2001 Berlin Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change 7-8 of December
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”Global Environmental Change and the Nation State”

2001 Berlin Conference on the

Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change

Berlin, 7-8 December 2001

The Environmental Policy and Global Change Working Group of the German Association for Political Science (DVPW) invites papers for the 2001 Berlin Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change. The conference, to be held in Berlin on 7-8 December 2001, will address the theme ”Global Environmental Change and the Nation State”. Given the need for broad interdisciplinary analysis of this topic, we welcome contributions not only from scholars working on environmental policy, but also from those working in the areas of international relations, comparative public policy, and international and comparative law. The 2001 Berlin Conference has been endorsed by the Institutional Dimensions core project (IDGEC) of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), and is supported by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Environmental Policy Research Unit of the Free University of Berlin.

Key note addresses will be delivered by Dr Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and Jürgen Trittin, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Germany.

The global environmental crisis has contributed substantially to a general awareness of a complex web of interdependence relationships among nation states. Global climate change, the world-wide spread of persistent organic pollutants, the staggering loss of the Earth’s biological diversity and the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer are just the most well-known examples. Other environmental problems are more local in nature, but still have significant international repercussions. Some problems may only be solved by international cooperation, such as long-range air pollution. Others threaten to create national and international conflicts, as many suspect to be the case with escalating local water shortages. The interdependence of nation states also has a bearing on possible solutions. National decision-makers might refrain, for instance, from taking environmental action out of fear of negative trade consequences in the global market place.

These developments call for a systematic reassessment of the role of the nation state in global environmental policy. So far, two distinct yet interrelated communities of researchers have been engaged in this challenge.

One group of researchers, trained mainly in international relations and law, have focused on international environmental institutions as agents of environmental governance in the global realm. Once environmental regimes have been established, the nation state is essentially seen as reacting and implementing—an actor whose behaviour is shaped by international institutions that need to be strengthened and made more effective.

A different group of researchers—mostly from the field of comparative law and politics, innovation studies, and environmental policy—have asserted that the role of the nation state remains central. The claim is that national environmental policies, rather than international institutions, have been responsible for most environmental successes of the last decades. According to these scholars, environmental research thus needs to focus on the processes by which nation states cause or influence the diffusion of innovative environmental policy around the world.

Our conference is meant to engage both communities in fruitful debate and to seek common ground between what we conceive of as vertical (i.e., triggered by international institutions) and horizontal environmental policies. We do not assume that either one of these research approaches will explain all past experiences of environmental policies. In any given case, national environmental policies will be influenced both by direct contacts with other countries (horizontal environmental policies) and by international institutions (vertical environmental policies).

We are interested, however, in a deeper understanding of the exact interlinkages of the various factors at play in specific cases. What precisely is the role of horizontal diffusion of environmental policies, and conversely, which national behaviour can be ascribed to the effects of international institutions? We are particularly interested in a debate on new forms of global environmental governance that link global institutions with a significant degree of national decision-making, such as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety or the Rotterdam Convention.

While we welcome all contributions that address the (changing) role of the nation state in global environmental change, we are especially interested in papers that endeavour to:

  • Analyse through detailed case studies specific environmental policies within nation states (or within the European Union) with a focus on the comparative influence of
    • international institutions versus
    • horizontal policy diffusion processes;
  • Examine interaction processes between international and European institutions and organisations on the one hand, and national environmental policy-making on the other;
  • Investigate forms of international governance that combine a minimum amount of international or European harmonisation with a large degree of deference to national decision-making, such as the Biosafety Protocol;
  • Examine from a legal perspective the sovereign autonomy of the nation state in international environmental governance, for example regarding limitations imposed by concepts such as ‘common concern’, ‘common heritage’, and public trusteeship for common property resources;
  • Analyse the role of non-state actors, such as environmentalist groups or industry, in bridging the global/national dichotomy.

The conference will be held in English. Proposals for papers should be sent by e-mail to Frank Biermann at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (biermann@­ The body of the e-mail (no attachments please) should contain

  • the title of the proposed paper,
  • an abstract of approximately 200 words, and
  • the complete address and professional affiliation of all (co)-author(s).

The deadline for proposals is 15 September 2001.

All paper submissions will be reviewed before being accepted. Notification of the decision will be sent by e-mail no later than 1 October 2001. We are making all efforts to ensure funding to reimburse the travel costs of conference participants. Paper presenters and other participants are asked to contribute a registration fee of 100 DM (50 DM for students with valid student ID) upon registration.


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