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 in 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, a stable climate, and stable biodiversity.
Afforestation/Deforestation/Reforestation: Reforestation refers to the 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 industrial development.
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.
Governance gaps: A perceived governance gap between levels of corporate influence and impact, and related levels of accountability. It is one factor 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 climate change already in the pipeline (“adaptation”).
Pollution: 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 nanotechnology, genetically modified organisms, and systemic insecticides. The precautionary principle states 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 nonliving 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 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: provisionings, 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 through human activities.
Invasive Alien Species (IAS): No international convention on invasive alien species: The globalization of trade and the power of the Internet is challenging impediments to the control the spread of IAS
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.
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 its 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 PovertyGOAL 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 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 trillion.
Economic Globalization: One of the three main dimensions of globalization is 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
economic inequality. Facets Exerting Pressure: Energy, transport, urbanization and globalization
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 from 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.
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
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.
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
impacts 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 organizations that collectively aims to inspire, empower and mobilize a generational movement.
Treaties and Conventions
Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty (3 prohibitions): The Treaty of 1963 prohibits nuclear weapons tests “or any other nuclear explosion” in the atmosphere, in outer space, and underwater.
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
Global Environmental Facility: Established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit to help tackle our planet’s most pressing environmental problems.
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 Korea.
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 activities.
The Clean Development Mechanism:(CDM) is one of the Flexible Mechanisms defined in the Kyoto Protocol (IPCC, 2007) provides for emissions reduction projects which generate Certified Emission Reduction units (CERs) that 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 climate change and 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 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—need to be updated, there is no separate secretariat.
Limitations/weaknesses of UNCLOS
- Large and complex Convention
- non-compliance with its norms and principles
- The 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 the 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.
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 socio-economic development and well-being 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
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.
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 the 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 waste generated
4. Ensure their environmentally sound management as closely as possible to the source of generation
5. Assist LDCs in the environmentally sound management of the hazardous and other wastes they generate
Basel Convention Role of the United States: 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 the 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 solutions and catalyze 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 life”
Global Food Waste Scandal: Food waste uses up to ‘1.4 billion hectares of land – 28 percent 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 21st century. This is also related to economic instability, climate change, and energy scarcity. Economic 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: The 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 of creating 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 environmental 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 ordinance, agent orange (chemical defoliant), testing of nuclear armaments, strontium 90, depleted uranium munition, fossil fuels, and intentional flooding.
Water Scarcity: Drives the need to import 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 the 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.
Finance Flows: Develop finance pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilience. Finance for developing countries for both climate change mitigation and adaptation. The financial flows can flow from developed to developing countries (North-South), from developing to developing countries (South-South), from developing 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).
Multi-level Interactions: 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 or informal ways.
Multi-scaled adaptive governance—key features: connecting actors and institutions at multiple organizational 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, conditional 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 understanding 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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