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.
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.
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.
Business-as-usual: An unchanging state of affairs despite difficulties or disturbances
Developed vs. developing country groups: Classification of
countries around the world based on their level of economic and
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
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.
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).
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).
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”).
Any chemical, physical, or biological agent that modifies the natural
characteristics of the physical environment.
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
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 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
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
Introduced Species: An introduced species is a species living outside its native distributional range, which has arrived there by human activity.
Invasive Alien Species (IAS): No international convention
on invasive alien species: The globalisation of trade and the power of
the Internet are challenging impediments to the control the
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
Native Species: Native species are either endemic or indigenous and are often considered native in multiple locations throughout the year due to migration.
Biodiversity: The variety of life in the
world or in a particular habitat or ecosystem.
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.
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.
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 Impacts (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 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
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.
- 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
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.
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
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: 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”.
Kuznets Curve: In economics, a Kuznets curve graphs the hypothesis that
as an economy develops, market forces first increase and then decrease
Facets Exerting Pressure: Energy, transport, urbanization and
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.
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
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.
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
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.
The UNFCCC (general history): 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
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
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.
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
Treaties and Conventions
Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty (3 prohibitions):
Treaty of 1963 prohibits nuclear weapons tests “or any other nuclear
explosion” in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water.
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
Global Environmental Facility: Established on the eve of
the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing
Green Climate Fund (GCF): 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
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.
Nationally Determined Contributions (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.
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest
Degradation (REDD): 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.
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
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 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): 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.
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
Desertification: 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
- Sea Water Level Rising
- Ocean Dumping
- Pollution from Cruise Ships
- Marine Debris
- Noise Pollution from Ships
- Oil Spills
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. 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
- By legal and other effective means
- To achieve long-term conservation of nature
* Stand apart from other measures because they protect all
- 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.
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. Examples of transboundary cooperation 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
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.
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
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 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.
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
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
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
Conflict and War
Causes of Conflict and War: 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
inequality, antagonistic group identities, polarized ideologies, and
scarcities of natural resources. In Sudan four categories of resources have been linked to conflict as
contributing causes (oil and gas reserves, waters, hardwood timber, rangeland and rain-fed agricultural land). In the Middle East water shortages, desertification, urbanization and competition over scarce resources have been contributing causes of conflict. Refugees have also increased competition with locals for scarce
resources increasing security risks.
Ecocide: destruction of the natural environment, especially when willfully done.
Eco-violence: Violence against nature. Types of eco-violence include deliberate or neglectful harm of animals, eco-sabotage, ecocide, Maximalist vs. minimalist definitions of ecocide.
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.
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
War related environmental impacts: 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 impacts include those related to unexploded
ordinace, agent orange (chemical defoliant), testing of nuclear
armaments, strontium 90, depleted uranium munition, fossil fuels, and
Water Scarcity: Dives importation of food, making vulnerable more vulnerable
Scarce water resources also contrtibutes to desertification, urbanization and competition over resources
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
Environmental Security Paradigm (3 key dimensions):
Environmental security is environmental viability for life support, with
- 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.
Finance Flows: Develop finance pathway towards
low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resiliece. Finance for
developing countries for both climate change mitigation and adaptation.
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.
Food Justice and Sustainability Project Alternatives: Feeding
Citizenship urban agriculture program · sustainable development (Aunio).
At the local, national, international/global levels. However, not
limited to, three main actors, i.e., state, market, and civil
society, which interact with one another, whether in formal and informal
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.
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.
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.
Hope through Global Commons (Elinor Ostrom)
Ostrom’s work on the Global Commons: Shared responsibility, onditional access, and 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.