Department of Political Science


POLS0023 Global Environmental Politics

Course Code: POLS0023

Course Tutor: TBC

Length: One term (Autumn Term)

Teaching: 20 contact hours

Assessment: One 2,000 word essay (40%) and one 2,000 word policy brief (60%)

Credits: 15 credits, 4 (US) 7.5 (ECTS) 

Module Level: L6 (Advanced)

About this course

This course is an advanced module designed to introduce students to the major themes and issues in the study of global environmental politics (GEP). In doing so, the course requires a sound knowledge of political science approaches and vocabulary, especially of (global) public policy and International Relations. The course begins by outlining perspectives on why (global) environmental problems arise, and how and under what conditions they can be solved. 

It then explores processes of international environmental governance: problem identification/policy formulation, designing and negotiating multilateral environmental regimes and implementing and enforcing international environmental law and policy.

Illustrations from the politics of climate change, ozone depletion, air pollution, whaling, hazardous wastes and deforestation will be used to further understanding of these processes. We will ask questions such as: What factors help countries negotiate treaties to solve problems? What types of rules work best? What role do non-state actors play? How can we evaluate whether a treaty has been effective or successful? What are the obstacles to effective environmental agreements? 

We then turn to recent issues and debates in global environmental politics by analysing examples of non-state global environmental governance, exploring the interrelationship between economic development and environmental quality and examining the link between environmental change, violent conflict and human security. 

A wide variety of teaching methods are used in the course including inter-active games, role play simulations, group discussion and the application of theoretical concepts to the analysis of contemporary events. By the end of the course, students will be familiar with the main issues in the field of (international) environmental politics and policy; be able to critically appraise theoretical approaches; and to interpret and assess the ways in which the international community has reacted to global environmental problems.

Please note that POLS0023 is an advanced Political Science module. Its delivery is based on the assumption that you are familiar with concepts and theories central to the field. If this is not the case, you may find additional background reading necessary to appropriately engage with the course material. The following texts are recommended:

Baylis, John, Steve Smith, and Patricia Owens. 2013. The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations. 6th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, chaps. 5, 8, 16, 19, 21 & 22.

Frieden, Jeffry, David A. Lake, and Kenneth Schultz. 2013. World Politics: Interests, Interactions, Institutions. W. W. Norton, chaps. 1, 2, 7, 10 & 14.

Knill, Christoph, and Jale Tosun. 2012. Public Policy: A New Introduction. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

You may also want to look at the POLS0023 (POLS7009) reading list from last year (accessible via the UCL Library) to get an idea of the readings and topics covered in the module itself.

Further Indicative reading:

Axelrod, Regina S., and Stacy D. VanDeveer (eds.). 2015. The Global Environment: Institutions, Law, and Policy. Washington, DC: CQ Press.

Clapp, Jennifer, and Peter Dauvergne. 2011. Paths to a Green World: The Political Economy of the Global Environment. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Mitchell, Ronald B. 2011. International Politics and the Environment. London: SAGE.

O’Neill, Kate. 2009. The Environment and International Relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sabatier, Paul A., and Christopher M. Weible. 2014. Theories of the Policy Process. 3rd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Steinberg, Paul F., and Stacy D. VanDeveer (eds.). 2012. Comparative Environmental Politics: Theory, Practice, and Prospects. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.