Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

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IEPG 8507

Governing the Global Commons

‘Commons governance’ has emerged as a new paradigm in both functional and legal approaches to international environmental cooperation. Traditionally, nation-states have been considered the sole actors in governing trans-boundary resources such as the atmosphere, water and the ocean. In contrast, the commons approach highlights the role of collaborative governance by all users of a depletable resource in designing, implementing and enforcing sustainability rules and norms. While nation-states remain key players, a commons approach is poly-centric (international, regional, national, sub-national) and multi-actor (government, business, civil society).

This course provides a foundation in the theory and practice of global commons governance. Part One introduces the conceptual framework and empirical findings of Elinor Ostrom’s work on the design of effective institutions for common pool resources. Working in teams of two, students will produce a case study which deploys the Ostrom framework to evaluate the effectiveness of a current agreement governing a transboundary commons of their choice.

Part II focuses on the structure and dynamics of the governance of the global atmospheric commons. It first examines the norms, principles and key agreements in international environmental law. It then explores the evolution of global climate collaboration from the Montreal Protocol to the UNFCCC to the Paris Agreement. Students will produce 1) a graphic presentation evaluating the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of two nation-state signatories to the Paris Agreement; 2) a case study examining the way a key non-state actor—business/industry, cities/states/provinces, civil society—is implementing the Paris Agreement.

Intl Environmental Policy
Intl Environmental Policy
Intl Policy & Management
Requirements Fulfilled:
Equivalent Courses:
IPOL 8507


Spring 2019 - MIIS

IEPG8507A-S19 Lecture (Zarsky)

Spring 2018 - MIIS

IEPG8507A-S18 Lecture (Zarsky)