This issue features an eclectic mix of empirical analyses, but also compelling linkages: environment–security, trade–environment, and values–environmental performance. These sets of articles are followed by a timely research note exploring the new reality of digital diplomacy.
Marwa Daoudy starts off the research section with her article entitled “Rethinking the Climate–Conflict Nexus: A Human–Environmental–Climate Security Approach.” The field of environmental security has a long history within global environmental politics whereby scholars have sought to tease out the relationship between environmental change and/or degradation and violent conflict, specifically pertaining to the climate–conflict nexus. Daoudy advances our understanding of the particular linkages between climate change and violent conflict through development of a new framework that integrates critiques of traditional security frameworks with human security: what she refers to as a “Human-Environmental-Climate Security” framework. Owing to the centering of the human subject and local conceptions of security in her analysis of the role of climate in armed conflict, Daoudy offers a more nuanced and holistic understanding of the conflicts in Syria and Sudan with Morocco as a counterfactual, while also further debunking the determinism that has permeated studies of the climate–conflict nexus.
Natalia Dalmer’s article, “Building Environmental Peace: The UN Environment Programme and Knowledge Creation for Environmental Peacebuilding,” also speaks to the environment–security linkage, focusing on the shift to address environmental security by international organizations. It explains UNEP’s increasing efforts to address security concerns, especially environmental peacebuilding in post-conflict settings. Dalmer shows that UNEP built a concern over security, despite opposition from member states, primarily through knowledge creation. The strategies identified—knowledge collection, strategic interpretation, and implementation—also have broader implications for how IOs may strategically expand their mandates.
Rakhyun Kim and Jean-Frédéric Morin are first up in addressing the trade–environment linkage. In “Massive Institutional Structures in Global Governance,” they build upon the notion of regime complexes to develop what they call a supercluster complex. Through analyzing a network of trade and environmental agreements, they illuminate the ways in which these two superclusters interact and coevolve, suggesting that greater research is needed to understand how different superclusters interact and influence global environmental governance.
A second article on interactions between trade and the environment flips the usual focus on effects of trade on the environment to examine whether perceived domestic and international environmental impacts of trade—positive or negative—affect public attitudes toward trade. Quynh Nguyen, Robert A. Huber, and Thomas Bernauer, in “Environmental Impacts and Public Opinion about International Trade,” show through a series of survey experiments in OECD countries that people are not generally predisposed to see trade as positive or negative for the environment, but evidence of benefits or harms of trade on the environment influences their support for trade accordingly.
The values–environmental performance linkage explores how social values, populism, and transparency are related to, and can generate, transformation (or slow it). In “Value Judgments at the Heart of Green Transformation: The Leverage of Pension Fund Investors,” Monika Berg examines the role of finance capital in green transformations. Specifically, she investigates the extent to which shifts in value judgements in Swedish public pension funds may advance a green transformation, especially owing to the influence that financial investors have when it comes to capital markets. The article highlights the need to focus on the intersection of shifting economic, environmental, and social values as part of any study of a green transformation.
Values play a very different role in Tobias Böhmelt’s article, “Populism and Environmental Performance.” An impressive analysis of sixty-six countries demonstrates that populist leadership is associated with worse environmental performance, as measured by per capital carbon dioxide emissions. Böhmelt finds that this relationship is not a matter of left/right ideology, but that populism itself has deleterious effects on environmental policy regardless of the source. This finding, in combination with a compelling argument for how populism produces these impacts, has important implications for today’s politics, when many observe increasing momentum behind populist ideas and politicians.
Finishing up the values–environmental performance linkage set, Philippe Le Billon, Päivi Lujala, and Siri Aas Rustad how transparency might inform a theory of change in natural resource governance. In “Transparency in Environmental and Resource Governance: Theories of Change for the EITI,” they explore three pathways through which the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative may be able to positively influence extractive industries’ environmental performance—naming and shaming, generating public debate, and facilitating technical reforms.
In their research note “Marine Biodiversity Negotiations During COVID-19: A New Role for Digital Diplomacy?” Alice Vadrot and her co-authors round out the issue by confronting the radical shift in negotiation practice for many environmental issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The shift to online initiatives and new forms of dialogue among state and non-state actors has also created challenges for research. This note examines both the challenges and opportunities of digital diplomacy for agreement-making and the need for new methodological tools to apply recent advances in ethnographic studies of negotiation to virtual sites.