The Global Environment Regime: A Decade After Rio

Gareth Api Richards, Glenda Galabin


The accomplishments and failures of the global environmental regime for the last 10 years are anchored on the processes of- globalization. This paper is an explanatory study of the global ecological politics in the context of the changing international political economy. The green or ecological perspective contends that economic globalization is a catalyst of unsustainable development. From Stockholm to Johannesburg, numerous multilateral environmental agreements did not prevent the problems of degradation, unsustainability and (mal)development. Three contending theoretical frameworks explain the viability of global governance in addressing environment issues. Realists' state-centric position and preoccupation with the obstacles to genuine cooperation have made environmental regime a piecemeal approach. Neo-liberal institutionalists, on one hand, attempt to minimize "free-riding" among states by looking at the possibilities of collaboration through intemational regimes. Proponents of critical theories emphasize the role of nonstate actors in advancing global governance "from below", Global and local social movements work together in influencing politics and changing public mindset. Nonetheless, their participation in earth summits is limited to "soft" forms of political engagement-lobbying, consultation and dissemination through "controlled
inclusion". As the works of the WTO and World Bank demonstrate, the global management of environment cannot be divorced from neo-liberal global capitalism. Sustainable development is being de-prioritized by focusing more on the promotion of economic and social development. Two critical issues then emerge. First, core states like the United States and the EU dominate summit negotiations but are unwilling to subject themselves under rules that will clash with their national interests. Second, market-rules under the cloak of liberal dogmas have pushed environmental issues in the background.


Globalization; Environment; Sustainable Development; Ecology

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