Multi-Level Environmental Governance
In line with my recent posts updating my framework to include private environmental governance, this -isms critique evaluates a closely related facet of the environmental movement, multi-level environmental governance.
In Companion to Environmental Studies, Andrew Jordan and David Benson explore the emergence of mulit-level environmental governance. The chapter posits that many centralized state led systems of governance have been replaced/ complemented with new forms of government- power is held by businesses and NGOS, functioning at varying levels (regional and global). The environmental movement within the US began with governments regulating within their borders- think the seminal Clear Air and Water acts of the 1970s. This quickly gave way to less centralized systems, in part because of globalization, and the need for international agreements, but also given the rise in other powerful actors, such as transnational corporations.
The three major modes of governance include markets, networks, and communities. Markets refer to economic forces, networks of the many sectors involved, and communities refer to the actions of individuals. Outcomes from these varying bodies include regulation, market-based approaches, and voluntary agreements. Given the proliferation of varying types and sources of environmental governance, coordination has become an essential component.
I thought this article did a great job at capturing the major aspects of multi-level environmental governance: scale and process. However, there was a greater focus on scale and decentralization of state governments when I would argue that the most fascinating aspect of the movement is the transfer of power not just to different levels of government, but out of a state all together. Additionally, the authors could have emphasized the roles that NGOs and nonprofits play together with markets and with consumers. That connection is really important to the current regulation systems, where corporations act and brand, and nonprofits legitimize (or call out). In this discussion of non-state actors, the paper appeared to lump nonprofits with corporations, failing to acknowledge the incentives businesses operate with. Though the conclusion brought in the changes of the strong state, it did so with little fanfare- I thought a greater sense of urgency ought to have been sounded. Because this article is written from the perspective that something good is happening- we are happy to see environmental governance. However, if we expand this process to other processes, we may not be in favor. With issues such as immigration or anti semitism, it is alarming to see the powerful force of businesses setting new standards.
This topic relates closely to environmental sustainability governance, or non-state market-driven governance, which focuses specifically on civil society and corporations. These keywords essentially operate to explain the same movement, emphasizing different aspects within. A major component of my thesis will utilize the framework of theories such as this.