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Global Environmental Politics and Policy

Module titleGlobal Environmental Politics and Policy
Module codePOL3077
Academic year2020/1
Module staff

Dr Travis Coan (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module provides an introduction to global environmental politics and policy. You will examine environmental politics from "the ground up," devoting considerable time to understanding both the domestic and international determinants of environmental protection. At the level of domestic politics, we will examine the ways in which environmental movements, public opinion, political behaviour, political economy, and electoral politics shape national preferences and actions in the area of environmental politics. Next, we will shift our focus to factors rooted in the field of international relations, including the formation and maintenance of international environmental regimes. By the end of this module, you will have a framework for understanding and critically evaluating policies aimed at protecting the global environment.

There are no pre-requisites for this module. You will, however, be required to complete a final research essay that uses empirical evidence to examine a topic of your choice. To help prepare you for this requirement, you will be expected to participate in a series of in-class quantitative tutorials, as well as complete several short lab assignments.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module has two primary aims. The first is to provide an introduction to global environmental politics and policy. You will examine the issues, actors, and institutions that shape global environmental politics, as well as the socioeconomic forces that strengthen or undermine global environmental sustainability. You will also critically evaluate core theoretical frameworks in the field of environmental politics and apply these frameworks to real-world environmental issues.

The second aim is to introduce you to the practices and procedures associated with producing original quantitative research. As part of this module, you will participate in a series of quantitative methods and statistical software tutorials. These tutorials will not only provide you with the necessary tools to complete your final essay, but will give you a set of quantitative skills that are increasingly important for potential employers and graduate school admissions boards.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. describe key global environmental issues, including why such issues arise and why they are considered “policy problems";
  • 2. analyze the key stakeholders, institutions, and political processes that shape global environmental politics;
  • 3. critically evaluate proposed solutions to environmental problems;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. critically assess the primary international and domestic forces that either constrain or facilitate international cooperation on the environment;
  • 5. summarize and critique key approaches to studying environmental politics;
  • 6. apply key approaches to assess current environmental issues;
  • 7. isolate and evaluate the empirical implications of theoretical frameworks;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. analyze quantitative data using R (a free software environment for statistical computing and graphics), including the analysis of descriptive statistics and basic hypothesis testing;
  • 9. identify the basic steps of conducting empirical research and writing an empirical paper; and
  • 10. demonstrate oral and written communication skills.

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

Introduction to Global Environmental Politics and Policy

  • What are global environmental politics & policy?
  • Conflicting views of the (global) environmental problematique 

Domestic Determinants: Global Environmental Politics “On the Ground”

  • Environmental values & attitudes
  • Environmental behaviour
  • Social activism & environmental movements
  • Electoral politics & the environment: are “green” parties the answer?
  • The political economy of global environmental policy

International Determinants: Cooperating on Global Environmental Policies

  • Setting the stage: world politics & international cooperation
  • International environmental regimes
  • Non-state actors in global environmental politics: IGOs, NGOs, and Secretariats
  • Are international environmental regimes the answer?

Environmental Issues

  • Case Study 1: Persistent organic pollutants
  • Case Study 2: Global warming

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity3618 x 2 hour seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity84 x 2 hour quantitative research tutorials
Scheduled Learning and Teaching55 x 1 hour lab sessions
Guided independent activity46Examination preparation and completion
Guided independent activity12Completion of quantitative lab assignments
Guided independent activity33Statistical software/methodology tutorials
Guided independent activity84Essay preparation and completion (including the submission of the essay research question, proposal, and the essay presentation.)
Guided independent activity76Reading assignments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay research question100 words1-3, 4, 6, 7, 9Written
Essay research proposal500 words1-3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10Written
Seminar and tutorial participationweekly1-10Verbal

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination301.5 hours1-7, 10Written
Essay605,000 words1-10Written
Individual Essay presentation1015 minutes10Verbal


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
1.5 hour examination1.5 hour examination1-7, 10August/September reassessment period
5,000 word essay5,000 word essay1-10August/September reassessment period
15 minute essay presentation15 minute presentation to module leader10August/September reassessment period


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Ronnie D. Lipschutz. 2004. Global Environmental Politics: Power, Perspectives, and Practice. Washington, DC: CQ Press.

Ken Conca and Geoffrey D. Dabelko. 2010. Green Planet Blues: Four Decades of Global Environmental Politics, 4th Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Paul F. Steinberg and Stacy D. VanDeveer. 2012. Comparative Environmental Politics: Theory, Practice, and Prospects. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Deborah Lynn Guber. 2003. The Grassroots of a Green Revolution: Polling America on the Environment. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Pamela S. Chasek, David L. Downie, and Janet Welsh Brown (2013). Global Environmental Politics, 6th Edition. New York, NY: Westview Press.


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Statistical software resources

Module has an active ELE page

Indicative learning resources - Other resources


This section provides a handful of documentaries on environmental issues discussed in class. While far from exhaustive, these videos provide a useful starting point for understanding the difficulties (and opportunities) associated with solving global environmental problems.

Key words search

environment, politics, policy, sustainability, quantitative methods

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date