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Environmental Politics Green Theory Notes

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This is an extract of our Environmental Politics Green Theory document, which we sell as part of our Theories of International Relations Notes collection written by the top tier of University Of Warwick students.

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* Cross-reference - PO219 Realism & Neorealism; Marxism; Theorizing the Post-Cold War Era; Critical Geopolitics // PO203 Sustainable


1. Why have successive intergovernmental agreements been ineffective in stopping climate change?'
Why has it proven so difficult to set binding limits on global carbon emissions?
Why is it easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism?
Is the study of global warming and environmental change a legitimate focus of analysis in IR? [2017]
Should climate change be viewed as a threat to security? [2016]
'Environmental conflict is already happening and will increasingly shape international politics in ways that traditional theories of IR cannot explain'. Discuss.
Evaluate the contribution of green approaches to our understanding of international relations. [2014, 2013]

Al Gore's 2006 documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, triggered a seismic shift in public awareness of anthropogenic global warming and environmental degradation; a crisis of such enormity that the planet's entire ecology risks 'irretrievable mutilation' and with it, human civilization itself. A 2015 study stated that the threshold for biosphere integrity 'within which humanity can exist safely' had already been crossed. As such, climate change and the sociopolitical consequences of resource scarcity have become matters of unprecedented urgency. In IR, this triggered a plethora of challenging questions

What happens to national interests, for instance, when faced with natural disaster-induced migration of ecological refugees?

In accordance with the neorealist 'dog-eat-dog' conception of international relations, how does great (and aspiring)
power politics contribute to environmental degradation?

Similarly, can competition and a perpetual state of conflict preparedness, fueled by a litany of historical grievances,
pathological nationalizes and geopolitical animosities, be sustained on an ecologically 'full world'?

The inability/unwillingness to produce definitive answers among scholars and policy-makers has resulted in a 'treaty congestion'. According to the UN Environment Programme, world leaders have ratified an impressive 500 intergovernmental environmental agreements in the past 50 years, yet their effective implementation is somewhat lacking.
Intergovernmenta l agreements on climate change
Kyoto Protocol 1997 (2005)

Background + Objectives

(Context-specific reasons for ineffectiveness)

Extending from the 1992 United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol is an intergovernmental agreement which commits its parties by setting internationally-binding GHG emission reduction targets towards 'a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system'
(4.7% emissions reduction by 2012, and 60-80% by 2050), in recognition of (a) the undeniable existence of global warming and (b) the causal responsibility of human-induced industrial waste. The
Protocol ascribes a heavier obligation to developed nations under the principle of
'common but differentiated responsibilities'.

 The first international agreement of its kind, the Protocol heightened awareness about the gravity of environmental degradation and global warming should serious consideration not be accorded to the coordinated stabilization of GHG outputs.

Parties are required to meet their targets through national regulations, though financial assistance in adaptation

 Not only are the treaty's emission reduction targets pitifully insufficient compared to what was realistically required (what
Christiana Figueres acknowledges as 'an ever-increasing gap between the action of countries and what science tells us'), its corporate-friendly mechanisms were counter-productive.
Developed countries that were unable/refused to reduce emissions below their target could buy 'right to pollute' credits from countries that have bettered their Kyoto commitments, both intentionally and non-intentionally. The latter relates to the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, which resulted in a massive decline in heavy manufacturing industries across Russia and Eastern Europe; this was conveniently ignored in Protocol finalization procedures.

Despite taking climate change 'very seriously', the Bush administration opposed the treaty, citing disproportionality and the

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