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Transparency in Global Environmental Governance

Critical Perspectives

Aarti Gupta

Publication Year: 2014

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.

Published by: The MIT Press

Series: Earth System Governance


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Title Page, Other Works in the Series, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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Series Foreword

Frank Biermann, Oran R. Young

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pp. vii-viii

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...

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pp. ix-xii

As this book goes to press in late 2013, Edward Snowden, the US National Security Agency “whistleblower,” is suspended in limbo in Russia, unable to make his way out; and the geopolitics of surveillance versus transparency (and its consequences for diplomacy, human rights, national sovereignty, and global security) is front-page news everywhere. Debates...


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pp. xiii-xiv

Part I. Transparency in Broader Context

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1. A Transparency Turn in Global Environmental Governance

Aarti Gupta, Michael Mason

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pp. 3-38

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...

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2. The Lost Innocence of Transparency in Environmental Politics

Arthur P. J. Mol

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pp. 39-60

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...

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3. The National Context for Transparency-Based Global Environmental Governance

Ann Florini, Bharath Jairaj

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pp. 61-80

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...

Part II. State-Led Multilaterally Negotiated Transparency

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4. So Far but No Further? Transparency and Disclosure in the Aarhus Convention

Michael Mason

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pp. 83-106

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...

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5. Global Pesticide Governance by Disclosure: Prior Informed Consent and the Rotterdam Convention

Kees Jansen, Milou Dubois

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pp. 107-132

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...

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6. Risk Governance through Transparency: Information Disclosure and the Global Trade in Transgenic Crops

Aarti Gupta

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pp. 133-156

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...

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7. Transparency in the Governance of Access and Benefit Sharing from Genetic Resources

Amandine Orsini, Sebastian Oberthür, Justyna Pożarowska

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pp. 157-180

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...

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8. Making REDD+ Transparent: The Politics of Measuring, Reporting, and Verification Systems

Aarti Gupta, Marjanneke J. Vijge, Esther Turnhout, Till Pistorius

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pp. 181-202

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...

Part III. Public-Private and Private Transparency

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9. The Political Economy of Governance by Disclosure: Carbon Disclosure and Nonfinancial Reporting as Contested Fields of Governance

Janelle Knox-Hayes, David Levy

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pp. 205-224

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...

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10. Tamed Transparency and the Global Reporting Initiative: The Role of Information Infrastructures

Klaus Dingwerth, Margot Eichinger

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pp. 225-248

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...

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11. Transparency in Energy Governance: The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and Publish What You Pay Campaign

James Van Alstine

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pp. 249-270

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...

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12. Learning through Disclosure: The Evolving Importance of Transparency in the Practice of Nonstate Certification

Graeme Auld, Lars H. Gulbrandsen

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pp. 271-296

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...

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13. Transparency and Environmental Equity: The International Finance Corporation’s Disclosure Practices

Timothy Ehresman, Dimitris Stevis

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pp. 297-320

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...

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14. Transparency Revisited

Michael Mason, Aarti Gupta

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pp. 321-340

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...

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pp. 341-342

Graeme Auld is an associate professor at the School of Public Policy and Administration, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

Klaus Dingwerth is an assistant professor in political theory of global governance at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, and a professor at the Institute for Intercultural and International Studies (InIIs) at University...


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pp. 343-350

E-ISBN-13: 9780262320856
E-ISBN-10: 0262320851
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262526180

Page Count: 368
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Earth System Governance
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OCLC Number: 884478991
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Transparency in Global Environmental Governance

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Environmental policy -- International cooperation.
  • Transparency in government -- International cooperation.
  • Global environmental change -- International cooperation.
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