Course Catalog


Governing the Global Commons

Earth’s life-supporting eco-systems are in crisis due to unsustainable human practices, especially economic production and consumption. At the same time, deep global economic inequities leave more than half of the world’s people living in poverty. The overarching aim of international environmental cooperation is to point human societies towards patterns of ecologically sustainable and equitable development.

This course provides an introduction to the political dynamics, legal structure, and institutions of international cooperation aimed at sustainable governance of the earth’s eco-systems. The course is in three parts.

Part One first examines global environmental problems and politics. After a brief look at the current state of global eco-system services, we examine the logic of global collective action via classical and cosmopolitan concepts of “the commons”. We then explore North-South conflicts based on perceived trade-offs between “environment” and “development” and evaluate current paradigms of economic and population growth.

Part Two examines the key principles, institutions, and treaties of international environmental law. We first examine the foundations of international environmental law, including legal principles, customary norms, and the treaty making process. We then explore treaties covering the atmosphere, viz, the Montreal Protocol and the climate regime, as well as the ocean and bio-diversity. We also consider the role of climate-geo-engineering in mitigating climate change and evaluate the technological, governance and ethical dilemmas it poses. Part Two concludes by examining the effectiveness of international environmental law to date in increasing the resilience of global eco-systems.

Part Three examines global collective action from the perspective of “global environmental governance” (GEG). We explore the role of non-state actors, especially business, scientists, and NGOs, and the efficacy of “soft law” and voluntary standards in changing global business practice. We examine the theory of network analysis and consider how networked governance is evident in multi-level approaches to GEG, including city actions on climate change and regional approaches to trans-boundary resource management.

Intl Environmental Policy
Intl Environmental Policy
Intl Policy & Management
Requirements Fulfilled:
Equivalent Courses:
IPOL8507 *


Spring 2015 - MIIS

IEPG8507A-S15 Lecture (Zarsky)

Fall 2013 - MIIS

IEPG8507A-F13 Lecture (Zarsky)

Spring 2013 - MIIS

IEPG8507A-S13 Lecture (Stec, Zarsky)