New Article: ‘Corporate Corruption of the Environment: Sustainability as a Process of Compromise’

Nyberg, D. & Wright, C. (2013). Corporate Corruption of the Environment: Sustainability as a Process of Compromise. The British Journal of Sociology. 64 (3): 1-20.

Abstract: A key response to environmental degradation, climate change and declining biodiversity has been the growing adoption of market principles in an effort to better value the social good of nature.Through concepts such as ‘natural capitalism’ and ‘corporate environmentalism’, nature is increasingly viewed as a domain of capitalist endeavour. In this article, we use convention theory and a pluralist understanding of social goods to investigate how the social good of the environment is usurped by the alternate social good of the market.Through analysis of interviews with sustainability managers and corporate documentation, we highlight how organizational actors employ compromise to temporally settle disputes between competing claims about environmental activities. Our findings contribute to an understanding of the processes of empirically grounded critique and the undertheorized concept of compromise between social goods. Rather than protecting the environment, the corporate promotion of sustainability facilitates the corruption of the social good of the environment and its conversion into a market commodity.

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New Report: “A New Wave of European Climate and Energy Policy: Towards a 2030 Framework”

Hanrahan, G., (2013). A New Wave of European Climate and Energy Policy: Towards a 2030 Framework. Dublin, Ireland:  The Institute of International and European Affairs, 1-17.

Introduction: In the heady days of 2007, when climate change was climbing the political and public agendas, EU leaders committed to the ambitious trio of 20-20-20 headline climate and energy targets, to be delivered by 2020. This political commitment, formalised in the 2008 Climate and Energy Package, was designed to have normative force and demonstrate the EU’s climate leadership in the run up to the critical 2009 Copenhagen Conference.

Six years on, however, the landscape has changed dramatically. Political capital in Europe is consumed by the economic crisis and recovery efforts; climate has fallen down the list of political priorities globally; the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) – the EU’s flagship climate protection instrument – is in turmoil; global investment in renewable energy fell in 2012; the unconventional oil and gas revolution in the US is driving a coal rush in Europe and casting EU high energy prices into sharp relief; momentum has not built around Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and there is a shortfall in delivering the EU’s 2020 energy efficiency target.

Nevertheless, significant progress has been made in beginning the low carbon transformation of Europe’s economy. Emission reductions are on track and the 2020 target looks set to be over-delivered, though much of this success is a result of economic stagnation. The rollout of renewable energy is also proceeding apace, aided by the decreasing cost of renewable technologies, which is in turn associated with economies of scale in Chinese manufacturing in particular. Member States have made a political commitment to 80-95% decarbonisation by 2050 and the European Commission’s Low Carbon, Energy and Transport Roadmaps to 2050 have begun to articulate what is possible in this respect. Many Member States are also busy setting out decarbonisation agendas, with the German Energiewende perhaps the best-known example.

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New Report: “Environmental Guidance Note for Disaster Risk Reduction: Healthy Ecosystems for Human Security and Climate Change Adaptation”

Sudmeier-Rieux, K., Ash, N. and Murti, R. (2013). Environmental Guidance Note for Disaster Risk Reduction: Healthy Ecosystems for Human Security and Climate Change Adaptation. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, 1-34.

Introduction: This note was developed to provide guidance on the benefits of and ways to integrate environmental concerns into disaster risk reduction strategies (DRR) at the local and national levels. As recognised and outlined within the Hyogo Framework for Action priority 4: “Reduce the Underlying Risk Factors”, healthy ecosystems and environmental management are considered key actions in DRR. Although the field of disaster risk management has evolved to recognize the need for addressing sustainable development issues for reducing risk, the environmental dimension has not to date received adequate attention and practical guidance.

The questions we would like to answer with this guidance note are:
• What are healthy ecosystems and why do they matter to disaster risk reduction?
• How can ecosystems contribute to reducing disasters?
• What is ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction?
• How can we integrate ecosystem management and disaster risk management?

The rise in number and intensity of many extreme hydro-meteorological events is increasingly recognized as being the result of global and regional climate change. More broadly and importantly, the underlying risk factors of disasters are increasing: more people are living in vulnerable areas, such as low lying coastal areas, steep hillsides, flood plains, near cliffs, or in forested areas on the outskirts of cities – most often out of necessity, but sometimes out of choice. Environmental degradation is reducing the capacity of ecosystems to meet the needs of people for food and other products, and to protect them from hazards. The people affected by reoccurring disasters are often the most dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, and the appropriate management of ecosystems can play a critical role in their ability to prevent, cope with, and recover from disasters.

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New Article: “International Environmental Law in the Anthropocene: Towards a Purposive System of Multilateral Environmental Agreements”

Kim, R.E. & Bosselmann, K. (2013). International Environmental Law in the Anthropocene: Towards a Purposive System of Multilateral Environmental Agreements. Transnational Environmental Law. 1-25.

Abstract: Our point of analytical departure is that the state of the global environment is deteriorating despite the accumulating body of international environmental law. By drawing on the recent Earth system science concept of interlinked planetary boundaries, this article makes a case for a goal-oriented, purposive system of multilateral environmental agreements. The notion of ‘goal’ is used here to mean a single, legally binding, superior norm – a grundnorm – that gives all international regimes and organizations a shared purpose to which their specific objectives must contribute. A bird’s eye view of the international environmental law system reveals how the absence of a unifying goal has created a condition that is conducive to environmental problem shifting rather than problem solving. We argue that a clearly agreed goal would provide the legal system with a point of reference for legal reasoning and interpretation, thereby enhancing institutional coherence across Earth’s subsystems. To this end, this article concludes by observing that the protection of the integrity of Earth’s life-support system has emerged as a common denominator among international environmental law instruments. Accordingly, we suggest that this notion is a strong candidate for the overarching goal of international environmental law.

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New Article: “Climate Change: New Dimensions of Environmental Security”

Dalby, S. (2013). Climate Change: New Dimensions of Environmental Security. The RUSI Journal. 158 (3): 34-43.

Abstract: Climate change has added new impetus and urgency to the long-running discussion of environmental security, leading to an emphasis on the overall transformation of planetary systems. In this article, Simon Dalby argues that this requires consideration of three themes in particular: urban vulnerabilities to extreme events; the unforeseen social and political consequences of adaptation and mitigation efforts; and the possibilities of geoengineering. Furthermore, given the increasingly artificial circumstances that the global economy is creating, security planners should now focus on the consequences of further expansion of the carbon-fuelled global economy, rather than on concerns about political instabilities in the rural peripheries caused by resource conflicts.

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New Article: “Polycentric Governance for a New Environmental Regime: Theoretical Frontiers in Policy Reform and Public Administration”

Araral, E. & Hartley, K. (2013). Polycentric Governance for a New Environmental Regime: Theoretical Frontiers in Policy Reform and Public Administration. International Conference on Public Policy, 26-28 June 2013, Grenoble.

Abstract: Polycentric governance is characterized by an organizational structure where multiple independent actors mutually order their relationships with one another under a general system of rules (V. Ostrom 1972). We argue that the idea of polycentricity is an idea whose time has come because of its powerful implications for the discourse on post-governance. The premise is simple; governance of complex, modern societies requires institutional diversity embodied in multi‐level, multi-purpose, multi-sectoral, and multi-functional units of governance. In the first part of this paper, we explore the epistemological and ontological foundations of polycentricity, describe its essential features, and outline the preconditions for a polycentric system of governance and its implications for efficiency and democratic administration. We critique the old and new public management, arguing that the current discourse on network governance merely reinforces the old concept of public administration. We also consider implications for a second-generation research agenda on governance that takes into account the logic of polycentricity. In the second part of this paper, these concepts are illustrated through a comparative example of environmental management featuring a mature polycentric governance structure and a developing one. The disciplined, multi-jurisdictional approach of the San Francisco Bay Area contrasts sharply with a weakly administered environmental management regime in Rayong Province, Thailand. These examples are compared to illuminate effective strategies and governance challenges in the polycentric approach to environmental management; the findings may have implications for the development of larger scale polycentric governance structures addressing global-scale environmental issues.

For more information click here.

Special Report: “Natural Disasters as Threats to Peace”

Tipson, F.S. (2013). Natural Disasters as Threats to Peace. United States Institute of Peace. Special Report 324. 1-17.


  • Natural disasters and extreme environmental events are expected to increase in number and severity on a global scale, elevating levels of economic, social, and political stress that could provoke both civil and international conflicts.
  • Population growth, urbanization, economic fragility, and climate change are major factors in an interactive pattern of growing global vulnerabilities, compounded by widespread political inaction to address them.
  • Enlarged urban and coastal populations in strategically important locations are at heightened risk of massive casualties, political strife, and increased regional tensions from major earthquakes, floods, and disease.
  • Large natural disasters could also degrade key dimensions of the global economy—food, water, energy, medicine, supply chains, livelihoods—arousing widespread popular anxieties that could provoke preemptive protective measures.
  • Intelligence agencies, think tanks, and academic specialists should increase their focus on the potential for major disasters in various parts of the world to cause economic, social, and political “ripple effects” that lead to deadly conflicts.
  • Reducing the direct harm of such disasters will require initiatives in three areas: increasing local resilience, improving relief capabilities, and, where unavoidable, facilitating relocation from the most vulnerable areas.
  • Avoiding adverse secondary consequences to political stability and human security will require both national and international collaboration to elevate the priority of preventing violent conflicts that could arise from these “natural assaults.”

For more information click here.


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