EADI: “Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development” Working Group

The EADI Working Group Environment and Development has been established just before the 12th General Conference 2008 on Global Governance for Sustainable Development in Geneva. It was during the conference that participants decided to institutionalise this working group and to develop a working programme.

The aim is to establish an interdisciplinary working group addressing issues of sustainable development and policy interlinkages with regard to environment and development.

The conveners are currently in the process of establishing a network of interested scholars and institutions and to develop a working programme.


Environmental governance is influenced by economic, demographic and ecological macrotrends. The growth of population and the consequential growth of consumption per capita as well as resource-intensive production and increased transportation put stress on the earth’s assimilative capacity. The ecological consequences become visible in global warming, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, desertification and decreasing natural resources (Chasek/Downie/Brown 2006: 12-24). At the same time, these ecological consequences impact on development issues, e.g. food and water supply, diseases, migration. As a consequence, poverty increases and conflicts over natural resources become more likely. Without taking environmental issues into account development seems to be a dead-end street. Sustainable development should therefore be a serious issue in all kinds of policy fields affecting development such as, for instance, trade policy, foreign policy or economic policies.

Even though scientific evidence underpins the fact that environmental degradation is caused by human activities, effective “governance” arrangements of these environmental problems is far from efficient and effective. This deficiency relates to the nature of the subject. First, negative ecological effects arising from unsustainable human activities often manifest themselves years later and are therefore not immediately noticeable. Second, environmental problems are manifold and trans-boundary. This makes it difficult to gather them under one institutional umbrella and to establish a comprehensive environmental protection regime. Institutional competition is therefore inevitable. Unfortunately, this often leads to ineffective policy outcomes. Third, the integration of many different political and societal actors with vested interests in policy- and decision-making processes, often acting as veto players, hinder the development of effective institutional provisions that set rules for global environmental protection (Chasek/Downie/Brown 2006; Jänicke/Jörgens 2007; Ivanova/Roy 2007; Biermann 2007). Finally, from an academic perspective, there is still a strong need for scientific debates on what sustainable development and environmental governance is about, how it can be theoretically and methodologically framed, on what the structural, ideational and normative premises are to foster development that is sustainable, fair and non-discriminatory. This theoretical debate has to be enriched by empirical studies on the social and political factors helping or hindering policy integration and setting environmental issues on top of the development agenda.

The Research Agenda

Policy integration becomes a prerequisite for sustainable development that equally promotes ecological and development objectives. Both environmental policy and development policy address various issues such as natural resources, biodiversity, technologies, lifestyles, food, ecosystems, technological and scientific innovation, strategic geopolitics, human security or ecological economics and we could therefore speak of environmental and developmental governance. The concept of environmental governance per se is highly trans-disciplinary

and requires policy integration of various fields including, for example, security, conflict management, human rights, development and economics. As a consequence, many different institutions, organizations and actors are involved. The dynamics of institutional interweaving and coalition-building among political and societal groups have changed. Environmental governance is no longer the exclusive competence of governments – no matter whether they deal with environmental issues on a national, regional or multilateral level through inter-governmental organizations – but of societal actors as well. This often leads to coalitions between civil society groups, business actors and governments. A very prominent example is the evolution of public private partnerships (PPPs), which manifest themselves in private initiatives but also in activities with global reach such as the Global Compact (www.globalcompact.org).

The relationship between environment and development can also be identified in the ideas guiding the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Ecological aspects were as well integrated in the MDGs (Goal 7) as the aspect of multi-actor-networks (Goal 8; Global Partnerships). The trans-disciplinary nature of environmental governance becomes also explicit in protest actions and lobbying activities. Environmental, social justice and human rights activities, for instance, often find common ground to fight for and to raise public awareness. This once again emphasises the interlinkage of development and environmental issues. Examples include protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO) or the World Commission on Dams (WCD) (Dingwerth 2005).

The proposed trans-disciplinary research design consists of the intermingling of theoretical and analytical concepts developed by political science, economics and law. The objective of this working group is to set up a research agenda that addresses questions of governance beyond the nation state or in multi-level systems, the premises and consequences of trans-border cooperation, institutional “nesting” (Aggarwal 1998), the increasing influence of non-state actors, the interdependence and integration of different policy fields, the acting and rule-making capacity of nation states in the age of globalization, increasing global economic competition, justice, participation and democracy (Jacob et al 2007: 12).

The question of the social roots of political strategies, behaviour and institutional change should receive particular attention. Significant research has been done on the role of social movements and NGOs to the establishment of regimes addressing environmental and development issues, primarily focussing on their lobbying activities and legitimizing function (e.g. Gunter 2004), but hardly any research addressed the cultural sediments of social networking in this respect.  The question is whether shared norms and ideas, collective identities, shared historical, cultural and regional backgrounds are a prerequisite for successful environmental initiatives with a significant developmental implication. Furthermore, the question is whether local or domestic initiatives have an impact on the international level and, vice versa, what kind of effect international regulations have on the regional, domestic and local level. Moreover, it should be analysed to what extent these international norms are adopted, changed or rejected on the regional, national or local level and what implications this could have for the international problem-solving capacity.

However, having set up a research agenda for this working group does not mean that it is not open to further ideas and concepts. The working group considers itself as a forum for exchange on current research on environment and development issues. We would therefore encourage scholars interested in the issue of environment and development to participate in this workshop in order to establish a network of scholars and institutes working  in this issue area.

Further details regarding activities and output are regularly updated on the website of EADI.


Chasek, Pamela S. / Downie, David L. / Welsh Brown, Janet (2006). Handbuch Globale Umweltpolitik. Berlin: Parthas Verlag.

Jänicke, Martin / Jörgens, Helge (2007). “New Approaches to Environmental Governance”, in: Jänicke, Martin / Jacob, Klaus (eds.). Environmental Governance in Global Perspective. Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin, pp. 167-209.

Ivanova, Maria / Roy, Jennifer (2007). „The Architecture of Global Environmental Governance: Pros and Cons of Multiplicity“, in: Swart, Lydia / Perry, Estelle (eds.). Global Environmental Governance. Perspectives on the Current Debate. New York: Center for UN Reform Education, pp. 48-66.

Biermann, Frank (2007). “Reforming Global Environmental Governance: from UNEP towards a World Environment Organization”, in: Swart, Lydia / Perry, Estelle (eds.). Global Environmental Governance. Perspectives on the Current Debate. New York: Center for UN Reform Education, pp. 103-123.

Dingwerth, Klaus (2005). “The Democratic Legitimacy of Public-Private Rule Making: What Can We Learn from the World Commission on Dams?, in: Global Governance, 11, pp. 65-83.

Aggarwal, Vinod (ed.) (1998). Institutional Designs for A Complex World:

Bargaining, Linkages, and Nesting. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Jacob, Klaus et al (2007). Einleitung: Politik und Umwelt – Modernisierung politischer Systeme und Herausforderung an die Politikwissenschaft, in: Jacob, Klaus (ed.). Politik und Umwelt. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, pp. 11-37.

Gunter, M. M. (2004). Building the Next Ark. How NGOs Work to Protect Biodiversity. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England.

Source: Announcement EADI e.V., 14.02.2019