Global Environmental Politics

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

World Environment Day: Three Questions for Ken Conca

This post, featuring Professor Ken Conca of the Global Environmental Politics Program, originally appeared on the American University website

The United Nations World Environment Day on June 5 is meant to encourage worldwide awareness and action for the environment. We asked Professor Ken Conca, author of the forthcoming book, An Unfinished Foundation: The United Nations and Global Environmental Governance, to reflect on environmental progress and challenges:

Q: The World Environment Day theme this year is “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.” What does the United Nations hope to highlight this year?

Each year, the United Nations underscores a specific theme on World Environment Day. This year, the emphasis is on the responsible management of natural resources. Particular attention is being paid to actions people around the world can take—cutting down on food waste, conserving energy, shifting to renewables, and using water wisely. Continue reading

Sikina Jinnah

New Book: Post-treaty Politics: Secretariat Influence in Global Environmental Governance

Sikina Jinnah, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the School of International Service, is the author of a new book, Post-treaty Politics: Secretariat Influence in Global Environmental Governance, published by MIT Press.  Often ignored by scholars of international relations, the book shows how secretariats help to manage the dense interplay of issues, rules, and norms between inPost-Treaty Politics Book Coverternational treaty regimes in the areas of biodiversity, climate change, and international trade.

UPDATE: MIT Press asked Dr. Jinnah some questions about her new book as part of their blog series “Five Minutes” Their questions and Dr. Jinnah’s responses can be found by clicking here. 

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Sikina Jinnah

Sikina Jinnah: The US and China Strike a Bilateral Climate Deal

This post was written by Sikina Jinnah, Assistant Professor of International Relations at the School of International Service.  

The US and China Strike a Bilateral Climate Deal

Last week President Obama surprised the world in announcing a new bilateral climate deal with China. Central to the agreement, the US pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, and China agreed to peak its emissions around 2030 and increase its non-fossil fuel share of energy to 20% by 2030. Although these pledges are not nearly enough to avoid the dangerous anthropogenic impacts of climate change, they mark a substantial improvement over the status quo and breathe new life into the ailing United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations as countries prepare to meet in Paris, France in just over a year to hammer out a new climate agreement for the post-2020 period.

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Spencer Schecht photo

Spencer Schecht: Working With Neoliberalism to Solve Climate Change

This post contains an excerpt from a paper written by Spencer Schecht, a second year student in the Natural Resources and Sustainable Development (NRSD) Program, for one of his courses at the University for Peace in Costa Rica.  It has been adapted to stand-alone as a post.

Working With Neoliberalism to Solve Climate Change

“Whether from an anthropocentric or a biocentric perspective, more adequate environmental values need to be formulated and linked to areas of public policy (Tucker and Grim, 2009).”

Consulting the literature surrounding environment and development, a clear pattern of environmental destruction and climate change vis-à-vis neoliberal capitalism arises (Daly, 1998; Durham, 1995; Hansen, 2013; Hopwood, 2005; McAfee, 2012). Modern civilization has not found a way to decouple development from pollution, deforestation, and carbon emissions (Ramesh, 2014). Concurrent to these development challenges, we have not found a 21st Century development model that is not, at a fundamental level, neoliberal. Correlation can be drawn from neoliberalism to environmental damage and climate change. The first choice to reverse this trend would be to completely transform, as Hopwood explains (2006, p. 49), “Given the need for fundamental change, a deep connection between human life and the environment and a common linkage of power structures that exploit both people and planet, we would argue that transformation is essential.”

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Wil Burns: China and Climate Intensity Targets

This post was written by Dr. Wil Burns.  Dr. Burns is Scholar in Residence at the Global Environmental Politics (GEP) program and serves as Co-Executive Director of the Washington Geoengineering Consortium, an initiative of the GEP program.  This post originally appeared on another blog of the GEP program, Teaching Climate/Energy Law & Policy.

As any climate change instructor knows, China’s ability to arrest its burgeoning emissions of greenhouse gas emissions is critical if the globe is to avoid passing critical climatic thresholds. China’s greenhouse gas emissions have risen an astounding 280% since 1990. The nation’s share of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions has now reached 28%, double that of the next China GHG Trendshighest country, the United States. Its projected 10.4 billion tons of carbon emissions this year will likely be greater than the U.S. and the European Union combined. Moreover, China’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions have recently overtaken those of the European Union. Continue reading

Andreas Karelas: The People’s Climate March and Why It Matters

This post was written by Andreas Karelas (Natural Resources and Sustainable Development ’08) and originally appeared on  He is the founder and Executive Director of Re-volv, a nonprofit that aims to increase investment in renewable energy.  

People's Climate March

An estimated 400,000 people attended the People’s Climate March in New York City on 9/21/2014.  A large screen showed images from actions and marches around the world that were part of the global event.

I was on the fence about attending.

I was going to a wedding in Maryland the day before the march and already had a ticket back to San Francisco for the next day. I knew it was going be costly to switch my flight and require an early morning journey to get to NYC on time.

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