Xiong’an, is changing the image of Beijing and is an attempt to alleviate the “megacity disease.” Learn more and check out this fascinating piece here!


DC & Costa Rica: The NRSD Dual Degree Program

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The Natural Resources and Sustainable Development (NRSD) dual degree program is a great opportunity for students to experience the vibrant city of Washington DC and the natural beauty of Costa Rica.

This semester, seven NRSD students are at the United Nations Mandated University for Peace, our partner university. Courses this semester range from climate change governance to research methods to food security. The university is very diverse, making classroom discussions loaded with different perspectives and challenging each student to think outside of the box.

While not in class, our students have enjoyed visiting the Poás and Arenal Volcanoes, the magical blue Celeste River, and countless beautiful beaches. They even participated in the San Jose Women’s March (check out this video made by student Emily Moore!). The warm weather and host families have welcomed our students as they enjoy two semesters filled with learning and traveling. Upcoming destinations include Panama, Belize, Nicaragua, and Guatemala!

We wish the best of luck to our students as they continue on this incredible journey. Pura vida!

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Photo Credit: Emily Moore


SIS scholar works to protect climate and human rights

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SIS Scholar in Residence and co-director of the Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment, Wil Burns, discusses his advocacy for a human rights based approach to climate geoengineering in a recent SIS news article. Burns wrote a report in October, “The Paris Agreement and Climate Geoengineering Governance: The Need for a Human Rights-Based Component,” that articulated a human rights mechanism for the Paris Agreement after he “became interested in how to minimize the effects of [climate change responses] on populations and ensure that those populations have a voice in any decision making that occurs.” Read Anthony DiFlorio’s full article below.

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Fourth Al-Moumin Award and Distinguished Lecture on Environmental Peacebuilding

dsc_0315Last Thursday some of our GEP students had the pleasure of attending the Fourth Al-Moumin Award and Distinguished Lecture on Environmental Peacebuilding at the Environmental Law Institute, sponsored by both American University and the United Nations Environment Program. This year’s award was given to Ambassador Marie G. Jacobsson, Special Rapporteur for the United Nations International Law Commission and Principle Legal Advisor on International Law for the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Ambassador Jacobsson has worked for three years with the International Law Commission on the topic Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict, and shared with the audience some of the takeaways from her most recent report, including the importance of addressing environmental harm that results from armed conflict, the limitations of modern international law on the issue, and the overlap with human rights and refugee law. AU Professor Ken Conca provided commentary, discussing the positive aspects of international law leading to the diffusion of the best practices and leading through standardization. The Al-Moumin award acknowledges leaders in the field of environmental peacebuilding, and Ambassador Jacobsson is well deserving of the recognition.


Climate Engineering under the Paris Agreement: A Legal and Policy Primer

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About the Authors 

A. Neil Craik

Neil Craik is a CIGI senior fellow with the International Law Research Program, effective June 2015. He is an associate professor at the University of Waterloo with appointments to the Balsillie School of International Affairs and the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, where he teaches and researches in the fields of international and Canadian environmental law.  

 Wil Burns

Wil Burns is a CIGI senior fellow with the International Law Research Program, effective July 2015. Until recently, he served as director of the Energy Policy & Climate Program at Johns Hopkins University, and now serves as co-director of the Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment, a scholarly initiative of the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC.

While the Paris Agreement does not address the issue of climate engineering expressly, the target of limiting global average temperature rise to no more than 2°C (a goal that appears unlikely to be achieved in the absence of significant amounts of carbon removal) raises questions with respect to how the issue of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and solar radiation management (SRM) technologies may be addressed under the Paris Agreement. This report examines the specific provisions of the Paris Agreement with a view to identifying where legal and policy questions in relation to climate engineering are likely to arise. Inclusion of CDR technologies as part of a state’s nationally determined contributions (NDCs) is permissible under article 4 of the Paris Agreement, but will likely trigger concerns respecting technological readiness and equity. SRM technologies would appear to have little entry room within the Paris Agreement, but the process mechanism of the agreement provides opportunities to satisfy SRM research governance demands for transparency and public deliberation. The report concludes that the building blocks for an internationally integrated approach to climate engineering law and policy are faintly present in the Paris Agreement’s procedural and institutional capacities. As research activities generate a clearer understanding of the feasibility of CDR and SRM technologies, bringing the science to bear on the normative commitments to equity, human rights and the nature of climate change as an issue of common concern will be critical to realizing a broader coherence in global climate policy under the Paris Agreement.

Read the full report here.


New CIGI Report – The Paris Agreement and Climate Geoengineering Governance: The Need For a Human-rights Based Component

centre-for-international-governance-innovation-cigiDr. Wil Burns, a Scholar in Residence at AU’s School of International Service and co-director of the Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment, has authored a new report for the Center for International Governance Innovation titled “The Paris Agreement and Climate Geoengineering Governance: The Need For a Human-rights Based Component.”

“There has been growing recognition in the past decade at both the international and domestic levels of the potential ramifications of climate change for the exercise of human rights. Even more recently, the locus of concern has expanded to include the human rights implications of response measures to confronting climate change. The newly adopted Paris Agreement includes language that calls on its parties to consider, respect and promote the protection of human rights when taking actions to address climate change. However, the agreement fails to suggest specific means to operationalize this mandate.

This paper suggests a framework for achieving the objective of protecting human rights in the context of climate change response measures. It focuses on one suite of emerging potential measures that fall under the general rubric of “climate geoengineering,” which is defined as efforts to effectuate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment through technological options in order to counteract the manifestations of climate change. The paper suggests that the parties to the Paris Agreement utilize a human rights-based approach as a framing mechanism to ensure that the potential human rights implications of climate geoengineering options are assessed in the policy-making process moving forward. Such an approach may help to ensure that any potential negative ramifications of climate geoengineering options on the human rights interests of the world’s most vulnerable peoples are taken into account and minimized. Moreover, this analysis might help us to flesh out more broadly the contours of the new human rights language in the Paris Agreement.”

Read the full report here!