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2001 Berlin Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change 7-8 of December home
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Conference Overview


Conference Invitation

"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 Political Science Association is pleased to invite you to its 2001 Berlin Conference "Global Environmental Change and the Nation State". The 2001 Berlin Conference is organised in co-operation with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and the Environmental Policy Research Unit of the Free University of Berlin, and has been endorsed by Institutional Dimensions of Global Environmental Change (IDGEC), a core project of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP).

Keynote speakers are:
· Dr. Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme
· H.E. Jürgen Trittin, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Germany

The 2001 Berlin Conference features 28 parallel panel sessions and 8 plenary presentations, with altogether 118 speakers from 27 countries. Panellists are drawn from a variety of fields, including political science, policy studies, environmental science, international relations, environmental economics, science and technology studies, sociology, and international law.

The 2001 Berlin Conference would not have been possible without the support or co-operation by

  • Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (conference secretariat)
  • Environmental Policy Research Unit of the Free University of Berlin
  • Heinrich Böll Foundation
  • German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, and Nuclear Safety
  • German Association for the United Nations (DGVN), Berlin-Brandenburg Chapter
  • Federation of German Scientists (VDW)
  • Canadian Embassy in Berlin/L'Ambassade du Canada a Berlin
  • Adelphi Research, Berlin

Pre-registration Policy
In order to facilitate our planning, we request participants to pre-register through fax. The fax form is a downloadable pdf-file. We ask all participants, including paper presenters, chairs and discussants, to send a registration fee of 100 DM (50 DM for students with valid student ID) upon registration. Registration at the conference venue is possible; there will be an administrative surcharge of 30 DM for registration at the conference venue.


Thematic Outline

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.

The 2001 Berlin 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. The organisers 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).

The 2001 Berlin Conference is meant to reach, however, 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? This should also include 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 plenary speakers and panellists will address the role of the nation state in global environmental change from a variety of perspectives and disciplines, most are presenting 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 (i) international institutions versus (ii) 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 deadline for proposals expired 15 September 2001. Notifications of acceptance have been sent by 1 October 2001.

Additional information can be found at on this website, including the full conference programme as well as information sheets on the conference venue, hotels nearby, travel and Berlin tourism.

If there is anything else you would like to ask or suggest, please do not hesitate to contact:

Frank Biermann
Chair, Environmental Policy and Global Change Working Group of the
German Political Science Association

c/o Global Governance Project
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
P.O. Box 60 12 03
14412 Potsdam



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