Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Formerly the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

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Governing the Global Commons

For most of human history, global commons have been utilized as open access resources. In the past fifty years, rapid economic development, globalization, and population growth have severely degraded the commons and the eco-system services they provide. To sustainably govern the global commons—to move from open access to common pool resource—requires global collective action. Nation-states have traditionally been understood as taking the lead by negotiating and implementing multilateral international environmental treaties. More recently, however, non-state actors and governments at regional and sub-national level are becoming engaged in multilateral governance and/or taking incremental actions to govern the global commons.

This course examines the emerging multi-level governance of three global commons: 1) the atmosphere; 2) the ocean; and 3) the global economy.

Part One focuses on the governance of the atmospheric commons. It first explores the theoretical underpinnings of commons governance and the policy options they imply. We start with Hardin’s “tragedy” framework which points to state regulation and/or private markets, and then probe Elinor Ostrom’s framework which highlights the possibility of robust institutions of collective self-governance. Given the lack of an overarching global government, governing the global commons is inherently a process of collective self-governance.

After a brief examination of climate science, we probe the emerging multi-level climate regime, the overarching goal of which is to de-carbonise the global economy. We focus first on the history, architecture, North-South dynamics and challenges of international climate negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). We then turn to multi-level approaches to setting a carbon price, including via global carbon markets; regional, national and sub-national cap and trade systems; and business and financial market risk assessment and disclosure. We will explore how responses to climate change are challenging our existing paradigms of international, national and statewide authority and jurisdiction, as well as traditional concepts of environmental risk and liability. Part Two concludes with an in-class debate about how to overcome North-South differences over emission reduction responsibility in the design of a global treaty in the lead-up to the December, 2015 climate conference in Paris.

Part Two focuses on the governance of the global oceans commons, with a focus on the role of international cooperation to reduce marine pollution. We first examine the process of negotiating and implementing international environmental agreements. We then examine the key treaties governing marine pollution. After a brief introduction to the Law of the Sea and MARPOL, we take an in-depth look at the structure, dynamics and implementation of the London Convention. The London Convention is characterized not only by the active participation of nation-states but also by a high degree of stakeholder engagement, including shipping companies and port authorities. We conclude with a look at emerging issues in the governance of marine pollution, including land-based sources and the regional governance of the Arctic.

Part Three focuses on the global economic commons. We first consider the linkages between globalization and sustainable development and then explore existing and evolving approaches to trade and investment rules which hinder or promote de-carbonisation, or more broadly, externalize or internalize environmental costs and risks.

Intl Environmental Policy
Intl Environmental Policy
Intl Policy & Management
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Spring 2016 - MIIS

IEPG8507A-S16 Lecture (Zarsky)

Spring 2015 - MIIS

IEPG8507A-S15 Lecture (Zarsky)