Peter Dauvergne


Research Classification

Research Interests

international relations
global environmental politics
sustainability governance
global South
Developing countries
transnational corporations
Plastic Pollution
social movements

Relevant Thesis-Based Degree Programs

Affiliations to Research Centres, Institutes & Clusters

Research Options

I am available and interested in collaborations (e.g. clusters, grants).
I am interested in and conduct interdisciplinary research.


Peter Dauvergne is a professor of international relations at the University of British Columbia, specializing in global environmental politics. His books include AI in the Wild: Sustainability in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (MIT Press, 2020); Will Big Business Destroy Our Planet? (Polity, 2018), Environmentalism of the Rich (MIT, 2016, recipient of APSA’s Michael Harrington Book Award), Protest Inc. (with Genevieve LeBaron, Polity, 2014), Eco-Business (with Jane Lister, MIT, 2013), Paths to a Green World, 2nd ed. (with Jennifer Clapp, MIT, 2011), Timber (with Jane Lister, Polity, 2011), and The Shadows of Consumption (MIT, 2008, recipient of the Gerald L. Young Book Award). He is the founding and past editor of the journal Global Environmental Politics.

Research Methodology



Master's students
Doctoral students
Postdoctoral Fellows
Any time / year round

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Great Supervisor Week Mentions

Each year graduate students are encouraged to give kudos to their supervisors through social media and our website as part of #GreatSupervisorWeek. Below are students who mentioned this supervisor since the initiative was started in 2017.


Peter has been a continual source of intellectual and personal support throughout my graduate studies. He has never ceased to encourage me to think critically, share and defend my ideas, and to seek out new new challenges as I progress in my academic career. I could not be more grateful for his mentorship, friendship, and constant positivity.

Jonathan Gamu (2017)


Thank you @PeterDauvergne for your contagious enthusiasm, thoughtful feedback, and ability to inspire growth. #greatsupervisor at #UBC.

Sara Elder (2017)


Dr. Dauvergne is the best supervisor any student could ask for! Always enthusiastic, and makes his graduate students feel like a priority. He encourages creative thinking, gives detailed and thoughtful feedback, and is just an all around great professor! #greatsupervisor.

Anonymous (2017)


Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision

Dissertations completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest dissertations.

Mobilizing after disasters in advanced industrial democracies (2019)

Environmental disasters are frequently catalysts for social and political change. Yet, disasters of similar scale and impact seem to encourage collective action in some cases but fail to do so in others. For example, while some large oil spills have generated mass nationwide (and international) protests, others have gone largely unnoticed and protests, if any, remained small and localized. If disasters are political triggering events, as the existing literature suggests, why do they often fail to generate large scale collective action? In fact, why do some highly damaging industrial environmental disasters succeed, and others fail to catalyze protest movements? This research strives to explain a variation in the occurrence and size of non-violent protest after industrial environmental disasters in advanced democracies. I examine the mobilizing effects of disaster type and location, the underlying societal conditions conducive to protest, and the ‘language of disasters’ in post-disaster communication. I argue that in addition to grievances, resources, political opportunities, and framing, uncertainty about disaster impacts plays a crucial role in the protest mobilization process, one that has not been fully explored by scholars. Specifically, while uncertainty may have a dampening effect on protest mobilization, this effect is conditioned by people’s pre-existing beliefs, and particularly political ideology. Left-leaning (i.e., more liberal) individuals resist the dampening effect of uncertainty, while right-leaning (i.e., more conservative) individuals embrace it. This research draws on theories of social movements and framing as well as insights from previously studied disasters; it involves an in-depth analysis of cases of industrial disasters with large environmental impacts, including the 2014 Mount Polley mine leak, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The cases were selected due to the varying protest sizes following these events. To allow for a systematic examination of different factors linked to post-disaster protest, this research employs several methods and tools, including a geographic information systems (GIS) analysis, qualitative comparative analysis (QCA), content analysis, and survey experiment. Such multi-method approach is most suitable for answering the variety and complexity of questions this research poses.

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Activists across issues: forum multiplying and the new climate activism (2017)

To a growing class of climate change activists, climate change is not only an environmental issue – it is a labour, gender, justice, indigenous rights, and faith (to name a few) issue. All starting at roughly the same time, an influx of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) made social claims on an environmental issue and changed the politics of climate governance. Their participation to advance these social claims is costly: staff retrained; information researched, analyzed, and disseminated; and relationship building undertaken. All these costs served a new frame, linking the NGOs’ social issue to climate change. This sustained mobilization of a network of NGOs in a regime that is not their own is called forum multiplying. NGOs are surprisingly mobile, as environmentalists campaign on free trade and development issues, and unions and children’s advocates work in the context of human rights.Drawing on 72 interviews, seven social network analyses, and three years of participant observation, this research investigates the politics of forum multiplying as NGOs seek recognition within a new area of global governance. NGO networks engage in forum multiplying to contribute to solutions, recruit new allies to their cause, and avoid becoming mired in stalemates that characterize other areas of global governance. Motivation is insufficient to mobilize a network toward a collective end. I posit that two mechanisms help explain why some NGO networks undertake forum multiplying strategies and others do not. First, the ability of NGOs to capitalize on the authority that they hold in their traditional forum, and to bring that authority into the new forum helps them secure recognition for their claims. Second, NGOs’ identification of strategic entry points in the rules and norms of the new regime facilitates forum multiplying. The rules and norms of a regime can provide a discursive “hook” for the NGOs’ claims that their issue is linked to the issues of their targeted regime, showing that they belong. Forum multiplying pollinates new ideas into old regimes, potentially bringing the “all hands on deck” approach necessary to mobilize a sufficient response to global climate change.

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Corporate security governance: multinational mining companies and the local political economy of violence in Peru (2017)

Multinational corporations (MNCs) from the global mining industry have become increasingly active in security governance in areas of limited statehood. Since 2000 they have used dialogue and development activities to mitigate security risks associated with their operations. However, despite a proliferation of community engagement initiatives, violent protest in relation to industrial mining has risen globally. Accordingly, I analyze the efficacy of MNCs as security governors within the context of Peru’s mining sector. Over the past fifteen years this country has experienced a dramatic increase in mining-related social conflict, yet industrial mining has had heterogeneous effects locally. Using the subnational comparative method, I examine four cases that exhibit variation in conflict intensity in order to analyze the factors influencing MNCs’ impact on security. I argue that MNCs’ ability to mitigate violent social conflict is best explained using an analytical framework that accounts for the political economy of contention within which firms are embedded, and the intra-firm politics that determine their behaviour vis-à-vis civil society. The political economy of contention exogenous to firms establishes a local security baseline, predicting generic social conflict risks and patterns of violence likely to emerge during specific protest episodes. Given this external milieu, the organizational politics of the firm will determine its marginal effect. Firms that marginalize the voice of their community relations subunit are more likely to utilize coercion and cooptation alongside dialogue and development. However, heterogeneity in their security outputs undermines MNCs’ legitimacy as socially responsible agents, and hence the ability of community engagement to peacefully manage social conflict. This study constitutes one of the first systematic efforts to theorize and empirically evaluate the efficacy of MNCs’ local level security governing activities, a subject that has been understudied within the global governance literature. I find that while some MNCs have made modest short-term contributions to security, most have failed to construct conditions for sustainable, positive peace. The evidence presented challenges the prevailing conceptualization of MNCs as agents imbued with capacity-based governing authority, a form of governing legitimacy that is said to derive from their financial resources and perceived efficacy at achieving objectives.

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The political economy of marine conservation (2017)

Beginning in the mid-2000s, governments increasingly began relying on marine protected areas (MPAs) larger than 200,000 km2 to help combat declining ocean health. This research asks two questions about this new phenomenon: why have large MPAs emerged as a part of the solution to ocean decline despite uncertain and disputed conservation potential, and what explains variance in how governments locate and manage large MPAs? To answer these questions, I propose a novel framework of environmental norm diffusion that divides the process into two stages: an international norm adoption stage, followed by a domestic norm localization stage. My argument is twofold. First, large MPAs have emerged as a part of a new global norm of large MPAs, with a select few transnational environmental NGOs (ENGOs) strategically targeting prospective sites in the absence of a cohesive multilateral civil society coalition. And second, governments make decisions about where to locate and how to manage a large MPA based on the salience of extractive and non-extractive industry interests within it. These interests are a function of an industry’s intensity of activity, factor specificity, asset specificity, and exogenous stressors. The configuration of industry interests based on these indicators determines the type of stakeholder coalition that forms in a large MPA negotiation process. States then make decisions about large MPA location and management based on which stakeholder group they have aligned their interests with. I explore these arguments through three case studies: the 2014 expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument in the US, the 2012 Coral Sea Commonwealth Marine Reserve in Australia, and the 2015 Palau National Marine Sanctuary in Palau. These case studies reflect state coalitions with ENGOs, the commercial fishing sector, and the ecotourism sector, respectively. This research uses a process tracing methodology that draws from 74 semi-structured fieldwork interviews in Australia, Palau, and the US. Interviewees include ENGO representatives, business owners and managers, industry association representatives, government officials, and marine scientists.

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Assessing the impacts of retail supply chains on food security and agricultural sustainability in the global South: the case of Walmart in Nicaragua (2016)

Multinational food retailers are expanding in size and reach, gaining buyer-driven power to govern global agrifood production and consumption. Alongside a rise in private governance is a growing belief by governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that corporate social responsibility (CSR) will be effective at achieving rural development goals for smallholder farmers and their families in the global South. This dissertation investigates the on-the-ground impacts of rising corporate governance for household food security and agricultural sustainability, and how and why the particular terms of farmer engagement in retail-led supply chains mediate these impacts, through the case of Walmart in Nicaragua. The analysis is based on nine months of original fieldwork in Nicaragua in 2013, including 65 interviews with produce sector stakeholders and a survey of 250 smallholder vegetable farmers, and draws on theoretical traditions in the private governance and development studies literatures. The results show that CSR is ineffective at advancing food security and agricultural sustainability in Nicaragua. Walmart’s CSR program is designed to achieve business not development goals, and farmers are exiting the Walmart supply chain due to business practices they perceive as unfair, leaving Walmart unable to exert control over its supply chains. Cooperative organization is not sufficient for improving the terms of farmer engagement in Walmart supply chains, particularly for the most resource-poor farmers, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are in some cases worsening farmer vulnerability by linking them to buyers unwilling to adapt to local needs. Instead, voluntary public standards appear to be filling a gap that private standards do not address in supporting local farmers to improve their agricultural practices. The evidence presented in the dissertation extends understanding of why corporate social responsibility is not in many cases an effective development strategy. The findings challenge theories of private governance effectiveness, showing that multinational retail CSR programs in some cases fail to increase control over suppliers, and highlighting the agency and dynamism of smallholder farmers and governments in the global South. The findings also point to practical considerations in the design of policy to promote food security and agricultural sustainability in rural areas.

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Soft Governance: Why States Create Informal Intergovernmental Organizations, and Why It Matters (2016)

Informal intergovernmental organizations have become a prominent feature of the global landscape. Yet it remains unclear why states create informal organizations in some instances and formal organizations in others. Thus far, scholars have argued that states choose to create informal organizations when they offer an “efficient” solution to certain kinds of cross-border cooperation problems. However, such functionalist arguments are underspecified and rest on weak evidence at present. Existing research suggests that functionalist theories can indeed explain certain cases, but numerous anomalies arise when we look at others. This dissertation argues that this is because functionalists do not take into account how domestic politics, distributional conflict and state power can decisively influence the kinds of organizations that are likely to appear. It offers an alternative account of the emergence of informal organizations that incorporates these variables. The theory advanced emphasizes how domestic politics and institutions structure state preferences over organizational form, and how the distribution of preferences and state power then shape the organizations that subsequently emerge. Specifically, it argues that informal organizations arise when either a) policymakers in powerful states face significant domestic constraints, or b) autonomous bureaucrats are given responsibility for “leading” cooperation on the behalf of powerful states. In order to test this theory, a variety of methods are used. First, the theory is evaluated quantitatively through a statistical analysis of an original dataset of formal and informal organizations. Second, the theory is evaluated qualitatively through process tracing of the “emergence” of the International Monetary Fund, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the International Competition Network. Overall, the analysis provides powerful support for the central thesis of this dissertation: while certain aspects of the cooperation problems states face do play a role, domestic politics and state power are the most important determinants of organizational form. The dissertation’s findings are argued to have implications for theories of rational design in the field of International Relations, for our understanding of the overall rise of informal organizations in the global system, as well as for policy debates about the desirability of this new breed of international institution.

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Giving knowledge with no strings attached: Brazil's use of technical cooperation as a foreign policy tool and the case of 'biofuels diplomacy' (2015)

Since the mid-2000s, Brazil became deeply committed to transferring biofuels-related knowledge to as many countries as possible. Through bilateral and multilateral technical cooperation agreements, over 80 countries in the world have demonstrated their interest in learning from Brazil’s unique experience with mass-scale use of biofuels – especially sugarcane-based ethanol. The initial puzzle of why was Brazil fostering potential competitors is made even more intriguing by a particular characteristic: Brazil was transferring knowledge without demanding anything in return. This dissertation takes the empirical case of why Brazil has chosen to provide biofuels-related knowledge through no-strings-attached technical cooperation as a springboard for other reflections, with two in particular. First, why do countries provide technical cooperation in the context of development assistance? Second, why would a country give something to another country without demanding anything in return? The argument developed is that a country committed to providing unconditional and untied technical cooperation is strategically prioritizing mid/long term diplomatic over short term commercial gains, counting on the expectation of reciprocity from its recipients. The analysis is based upon academic literatures involving power, foreign policy analysis, development assistance, South-South Cooperation, so-called ‘emerging’ donors, and Brazilian foreign policy. The Brazilian biofuels’ case is developed from academic literature, official documents, and almost 100 interviews done in Brazil with diplomats, civil servants, and academics; a significant portion of this data originated from material available only in Portuguese. Among key contributions, this study demonstrates how technical cooperation has been – and continues to be – used as a foreign policy tool. Countries can seek different gains from the provision of knowledge, and it is necessary to look at domestic forces pushing policymakers to choose which interest(s) they will prioritize. The empirical analysis sheds light on the power dynamics underneath the act of giving with no demands. The material also sheds light on similarities and differences among strategies pursued by Brazil, China, India and South Africa. Finally, the study makes significant contributions for the still sparse English-based literature on Brazilian foreign policy and its path to becoming a reference in biofuels.

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The contentious political economy of biofuels: Transnational struggles over food, fuel, and the environment (2013)

The quintessential image of a farmer in a field summons to mind an industry at the heart of debates over land, environment, and food. A picture of an oil rig, silhouetted against the sky, conjures its own questions of progress, growth, and power. As agricultural products modified into energy commodities, biofuels—liquid fuels derived from plants—are located at the intersection of these industrial complexes, and, consequently, at the crux of these concerns.Over the course of a decade, starting in the early 2000s, public discourse over biofuels has spanned early optimism to uproar over food security to outcry over land appropriation. This project investigates why both the rules governing and the actual implementation of biofuels investments underwent such rapid and continuous revision. What, it asks, explains these seemingly-stochastic shifts? Why do state, society, and corporate actors not align into and remain part of more coherent pro- and anti-biofuels camps? And why, in spite of media reports of protests, campaigns, and lawsuits against biofuels projects, can we not identify consistent movements and counter-movements?Drawing on original fieldwork in coastal Kenya and Tanzania from 2010-2011, and triangulating field-based interview and observational findings with media reports, policy documents, and secondary literature, this dissertation argues that biofuels are challenging objects of contention for claim-makers and power-holders alike, for two reasons. First, their position at the junction of commercialized energy and agriculture implicates them in difficult-to-track, globalizing, and distant political economy relationships. Second, at the production level, biofuels are a diverse set of crops that affect local ecologies and livelihoods in geographically-specific ways, while in energy markets, they are a largely-unified fuel alternative. These differences across sectors make them difficult to promote, regulate, and resist.This dissertation proposes a framework of contentious political economy to analyze these complex claims and responses. The project brings together a dynamic, cyclical understanding of the capture and appropriation of identities, interests, and historical grievances with a political economy perspective on new market forces and commodities. Beyond biofuels, the project considers the social and environmental repercussions of the intersection of new resource economies with long-standing grievances.

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Caring about aid: an ethics of care approach to global health aid (2011)

Taken on face value the concept of foreign aid seems to imply some level of caring on the part of donors for recipients, but in reality aid is given for all kinds of reasons, many that have nothing to do with care. This project seeks to understand what aid would look like if it was designed and delivered from a caring perspective and how that change would impact aid recipients. Using an ethics of care perspective I examine current thought on our ethical obligations to the poor, demonstrating how the relational perspective of a care approach moves the discussion away from abstract debates to focus on the concrete daily realities of people struggling with poverty and poor health. A care approach helps expose the broader social, political and economic background against which global health and development problems occur. Mainstream approaches to global health that focus on human rights, economic growth and security provide only a partial picture of that background. In contrast a care approach to global health keeps the focus sharply on the targets of aid, working to create space for them to give voice to their experiences and empowering them to create more responsive aid programs. After discussing what a care approach to health would look like at the theoretical level I apply it to the case of global aid for HIV/AIDS. By analyzing three of the largest HIV/AIDS relief efforts, the U.S., U.K. and Global Fund programs, I show both the strengths and weaknesses of these programs as well as how they could be adapted using a care approach to become more responsive to the needs of target communities. A care approach offers scholars of global aid an important critical prescriptive that brings to light aspects of poverty and poor health that can be missed by conventional perspectives and provides policy makers with a tool to build more caring and responsive aid policy, empowering aid recipients as active partners in the aid process.

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Co-regulating corporate social responsibility : government response to forest certification in Canada, the United States and Sweden (2009)

The emergence of private environmental governance has been interpreted in the policy and global governance literature as a “retreat of the state” or “governance without government”. However, the most established example of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) standard, forest certification, reveals governments endorsing, enabling and even mandating certification. Forest certification demonstrates that the state is not in retreat, but has simply shifted its role towards co-regulation. Despite the increasing evidence, scholars have largely ignored the significance of this transformation. This dissertation addresses this critical knowledge gap by developing the governance concept of CSR co-regulation, which serves to explain how governments are harnessing private rule-making authority alongside state regulation. Through a comparative case study drawing on more than 120 interviews, the research evaluates how and why governments within the world’s leading certified nations (Canada, the United States and Sweden) have responded to forest certification, and the implications for forest governance. The results show that these governments are increasingly engaging in certification through a range of co-regulatory approaches that complement, rather than substitute for forest laws. While the rationale for co-regulation are similar across the case study jurisdictions, government co-regulatory responses have differed as influenced by socio-political, economic and environmental factors within the local context. The cases also highlight how certification co-regulation benefits forest administration, decision-making processes, and policy outcomes and suggest that governments are engaging in certification for other than market-driven reasons.The evidence challenges the theory of “non-state market-driven” governance, demonstrating that certification is more accurately classified as a co-regulatory forest governance mechanism. Three new analytical tools are presented to evaluate the co-regulatory arrangements, and establish a framework to facilitate future research in this area. As well, the findings offer practical guidance to policy makers seeking new adaptive governance approaches to address complex sustainability challenges.

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Master's Student Supervision

Theses completed in 2010 or later are listed below. Please note that there is a 6-12 month delay to add the latest theses.

Palm oil, eco-labels, and greenwash in a liberal environmental regime (2022)

Eco-labels and multi-stakeholder certification bodies have risen in prominence astools through which the sustainable production of certain goods can be signaled toconsumers. Consumers have accordingly been framed as key actors upon whomenvironmental custodianship rests, in what has been popularly termed the“individualization of responsibility.” Despite their seeming importance, I argue that ecolabelsmay be no more than a form of global greenwash, which is the practice of makingunsubstantiated claims of environmental sustainability in a concerted effort to preserveor gain market share. I contend that they are instruments of liberal environmentalismwhich aims to unify disparate goals of economic growth and environmental protection.Moreover, I demonstrate that liberal environmentalism is indeed an extension ofneoliberal and capitalist economic ideals that seek unrestricted market expansion,economic growth, and the accumulation of profit.Thus, eco-labels and certifications being a manifestation of a neoliberal economicorder merely encourage continued consumption. Within the liberal environmentalframework, individuals are encouraged to use eco-labels and certifications in making“green” buying decisions. I argue that given their current position in a neoliberaleconomic regime, certifications and eco-labels are ineffective for assuring positive longtermenvironmental change. I rely on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)as the case study for this inquiry because the RSPO has positioned itself as theorganization and industry standard that certifies sustainable palm oil. I find that theRSPO has failed to substantiate sustainability claims given continued environmentaldecline associated with palm oil production.ivAlthough there is a body of research on greenwash present in certifications andeco-labels, not many have attempted to uproot its source. This research, thus, aims tounderscore the neoliberal underpinnings of certifications and eco-labels. Importantly, Ihope to demonstrate that by relying on these tools as solutions to environmentaldegradation, we fail to address the structural and contradictory institutions thatpromote them, which disempowers consumers through the false narrative that assertsthat individuals’ best avenue for environmental protection is through their shoppinghabits. Ultimately, this failure is dangerous for the environment and society at large.

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Built environments, COVID-19, and environmental injustice: examining the role of settler colonialism and racial capitalism in shaping and transforming eco-social relations in canada (2021)

This paper builds on the work of critical environmental justice scholars. I argue that the understanding of environmental injustice requires an expansion beyond conceptualizing environmental injustice as toxic pollutants and external environmental harms being inflicted on marginalized and/or racialized peoples by the settler-colonial state and corporations. Built environments include structures that people work, live, and seek protection from harm and must be included as sites of environmental injustice. The state and corporations that operate under the logics of settler colonialism and racial capitalism, transformed and shape eco-social relations that produce racialized physical, spiritual, and mental health outcomes. Focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020, I explore three cases to examine how the built environments interact with the virus to amplify historical and structural inequalities and to demonstrate how virus transmission moves through eco-social relations. I chose these cases as they reflect systemic inequalities that have been present since Canada’s inception. These cases include the hunger strikes led by Indigenous inmates in Saskatchewan prisons, racialized migrant farmworkers in Ontario, and the removal of environmental monitoring requirements by the Alberta Energy Regulator. I trace the major shifts in the environmental justice literature and explore the settler colonialism and racial capitalism literature to support my arguments. I find that the environmental justice literature first viewed the state as an ally rather than a key actor in producing environmental harm through violence. However, viewing injustice as toxic pollutants rather than within built environments remains consistent. Further, settler colonialism and racial capitalism through the dispossession of racialized bodies and land, have significantly restructured eco-social relations, from mutually beneficial connections to one based on hierarchy and exploitation for profit. Moreover, through the construction of civility and differentiated value, property was given to settlers which resulted in them creating built environments that foster healthy lives. Racial capitalism and settler colonialism also created institutionalized/structural racial hierarchies that render racialized people expendable, controllable, and disposable, which has led to exploitation for cheap labour, wagelessness, and mass incarceration. Examining these cases demonstrate how environmental injustice is present within the built environments (living spaces, workspaces, prisons, and reserves).

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Climate pandemic: understanding climate change through the politics of metaphor (2021)

Climate metaphors are cognitive devices that leverage our knowledge of a more common issue to make sense of a different, more complex issue. In this thesis, I use Conceptual Metaphor Theory and a climate justice lens to examine why a pandemic-based metaphor for climate change offers a more apt and just way of thinking about climate change as a consequence of fossil fuels over other common climate metaphors. In this analysis, I look at three climate metaphors—climate emergency, slow violence and war—through a high-level climate justice lens of right, fair and appropriate. I find the metaphor of emergency too vague to advance a meaningful understanding of climate change’s sociopolitical challenges and overall nature. The metaphor slow violence problematically distorts aspects of climate violence as a matter of vast timescales, rather than an issue of oppressive sociopolitical systems that mask climate harms inflicted on racialized and marginalized populations. War as a climate metaphor is fundamentally unsound due to extensive adversarial, binary and reductionist narratives that tend to create “Us” vs “Them” narratives and opens opportunities for justifying unjust actions to win a “climate war.” I then use these three climate metaphors to help situate and map out the climate metaphor “climate change is a pandemic”—positioning fossil fuels as the virus of a climate pandemic—to demonstrate how a COVID-19 pandemic model helps to capture and convey the urgency, speed, scale and sociopolitical dynamics of climate change. I suggest more research is needed to further understand how a climate pandemic metaphor influences public perceptions of climate change, how it might shape the types of solutions and policies mobilized for climate action and how this metaphor might help, harm or advance climate understanding according to climate justice principles.

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The butterfly effect: the power of individual action to mitigate climate change (2021)

Over the years, various scholars in environmental politics have argued that individual action to mitigate climate change is marginal at best, and regressive at worst. According to their assessment, the ‘individualization of responsibility’ places the burden of climate change mitigation on individuals. These scholars also argue that the individualization of responsibility hinders the implementation of institutional solutions. These scholars have responded to a broader debate on what the role of the individual is in the fight against the climate crisis. This paper adds another voice to this debate by directly challenging the aforementioned scholars. First, I draw upon philosophical and socio-psychological scholarship to suggest that individual action is meaningful and can actually serve as a catalyst for institutional advancements. The existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre argued that people contribute to collective realities through their individual action. Insights from behavioral contagion theory have subsequently shed light on how people affect the state of the collective through their individual actions. Humans rely on cues from others to determine how to act. When one person decides to engage in environmentally friendly behavior, such as eating less meat, it is likely that those around them will begin to engage in the behavior as well. To illustrate how the effects of behavioral contagion theory can be observed in the real world, I then document the rise of vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians in North America. This section provides empirical evidence for the value of personal action by analyzing how behavior change at the individual level has inspired businesses and governments to take action as well. Next, I propose an alternative theory of social change. The question of responsibility is not an either-or matter; rather, individuals and institutions reinforce each other in the fight against the climate crisis. Individuals signal to institutions through their actions that they are willing to take on costly actions to mitigate climate change. Institutions then take these signals and scale them up in ways that no individual can do alone. Throughout the paper, I argue that while institutional change is important, individual action can be a key component in unleashing institutional change.

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Understanding China's leadership in nature-based solutions: nominal adoption of fragmented norms (2021)

Since the 2019 Climate Action Summit, China has been playing a prominent role in mainstreaming Nature-Based Solutions (NbS) in global environmental governance, promoting the use of ecosystem management to solve environmental and societal challenges. Global environmental norms like NbS shape our understanding of how to respond to environmental issues and guide our actions. This research investigates China’s seeming leadership in adopting and promoting NbS in its domestic actions and bilateral and multilateral programmes. I argue that China’s adoption of the NbS norm is a case of nominal adoption whereby its analogous local norms – Ecological Civilisation and the Two Mountains Theory – continue to guide domestic policy-making and are unaffected by the transnational norm. Relying on a systematic review of Chinese-language primary sources, I found that China’s discourse and actions involving the NbS norm are outward-oriented and aim to incorporate its domestic environmental practices and ideologies into the fragmented NbS norm, where the global recognition of NbS does not translate into consistent local implementation. In doing so, China is shaping global NbS implementation to its advantage and preventing its institutionalisation. It seeks to showcase its domestic environmental successes, while gaining performance legitimacy and reputational benefits to boosts its international image. This research fills the gap in the political science research on NbS and contributes to the global environmental politics literature by examining the role of one of the most biologically diverse countries in the politics of the NbS norm. The nominal adoption model helps to explain the anomalies of China’s NbS norm adoption and promotion; and highlights the evolving strategies of authoritarian environmentalism and the dynamic diffusion and localisation pathways of global environmental norms.

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Understanding Chinese cultural practices and the environment: a call for critical theory and hermeneutics (2021)

Ecological problems that encompass the cultural traditions and customs of non-western peoples have been known to expose the western ethnocentricity subtly embedded within western environmental discourse and its core principle of universalist morality. Nowhere is this more apparent than the Chinese cultural practices associated with certain contemporary environmental issues: 1. Live Animal Markets make clear the underlining assumptions/values that western environmental activists hold regarding cultural others, and the protection of the environment itself; 2. Shark Fin Soup reveals the fundamental misunderstandings that environmental actors have regarding the broader Chinese socio-cultural contexts that drive consumption; 3. The Ivory Trade demonstrates false narratives, and the possibility for environmental activists to overcome misunderstandings to forge successful cultural dialogue. All these case studies touch upon the fact that when western environmental actors attempt to address the problem, they often inadvertently perpetuate/reinforce orientalist narratives about Chinese culture within the media, academia and the broader cultural sphere by engaging in heuristic tropes that frame Chinese bodies as: others who improperly transcend the boundary between nature and man in order to satiate their senseless tastes for “exotic” animals to the point that it will destroy “our” pristine ecosystems. This research paper argues that critical hermeneutics has a role to play within global environmental politics to expose these western, ethnocentric tendencies; it also advocates for the adoption of critical hermeneutics as both a method to acknowledge one’s own cultural pre-judgements to help safeguard against, if not outright avoid, the making of these mistakes in the future, as well as a solution to solve the environmental problem while respecting Chinese culture and traditions at the same time.

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"Save the whales, save the earth" Japan's exit from the International Whaling Commission (2020)

After the controversial exit of Japan from the International Whaling Commission in December 2018, many have debated the reason(s) behind this exit. This paper will analyze the discourse surrounding this issue, focusing on the last decade in general, and this recent exit in particular. It will explain the arguments put forward by Japan, which holds a pro-whaling stance, as well as the arguments of the opposing nations with an anti-whaling position. While Japan states that their pro-whaling stance is largely based on national traditions and culture, and they should therefore be able to carry out commercial whaling free of others’ judgment, I argue that the reason behind the withdrawal are the internal political dynamics of the ‘Iron Triangle,’ as well as a push back against what they perceive as imperialism by Western states. The Iron Triangle refers to a triangle of politicians, government bureaucrats, and big businesses drafting and enforcing policy for mutual interests. I will also explain the relationship between the Japanese government and the Japanese population and how it affects, or more precisely, does not affect Japan’s policy making surrounding the whaling issue. The thesis will conclude by summarizing the developments and evaluating what can be done in the future to improve the current situation.

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Activists or active threats?: how the state securitization of critical infrastructure impacts environmental and Indigenous activists in Canada and the United States (2020)

Environmental and Indigenous activists in Canada and the United States opposing extraction projects such as pipelines are being targeted by states and corporations. The securitization of critical infrastructure in Canada and the United States has enabled the use of security measures against these activists. The post-9/11 security environment facilitated a broad recognition of threats and permitted the use of a range of security measures. In this environment, policies emerged securitizing critical infrastructure, meaning that it was discursively constructed as a valued object under threat thus necessitating the use of exceptional measures to protect it. While public discourse establishes the securitization of critical infrastructure, private documents reveal the intentions and specific targets of these policies. In practice, the Canadian and American governments target environmental and Indigenous activists because they impede extractive critical infrastructure which operate in states’ and corporations’ economic interests. The use of security measures and their focus on environmental and Indigenous activists can be seen during confrontations like those in Standing Rock and Wet’suwet’en. Policies and actions in Canada and the United States have been influenced by their past treatment of environmental and Indigenous activists, government interests in extractivism, and the post-9/11 security environment. These historical, political, and economic factors shape the nature of the security policies, the actors executing the security measures, and which activists are targeted using particular measures. Though this research charts differences between Canada and the United States, it finds that, ultimately, the consequences of critical infrastructure securitization are similar in the two countries. There are global implications for the use of securitization to justify the repression of environmental and Indigenous activists related to environmental politics and the replication of this process in other countries. This research offers further evidence for the intertwined interests of governments and corporations in extraction and the lengths that they are willing to go to advance them. Environmental and Indigenous activists are an important voice in protecting the environment, biodiversity, and self-determination; without them, governments and corporations will have even greater power to pillage and pollute.

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From the coal monster to the green giant: how leaders' perceptions changed China's climate diplomacy? (2019)

Compared to China’s tough position in 2009, China’s cooperative stance at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference has been celebrated by the international community as a radical shift in China’s climate diplomacy. In contrast, this paper argues that although China has become proactive in its climate diplomacy, its stance on climate mitigation has been consistently conservative. I argue that the change in elites’ perception of sustainable development has driven China to become more cooperative but the national interest still limits its ambition in its international climate commitment. I employ process tracing to reveal that the ideational source of this perception shift is the incorporation of the climate protection norm advocated by domestic political leaders. The disaggregation of China’s climate policy into a domestic and international dimension attempts to challenge the theoretical divide between the rationalist and social constructivist approach to China’s climate policy. The finding of this paper bridges the gap in understanding China’s climate politics, contributes to theory building in climate diplomacy, and advances the debate between the rational choice theory and social constructivism.

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Naturally right: a Western understanding of why the rights of nature are salient in Ecuador, Bolivia, and New Zealand (2019)

Rights of nature is a discourse which proposes that, like humans, the natural world should be afforded a set of legal rights; rights which, being nominally inviolable, temper our worst excesses. Although not as ubiquitous as the conceptual framework of global capitalism, this idea enjoys salience in select areas, notably Ecuador, Bolivia, and New Zealand. The reason that alternative paradigms like rights of nature are select, however, is because the monolithic conceptual framework that is the contemporary political economy – that is to say, neoliberalism – tends to absorb or neutralizes such challenging ideas. Such instances are in abundance, for example, in the commodification of environmental sentiments such as ‘sustainability.’ I argue that despite this, rights of nature has survived challenges to its existence in the form of indigenous cosmologies and social philosophies of these countries. This thesis seeks to explain why this is so, arguing that common cultural denominators across all account for this salience. These commonalities include indigenous cosmologies and cultures that express a reverence for nature; histories of exogenous colonial exploitation of land and people; strong feminist traditions at the individual level; and robust legal protections of nature at the state level. In the broader context of global environmental politics, these factors are important because they provide an alternative paradigm which is otherwise obfuscated by the monochromatism of the contemporary world order, which equates the commodification of nature and material wealth with success. Unveiling it may allow social, economic, and natural relations to be wholly reconceived.

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Underwater sovereignty: the importance of climate leadership for the Republic of Maldives (2019)

The Small Island Developing States (SIDS) leadership highlights the implications of global climate change upon national and international security frameworks. As chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) for four consecutive years, the Maldives aims to tackle the challenges of climate change by implementing climate related national and international strategies, targets and policies. This paper focuses on why the Maldives prioritizes climate leadership as one of its main political goals. I argue that the nation prioritizes climate leadership in order to gain soft power within the international community; to build developmental assistance for the nation; to promote tourism by crafting an international image of a nation committed to eradicating climate change; to reduce the existential social, political and economic threats caused by climate change that would otherwise destabilize the nation and threaten the existing political leadership; and lastly, as a symbol of green leadership in the world. The Maldivian climate leadership strives to become a source of inspiration and a model for other nations to follow suit. The findings of this paper promote a deeper understanding of Maldivian climate politics, the understanding of climate leadership in the Maldives via agenda framing, political networks, rhetoric and state-crafted bargaining in order to safeguard their national sovereignty and re-define the parameters of global climate leadership.

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Against nature (2018)

Much to the horror of our liberal colleagues, it appears that actual rising tides are less than helpful for those without boats. In this paper I critique the newest and greenest iteration of capitalism, appropriately termed green capitalism, and its proponents’ dangerous desire to fashion a manageable economic crisis out of planetary ecological catastrophe. The economic (il)logic and ontological hubris of green capitalism, I argue, spurs only anthropocentric and imaginatively impoverished market-based solutions that fail to comprehend the fundamentally interrelated nature of social, economic, and ecological systems. Champions rather than challengers of unfettered accumulation and production, proponents of the ‘new green economy’ predictably offer neoliberal and depoliticized narratives of corporate social responsibility and green individual consumption as potential solutions. Combined, corporate social responsibility and the individualization of responsibility are driving profoundly anti-democratic and depoliticized approaches to social, economic, and ecological threats. What results, in other words, is the opposite of a social movement — an anti-social movement of pseudo-activity. Pseudo-solutions and pseudo-activities, I argue, must be rejected in order to cultivate necessarily political, democratic, and collective responses to the ongoing social, economic, ecological catastrophe.

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Mother nature, father profit (2018)

Embedded, but rarely made explicit within liberal environmental rhetoric, is a focus on the individual as the primacy locus of change. Proponents of this atomized conception of responsibility suggest widespread environmental degradation— the product of individual overconsumption and poor decision making— can be addressed through individual lifestyle changes. According to this logic, individuals can ‘do their bit’ for the environment by buying ‘green,’ recycling, consuming less, and ‘living lightly.’ Despite the ostensible neutrality, the individualization of responsibility is in fact a deeply gendered notion. The injunction to make eco-friendly lifestyle changes results in an intensification of household labour and responsibility women undertake disproportionately. While there is a body of environmental sociological literature that recognizes this gendered division of eco-labour, there have been few efforts to critically theorize this gender gap. Contributing to these theoretical efforts, I argue that a gender-blind environmental approach based on ‘the individual’ as a homogenous, apolitical theoretical concept, depoliticizes environmental degradation as a space of political contestation. Without acknowledging the variation amongst individuals, the individualization of responsibility obfuscates the power asymmetry built into structures of the status quo, thereby stifling critique and the possibility of necessary structural change.

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Pressure to pay the price: a normative approach to environmental policymaking (2018)

The pressure to adopt domestic environmental policies is growing as a result of increasingly integrated and influential global environmental regulations, conventions, and institutions. The transformative nature of environmental policies, and carbon taxes in particular, present challenges for domestic governments vis-à-vis public opinion, business groups, and interest groups. Given that provinces have different regional contexts and differing existing normative structures, how can governments inspire acceptance of environmental policies with broad and unspecific global normative rhetoric? In the Canadian provincial context, I argue that norms (known as the widely accepted appropriate or desirable patterns of behaviour within a given society) and ideas play a significant enabling role in aiding governments in the introduction stage of environmental policies that would otherwise be hard to accept. Further, given that different domestic contexts cannot simply adopt normative rhetoric at the global level, I argue that governments must utilize normative strategies to bring the policy to be complementary to existing local norms, discourses, and structures. These strategies include grafting, known as introducing a new norm by connecting it with an existing norm in the same issue area, and framing, known as suggesting alternative perceptions of appropriate normative application that better resonate with public understanding. Lastly, while norms are not the only policy perspective that governments must consider, domestic normative processes have the potential to be a dominant consideration due to the impact they have on other factors of the policymaking process. In light of the recent federal announcement to implement a carbon tax in all provinces currently without a carbon pricing system by the end of 2018, I illustrate my argument by showing how two provincial governments, with vastly different industry and contextual backgrounds, both voluntarily introduced carbon taxes prior to the announcement. Their existing normative structures – the already existent polluter-pays principle in British Columbia and normative pressures from the top-down in Alberta – proved to be crucial factors to the introduction of the carbon tax in their respective provinces. These cases serve not only as an interesting comparison, but are also useful examples of the employment of normative strategies to other provinces hoping to follow suit.

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A gentle giant: the Paris Agreement and China's national branding strategy (2017)

Prior to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, China consistently obstructed multilateral climate change governance, and instead advocated for national regulation and flexibility for developing states. However, at the World Economic Forum in January 2017, President Xi Jinping expressed strong support for the Paris Climate Agreement. This thesis seeks to explain China’s new approach to climate governance. In the first section, I evaluate the design of the Paris Agreement from a rationalist perspective to find that the Agreement compromises environmental outcomes to promote economic growth, trade liberalization, and national sovereignty. Further, I find that this design is consistent with China’s previously climate policy objectives. In the second section of this thesis, I argue that while the agreement is weak on environmental protection, the Paris Agreement represents a forum to signal responsible behavior, and therefore the Paris Agreement has instrumental value for China’s economic and development objectives. Thus, the Paris Agreement has become part of a larger legitimation strategy used by Chinese leadership, to signal China’s benevolent economic rise, particularly to the Global South. This thesis contributes to existing literature to suggest that, in the arena of climate change governance and economic development, China is largely a status quo power. Likewise, this thesis argues that the design of Paris Agreement is largely a continuation of previous agreements and negotiations, rather than a significantly different approach to climate governance.

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The greening of self-interest: why is China standing firm on its climate commitments despite US regression? (2017)

International observers might have expected China to respond to US defection on climate change with a similar defection, but it has shown no signs of doing so. Why? This paper argues that Chinese commitment to environmental targets, embodied by the Paris Agreement, is the result of a greening of self-interest: in other words, China has realised its existing domestic and foreign policy goals are best served by a realignment from unrestrained to more sustainable development. The primary drivers of this shift are the pursuit of domestic legitimacy, the economic benefits of industrial efficiency and green technology production, and a desire to improve China’s international reputation. The paper will utilise a range of academic, media and direct political sources to uncover the reality of Chinese foreign policy motivation piece by piece. It will end by reflecting on two logical corollaries of the main question: first, will China simply discard its climate commitments if the incentives it is faced with start to favour untrammelled environmental exploitation again? Discursive chains, norm internalisation and influence over the global normative framework may operate against this outcome. Second, how will Chinese leadership in the international sphere influence the nature of global environmental norms themselves? China’s climate strategy appears to embrace the consumption-led, industrial capitalist conception of environmentalism which already prevails, suggesting this rising giant is likely to further entrench existing norms rather than shift the world towards genuinely sustainable solutions.

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Collaborative Consumption: Sharing our Way towards Sustainability (2015)

Collaborative consumption(CC)refers to activities surrounding the sharing, swapping, or trading of goods and services within a collaborative consumption community. First, this MA thesis evaluates the factors contributing to the rapid increase of CC initiatives. These factors include technology, personal economics, environmental concerns, and social interaction. Second, the thesis explores the prospects and limits of CC in terms of sustainability. The most promising prospect is that CC seems to generate social capital and initiate a value shift away from ownership. However, institutional forces promoting growth limit this potential. The thesis concludes that CC itself is not enough to achieve sustainability, and therefore, more political solutions are needed. The paper ends with a critical discussion on the future of our growth-based economic model by suggesting that certain forms of CC could represent the roots of a “post-growth” economy.

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A Tale of Two Curses: The Economic, Political, and Developmental Effects of Dependency on Foreign Aid and Natural Resources (2014)

This paper provides a first look at the intersection between the natural resource and foreign aid curses. In doing so, it proposes that the economic, political, and developmental effects of foreign aid and natural resources are influenced by similar factors. While to date much of the literature on the aid and resource curses have tended not to engage one another, it is shown that through a political economy model of political survival, important commonalities can be drawn out with respect to the cause and effect of both curses. Accordingly, this paper argues for the necessity of no longer studying the two phenomena in isolation, and instead presents a common theoretical model allowing for a unified approach to understanding the implications of unearned income. A preliminary quantitative analysis is also presented, which suggests at the effects of foreign aid in natural resource-dependent countries. Important implications not only for academic research, but also importantly for policy making, follow from the findings herein.

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All bark and no bite? Illegal logging and REDD implementation in weak states (2013)

Despite efforts to reduce logging rates, deforestation due to illegal timber harvests continues to plague REDD+ countries. This problem occurs in an array of states that exhibit variance regarding quality of governance, commitment to REDD+ projects, as well as history and causes of deforestation. This behavior is best explained as a typical challenge of implementing policy for nations in which the ‘weak’ state is merely one of several actors wielding power in the form of social control. These power dynamics are likely to persist, or change only at a rate that puts successful implementation of REDD+ projects in jeopardy. Extending this framework to the international level demonstrates how the design of international regimes such as REDD+ may work either to exacerbate or to moderate existing conflict among actors with social power, and how contestation at the local level may act to influence the politics of these global regimes.

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Securitization of climate change in Bangladesh: The repercussions of rising sea levels for human security (2013)

Scholars tend to frame environmental problems and climate change as either a separate issue from national security or as loosely embedded in an overarching framework of human security. Since Barry Buzan’s seminal 1991 work, People, States and Fear, which argues that the traditional concept of security is too narrowly defined and is out of touch with reality, scholarship on human security has proliferated. Within the human security literature, environmental issues have received less attention due to their very broad and complex nature, which requires an integrated, horizontal response on the part of both state and non-state actors. This MA thesis seeks to contribute to the small, albeit growing, study of climate change as part of the broader scholarship on human security. Through the case studies of the largest mangrove forest and two major islands in Bangladesh, I argue that Bangladesh’s attempt to securitize climate change has failed on two levels. First, the state has been unable to convince the public at large that rising sea-levels is a long-term threat to national security. Second, the state has failed to incorporate into the securitization process, the communities most vulnerable to sea-level rise. There are at least two important implications of this failure to securitize climate change: it is contributing to shortcomings in short- and long-term adaptation and mitigation strategies, and it is creating new threats to human security. As a result, only minor changes are occurring on the ground to address with impacts of climate change on Bangladeshi’s most vulnerable populations. The inundation of the Sundarbans’s mangrove forest and Sandeep and Kutubdia islands, vividly illustrates the way in which climate change is adversely affecting both the livelihood and security of the people as well as the state of Bangladesh. To respond more effectively to the escalating crisis of climate change, the Bangladeshi government needs to do more to securitize climate change and raise it to the level of a national security threat. By doing so, the state would have a better chance of not only preventing future loss of livelihood, but also manage future security threats brought on by climate change.

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