“Great power involves great responsibility” (Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1945) – it has long been recognised that that great powers enjoy special privileges in international relations but also have special responsibilities, to provide international leadership, maintain international order and produce global public goods. The English School even recognises this as one of the classical institutions of global international society: great power management. At a time of global power shifts, with US power waning and rising powers challenging the Western international order, the question of great power responsibility – its nature, purpose and significance – is coming in for renewed critical scrutiny.

This workshop focuses on the role of great powers and their international responsibilities in the field of global environmental protection. The study of global environmental politics (GEP) has tended to acknowledge, implicitly at least, the important role that great powers play, either as international environmental leaders or as veto players. However, questions of international power asymmetry and great power responsibility have not attracted the kind of systematic attention in GEP that they deserve. The fashion for thinking in terms of ‘global governance’ emphasising the role of non-state actors, IGOs and smaller states, has perhaps contributed to the neglect of great powers. This workshop seeks to fill this gap by encouraging theoretical and empirical inquiries into the changing roles and responsibilities of great powers in global environmental politics.

We encourage papers from a range of theoretical perspectives within International Relations or related disciplines. Contributions should address the role of global powers and/or global power responsibility in environmental politics, with a particular focus on questions such as:

  • What contribution can the study of power asymmetry and global power shifts make to GEP?
  • What impact has the rise of emerging powers had on global environmental governance, and how have the established global powers responded?
  • What contribution has the institution of great power management made to global environmental governance?
  • How legitimate is great power management in the field of GEP?
  • How have great power responsibilities for the global environment been defined in the past, and how have these responsibilities changed over time?
  • How do emerging great powers such as India and China interpret great power responsibilities in the environmental field? Have they sought to challenge or redefine them, and how do they reconcile great power responsibility with parallel claims to exemption because they are also developing countries?
  • How important is global environmental leadership to emerging powers’ recognition as responsible great powers?
  • To what extent is the rise of anti-internationalist populism in the West undermining established notions of international environmental responsibility?

Deadline for proposals: 28 February 2018. Please send your paper proposal (paper title, abstract of ca. 250-300 words, short biographical note and full contact information) to Robert Falkner (r.falkner@lse.ac.uk).

Authors will be informed of the outcome of the review process by 15 March 2018. Selected participants will be eligible for overnight accommodation (up to 2 nights). A contribution towards travel costs is available on request. Participants are expected to send their workshop papers to the organisers by 15 June 2018 at the latest.

The workshop will take place over two days at LSE and includes a workshop dinner on 29 June. It is being supported by the Department of International Relations and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at LSE. The organisers are planning to turn the workshop papers into a publication (special issue for a peer-reviewed journal or edited volume) and are also thinking of organising a further meeting or panel in connection with the 2019 International Studies Association conference.

Workshop organizers:

  • Robert Falkner, LSE
  • Barry Buzan, LSE
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