International Environmental Politics

The details
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
04 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

How can the international community effectively address global environmental problems, e.g., the depletion of the ozone layer and climate change? This module offers a comprehensive examination of global environmental politics and facilitates an understanding of how international problem-solving efforts emerge among what kinds of actors, what kind of impact such instruments have, and why state efforts to regulate global environmental issues might fail.

The world community's response to transnational environmental issues has been to build a complex structure of environmental regimes and multilateral agreements. We will examine the underlying theoretical approaches comprehensively, paying particular attention to the design of international environmental regimes, the determinants of states participating in these institutions, and their effectiveness.

An additional drawback with regime governance is that it can lead to piece-meal responses and overlapping institutions with little impact on the overall problems posed to the global system. Building on this general overview, we will contrast the cases of the depletion of the ozone layer and climate change, before concentrating on the consequences of climate change for interstate and intrastate conflict.

We then study the nexus of trade and the environment at a global level in trying to answer whether globalization facilitates or worsens the international community's response to global environmental problems. Finally, we explore the possibilities for enhanced environmental governance and the future of international environmental politics.

Module aims

1. To provide students with the necessary analytical foundations to conduct theoretical and empirical comparative research on the environment.
2. To engage with a wide range of applied material relating to comparative environmental politics.
3. To generate ideas and design a study that engages with contemporary environmental issues in a theoretically sound and empirically aware perspective.

Objectives: By the end of the module the students should have achieved the following:
1. Gained knowledge of the basic issues related to the domestic politics of the environment
2. Gained knowledge of the major political theories regarding the management of environmental resources
3. Understand how many actors are involved in addressing and solving environmental issues and which incentives/strategies they may have to operate as they do.

Module learning outcomes

Students will learn how political scientists tackle questions such as: ‘when do businesses and social movements support environmental policy?’ and ‘why are some government more “green” than others?’. They will also learn how to use empirical evidence to test major political theories of environmental politics

Module information

This module offers a comprehensive introduction to the understanding of the domestic politics of environmental problems in a comparative (cross-national as well as sub-national) perspective. The module begins by examining domestic views on the state of the environment and possible paths along which these views might change. We then move on to consider environmental politics at various different levels of political behaviour and organisation, starting with individual-level values, before moving up the organized politics of the environmental movement, interest groups, political parties, governmental institutions and courts. At each level we consider what drives approaches to the environment and what the consequences of those approaches are for political organisation and action.

Key Skills: The course will strengthen the students' analytical and writing skills. It is expected that students are capable of processing top political science literature and critically assess secondary research. Students are also expected to understand the principles of research design and how to write academic papers.

Learning and teaching methods

2 hour lecture. Each session – except for the first one – will start with students’ class presentations followed by discussions that deal with material from the required readings. Attendance is compulsory. It is expected that students have read the required readings for a specific week and are prepared to discuss them. In the classes, the most important points raised in the lecture will be discussed in more detail, and we will extend the perspective by looking at broader issues.


  • Bernauer, Thomas. (2013) 'Climate Change Politics', in Annual Review of Political Science. vol. 16 (1) , pp.421-448
  • Vogel, David. (2008-06) 'Private Global Business Regulation', in Annual Review of Political Science. vol. 11 (1) , pp.261-282
  • Harrison, Kathryn; Sundstrom, Lisa McIntosh. (c2010) Global commons, domestic decisions: the comparative politics of climate change, Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.
  • Hasenclever, Andreas; Mayer, Peter; Rittberger, Volker. (1997) Theories of international regimes, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. vol. 55
  • O'Riordan, Timothy; Jordan, Andrew. (1995) 'The Precautionary Principle in Contemporary Environmental Politics', in Environmental Values: White Horse Press. vol. 4 (3)
  • Fariborz Zelli; Harro van Asselt. (2013) 'The Institutional Fragmentation of Global Environmental Governance: Causes, Consequences, and Responses', in Global Environmental Politics. vol. 13 (3) , pp.1-13
  • Carter, Neil. (2007) The politics of the environment: ideas, activism, policy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Ward, Hugh. (2006) 'International Linkages and Environmental Sustainability: The Effectiveness of the Regime Network', in Journal of Peace Research: Sage Publications, Ltd. vol. 43 (2) , pp.149-166
  • Herbert P. Kitschelt. (1986) 'Political Opportunity Structures and Political Protest: Anti-Nuclear Movements in Four Democracies', in British Journal of Political Science: Cambridge University Press. vol. 16 (1) , pp.57-85
  • O'Neill, Kate. (2017) The environment and international relations, Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
  • Bernauer, Thomas; Koubi, Vally. (2009-3) 'Effects of political institutions on air quality', in Ecological Economics. vol. 68 (5) , pp.1355-1365
  • Jennifer Clapp. (2002) 'What the Pollution Havens Debate Overlooks', in Global Environmental Politics. vol. 2 (2) , pp.11-19
  • Morin, Jean-Frédéric; Jinnah, Sikina. (2018) 'The untapped potential of preferential trade agreements for climate governance', in Environmental Politics. vol. 27 (3) , pp.541-565
  • Jensen, Christian B.; Spoon, Jae-Jae. (2011-03) 'Testing the 'Party Matters' Thesis: Explaining Progress Towards Kyoto Protocol Targets', in Political Studies. vol. 59 (1) , pp.99-115
  • Ronald B. Mitchell. (2010) International politics and the environment, London: SAGE.
  • Carter, Neil. (2018) The politics of the environment: ideas, activism, policy, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Ringquist, Evan J.; Kostadinova, Tatiana. (2005) 'Assessing the Effectiveness of International Environmental Agreements: The Case of the 1985 Helsinki Protocol', in American Journal of Political Science. vol. 49 (1) , pp.86-102
  • Edward L. Miles. (2002) Environmental regime effectiveness: confronting theory with evidence, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Stavins, R.; Whitehead, B. (2005) 'Market-Based Environmental Policies', in Debating the earth: the environmental politics reader, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Gehring, Thomas; Oberthür, Sebastian. (2009-03) 'The Causal Mechanisms of Interaction between International Institutions', in European Journal of International Relations. vol. 15 (1) , pp.125-156
  • Dechezleprêtre, Antoine; Sato, Misato. (2017) 'The Impacts of Environmental Regulations on Competitiveness', in Review of Environmental Economics and Policy. vol. 11 (2) , pp.183-206
  • Gleditsch, Nils Petter; Nordås, Ragnhild. (2014-11) 'Conflicting messages? The IPCC on conflict and human security', in Political Geography. vol. 43, pp.82-90
  • O'Neill, Kate; dawsonera. (2009) The environment and international relations, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Abbott, Kenneth W.; Snidal, Duncan. (2000) 'Hard and Soft Law in International Governance', in International Organization: The MIT Press. vol. 54 (3) , pp.421-456
  • Helm, Carsten; Sprinz, Detlef. (2000) 'Measuring the Effectiveness of International Environmental Regimes', in The Journal of Conflict Resolution: Sage Publications, Inc. vol. 44 (5) , pp.630-652
  • Bernauer, Thomas. (2013) 'Is There a 'Depth versus Participation' Dilemma in International Cooperation?', in Berlin Conference on Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change.
  • Spoon, Jae-Jae; Hobolt, Sara B.; de Vries, Catherine E. (2014-05) 'Going green: Explaining issue competition on the environment', in European Journal of Political Research. vol. 53 (2) , pp.363-380
  • Michèle B. Bättig; Thomas Bernauer. (2009) 'National Institutions and Global Public Goods: Are Democracies More Cooperative in Climate Change Policy?', in International Organization: Cambridge University Press. vol. 63 (2) , pp.281-308
  • Gabriele Spilker; Vally Koubi. (2016) 'The effects of treaty legality and domestic institutional hurdles on environmental treaty ratification', in International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics. vol. 16 (2) , pp.223-238
  • Aklin, Michaël. (2015) 'Re-Exploring the Trade and Environment Nexus Through the Diffusion of Pollution', in SSRN Electronic Journal.
  • Bechtel, Michael M.; Scheve, Kenneth F. (2013) 'Mass support for global climate agreements depends on institutional design', in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: National Academy of Sciences. vol. 110 (34) , pp.13763-13768
  • Murdoch, James C.; Sandler, Todd. (1997) 'The voluntary provision of a pure public good: The case of reduced CFC emissions and the Montreal Protocol', in Journal of Public Economics. vol. 63 (3) , pp.331-349
  • John A. List; Daniel M. Sturm. (2006) 'How Elections Matter: Theory and Evidence from Environmental Policy', in The Quarterly Journal of Economics: Oxford University Press. vol. 121 (4) , pp.1249-1281
  • So Young Kim; Yael Wolinsky-Nahmias. (2014) 'Cross-National Public Opinion on Climate Change: The Effects of Affluence and Vulnerability', in Global Environmental Politics. vol. 14 (1) , pp.79-106
  • Barnett, Jon; Adger, W. Neil. (2007) 'Climate change, human security and violent conflict', in Political Geography. vol. 26 (6) , pp.639-655
  • Hawken, P.; Lovins, A.; Lovins, L. Hunter. (2005) 'The Next Industrial Revolution', in Debating the earth: the environmental politics reader, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Buhaug, Halvard. (2010) 'Climate not to blame for African civil wars', in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America: National Academy of Sciences. vol. 107 (38) , pp.16477-16482
  • Bernauer, Thomas; Kalbhenn, Anna; Koubi, Vally; Spliker, Gabrielle. (2010) 'A Comparison of International and Domestic Sources of Global Governance Dynamics', in British Journal of Political Science: Cambridge University Press. vol. 40 (3) , pp.509-538
  • Bohringer, Christoph. (2003) 'The Kyoto Protocol: A Review and Perspectives', in Oxford Review of Economic Policy. vol. 19 (3) , pp.451-466
  • Yoshiki Yamagata; Jue Yang; Joseph Galaskiewicz. (2017) 'State power and diffusion processes in the ratification of global environmental treaties, 1981–2008', in International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics. vol. 17 (4) , pp.501-529
  • Deborah Rigling-Gallagher; Erika Weinthal. (2012) 'Business-State Relations and the Environment: The Evolving Role of Corporate Responsibility', in Comparative environmental politics: theory, practice, prospects, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press., pp.143-170
  • Szakonyi, David; Urpelainen, Johannes. (2014-07) 'Who Benefits From Economic Reform? Firms and Distributive Politics', in The Journal of Politics. vol. 76 (3) , pp.841-858
  • Koremenos, Barbara; Lipson, Charles; Snidal, Duncan. (2001) 'The Rational Design of International Institutions', in International Organization: The MIT Press. vol. 55 (4) , pp.761-799
  • Amandine Orsini; Jean-Frédéric Morin; Oran Young. (2013) 'Regime Complexes: A Buzz, a Boom, or a Boost for Global Governance?', in Global Governance. vol. 19 (1) , pp.27-39
  • Garrett Hardin. (3859) 'The Tragedy of the Commons', in Science: American Association for the Advancement of Science. vol. 162, pp.1243-1248
  • Aldy, Joseph E.; Kotchen, Matthew J.; Leiserowitz, Anthony A. (2012-8) 'Willingness to pay and political support for a US national clean energy standard', in Nature Climate Change. vol. 2 (8) , pp.596-599
  • Michele M. Betsill; Harriet Bulkeley. (2004) 'Transnational Networks and Global Environmental Governance: The Cities for Climate Protection Program', in International Studies Quarterly: Wiley. vol. 48 (2) , pp.471-493
  • Gullberg, Anne Therese. (2008-8) 'Lobbying friends and foes in climate policy: The case of business and environmental interest groups in the European Union', in Energy Policy. vol. 36 (8) , pp.2964-2972
  • Böhmelt, Tobias; Spilker, Gabriele. (2016) 'The interaction of international institutions from a social network perspective', in International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics. vol. 16 (1) , pp.67-89
  • Neumayer, Eric. (2003-6) 'Are left-wing party strength and corporatism good for the environment? Evidence from panel analysis of air pollution in OECD countries', in Ecological Economics. vol. 45 (2) , pp.203-220
  • David Schlosberg; David Carruthers. (2010) 'Indigenous Struggles, Environmental Justice, and Community Capabilities', in Global Environmental Politics. vol. 10 (4) , pp.12-35
  • Goodin, R. (2005) 'Selling Environmental Indulgences', in Debating the earth: the environmental politics reader, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Walley, NoahWhitehead, Bradley. (no date) 'It's Not Easy Being Green.', in Harvard Business Review. vol. 72 (3) , pp.46-51

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Research Design Paper    30% 
Coursework   Final Research Paper    70% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Federica Genovese, email: fgenov@essex.ac.uk.
Dr Federica Genovese
Module Supervisor Dr Federica Genovese fgenov@essex.ac.uk Module Administrator Jamie Seakens govpgquery@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 22 hours, 22 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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