Nations, sovereignty and the international system

Authored by: Hugh C. Dyer

Routledge Handbook of Global Environmental Politics

Print publication date:  September  2013
Online publication date:  October  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415694209
eBook ISBN: 9780203799055
Adobe ISBN: 9781135090517


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The politics of the environment have transformed the practices of nations and our understanding of state sovereignty and the international system. However, the question remains whether states, nations and the international system can support the practices of environmental politics. At the heart of the matter are the limitations of the state as a mechanism for delivering environmental policy. It is difficult for national governments to respond to global environmental change because their political obligations are defined by pre-existing perceptions and expectations of the state and assumed national priorities, particularly economic ones. Furthermore, established administrative structures of the state engage with the relatively novel politics of the environment with some difficulty, such that policies based on efficiency may actually increase overall consumption and ecological degradation. To some extent this has been addressed by bureaucratic reorganization (or just rebranding) around environmental issues with energy and climate appearing together in the titles of governmental departments, agencies and programmes.

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