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Transparency in Global Environmental Governance

Transparency in Global Environmental Governance: Critical Perspectives

Aarti Gupta
Michael Mason
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  • Book Info
    Transparency in Global Environmental Governance
    Book Description:

    Transparency -- openness, secured through greater availability of information -- is increasingly seen as part of the solution to a complex array of economic, political, and ethical problems in an interconnected world. The "transparency turn" in global environmental governance in particular is seen in a range of international agreements, voluntary disclosure initiatives, and public-private partnerships. This is the first book to investigate whether transparency in global environmental governance is in fact a broadly transformative force or plays a more limited, instrumental role.After three conceptual, context-setting chapters, the book examines ten specific and diverse instances of "governance by disclosure." These include state-led mandatory disclosure initiatives that rely on such tools as prior informed consent and monitoring, measuring, reporting and verification; and private (or private-public), largely voluntary efforts that include such corporate transparency initiatives as the Carbon Disclosure Project and such certification schemes as the Forest Stewardship Council. The cases, which focus on issue areas including climate change, biodiversity, biotechnology, natural resource exploitation, and chemicals, demonstrate that although transparency is ubiquitous, its effects are limited and often specific to particular contexts. The book explores in what circumstances transparency can offer the possibility of a new emancipatory politics in global environmental governance.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32085-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Frank Biermann and Oran R. Young

    Humans now influence all biological and physical systems of the planet. Almost no species, no land area, and no part of the oceans have remained unaffected by the expansion of the human species. Recent scientific findings suggest that the entire earth system now operates outside the normal state exhibited over the past 500,000 years. Yet at the same time, it is apparent that the institutions, organizations, and mechanisms by which humans govern their relationship with the natural environment and global biogeochemical systems are utterly insufficient—and poorly understood. More fundamental and applied research is needed.

    Yet such research is no...

  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Acronyms
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Part I: Transparency in Broader Context

    • 1 A Transparency Turn in Global Environmental Governance
      (pp. 3-38)
      Aarti Gupta and Michael Mason

      A century after Justice Louis Brandeis uttered these prescient words, we live, seemingly, in an era of transparency. Transparency is equated most often with openness and reduced secrecy, garnered through greater availability and increased flows of information (Florini 1998; see also Fenster 2010). Whether to enhance global security, secure human rights, discipline borderless business, or hold to account faceless bureaucrats, transparency is increasingly seen as part of the solution to a complex and diverse array of economic, political, and ethical challenges in our increasingly interconnected world (Finel and Lord 2000; Fung et al. 2007; Soederberg 2001).

      Aided and abetted by...

    • 2 The Lost Innocence of Transparency in Environmental Politics
      (pp. 39-60)
      Arthur P. J. Mol

      Transparency is high on the public, political, and research agendas in national and global environmental politics and governance. Roughly defined as the disclosure of information, transparency is particularly prominent in the field of environment, although it is by no means limited to this field. The origins can be located in earlier right-to-know movements, legislation, and practices in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly in the United States and other advanced industrialized democracies. Transparency practices and developments in environmental politics have spread since the 1990s to other countries and localities, among them China (Mol et al. 2011; Zhang et al. 2010), but...

    • 3 The National Context for Transparency-Based Global Environmental Governance
      (pp. 61-80)
      Ann Florini and Bharath Jairaj

      As is true for all of global governance, the rules of global environmental governance may be negotiated transnationally, but in a world of sovereign states they are implemented nationally. Even rules arrived at by transnational private sector self-regulation will play out in national contexts that vary wildly in the degree to which they are hospitable to transparency. In other words, global governance initiatives do not float free of the state system. Absent some degree of transparency-friendly institutions within countries, global transparency systems have little hope of success. The uptake and efficacy of disclosure-based systems depend heavily on the degree to...

  7. Part II: State-Led Multilaterally Negotiated Transparency

    • 4 So Far but No Further? Transparency and Disclosure in the Aarhus Convention
      (pp. 83-106)
      Michael Mason

      Insofar as the transparency turn in global environmental politics includes multilateral agreements, one treaty stands out as seminal—the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (henceforth Aarhus Convention 1998).¹ The Aarhus Convention, negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), contains a striking invocation of human environmental rights. Its article 1 affirms the “right of every person of present and future generations to live in an environment adequate to his or her health or well-being” as justification for its recognition, in environmental matters, of rights...

    • 5 Global Pesticide Governance by Disclosure: Prior Informed Consent and the Rotterdam Convention
      (pp. 107-132)
      Kees Jansen and Milou Dubois

      Accounts of human suffering and environmental contamination in developing countries because of pesticide use often propose closing the knowledge gap between industrialized (pesticide-exporting) countries and developing (pesticide-importing) countries as a solution (Hough 1998). In such narratives, improved provision of information on pesticide risks and pesticide trade will enable developing countries to design and implement appropriate measures to control pesticide risks. This is the basic premise underlying the major global governance framework that addresses global pesticide flows, the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade (hereinafter “the convention”). Transparency, in the...

    • 6 Risk Governance through Transparency: Information Disclosure and the Global Trade in Transgenic Crops
      (pp. 133-156)
      Aarti Gupta

      Transparency is often linked to a democratizing impulse in governance. Yet whether this relationship holds in practice is uncertain and understudied. Transparency is widely assumed to empower those at its receiving end by enabling recipients of information to hold the powerful to account and/or by facilitating informed choices or effective participation in governance processes (e.g., Florini 2008; Fung et al. 2007; Graham 2002; Keohane 2006; Mitchell 1998).

      Yet, as argued in the introduction (Gupta and Mason, this book, chapter 1), there are other (competing) normative rationales that underpin a transparency turn in global environmental governance. These include a marketization impulse...

    • 7 Transparency in the Governance of Access and Benefit Sharing from Genetic Resources
      (pp. 157-180)
      Amandine Orsini, Sebastian Oberthür and Justyna Pożarowska

      Transparency is a central element in the international governance of genetic resources (GR) under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). GR is material coming from plants, animals, or microorganisms that can be used for commercial applications, among others. Before being commercialized, genetic resources are often transformed by means of biotechnology. The core of the governance of GR under the CBD is known as “access and benefit sharing” (ABS), itself an implication of the CBD’s recognition of states’ “sovereign right to exploit their resources pursuant to their own environmental policies” (CBD, article 3). As a consequence of this sovereign right, potential...

    • 8 Making REDD+ Transparent: The Politics of Measuring, Reporting, and Verification Systems
      (pp. 181-202)
      Aarti Gupta, Marjanneke J. Vijge, Esther Turnhout and Till Pistorius

      Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD) is currently one of the most debated climate mitigation options within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations. REDD is intended to be a performance-based financing mechanism, whereby industrialized countries compensate developing countries for reducing forest-related carbon emissions. The mechanism is now labeled REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries; and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries). Many see great potential in REDD+ to simultaneously deal with climate changeandloss...

  8. Part III: Public-Private and Private Transparency

    • 9 The Political Economy of Governance by Disclosure: Carbon Disclosure and Nonfinancial Reporting as Contested Fields of Governance
      (pp. 205-224)
      Janelle Knox-Hayes and David Levy

      In this chapter, we analyze corporate disclosure as a mechanism of governance, with a focus on two reporting initiatives, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). The CDP is a nonprofit UK-based organization that encourages companies to disclose information about their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, climate-related risks and opportunities, and carbon management programs and procedures. The core CDP strategy has been to recruit institutional investors, who in turn pressurize companies in which they invest to embrace carbon disclosure. This strategy leverages disclosure to investors to pursue a broader agenda to reduce corporate GHG emissions through civil...

    • 10 Tamed Transparency and the Global Reporting Initiative: The Role of Information Infrastructures
      (pp. 225-248)
      Klaus Dingwerth and Margot Eichinger

      The politics of information disclosure are often associated with high hopes.¹ Disclosed information is expected to improve environmental performance, “thicken” democracy, and/or empower a broad range of stakeholders vis-à-vis corporations (for an overview, see Gupta and Mason, this book, chapter 1; Mol, this book, chapter 2). In this article, we investigate the “empowerment thesis” in relation to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), a private transnational institution that explicitly aims to improve the quality of corporate sustainability disclosure. In doing so, we build on our earlier research on GRI disclosure (Dingwerth and Eichinger 2010), wherein we introduced the notion oftamed...

    • 11 Transparency in Energy Governance: The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and Publish What You Pay Campaign
      (pp. 249-270)
      James Van Alstine

      This chapter explores the challenges, opportunities, and outcomes of transparency-based energy governance through analyzing the multistakeholder Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and Publish What You Pay (PWYP) campaign. The chapter begins with a discussion of how transparency has evolved into a powerful international norm within the field of energy and nonenergy mineral governance. It then explores, using new petro-economy Ghana as a case study, how transparency is institutionalized and functions in practice.

      Since the early 2000s, an increased demand for raw materials, partly driven by the growth of Asian economies, has fueled a global commodity boom (UNCTAD 2007). Energy and...

    • 12 Learning through Disclosure: The Evolving Importance of Transparency in the Practice of Nonstate Certification
      (pp. 271-296)
      Graeme Auld and Lars H. Gulbrandsen

      Certification programs—organized and coordinated by nonstate actors to address social and environmental challenges in numerous economic sectors—exemplify efforts to govern by disclosure.¹ Some hope certification will be a tool for NGOs, investors, governments, and consumers to, via labeled products, identify and support high performers and, hence, place upward pressure on sectorwide practices. Beyond this simple appraisal, however, unanswered questions remain concerning the practice and consequences of transparency by nonstate certification.

      This chapter presents a critical comparative analysis of transparency in nonstate certification in two ways. First, we compare certification initiatives in the forest and fisheries sectors, primarily focusing...

    • 13 Transparency and Environmental Equity: The International Finance Corporation’s Disclosure Practices
      (pp. 297-320)
      Timothy Ehresman and Dimitris Stevis

      Although a number of scholars postulate a connection between transparency and environmental justice, including several in this book, that relationship requires much more attention and empirical research. In this chapter, we explore whether transparency can be an effective strategy toward more equitable environmental governance and, specifically, a more equitable and transformative liberal environmental governance. In order to differentiate our approach from that of market liberalism, we start by clarifying social liberal international environmental justice and the kinds of disclosure practices consistent with three key approaches to it. We then ask why the International Finance Corporation (IFC)—part of the World...

    • 14 Transparency Revisited
      (pp. 321-340)
      Michael Mason and Aarti Gupta

      This book has sought to understand the rise and effects of a “transparency turn” in global environmental governance. Across a range of environmental issue areas, a call for transparency informs actor expectations and institutional rules, expressed in practice by diverse governance forms. The preceding chapters featured a variety of cases of environmental governance in which information disclosure is employed to steer the behavior of selected actors—what, following Gupta, we labelgovernance by disclosure(2008).

      As is clear from the preceding contributions, our analysis of governance by disclosure takes stock of environmental governance initiatives led by state and nonstate actors,...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 341-342)
  10. Index
    (pp. 343-350)