I conduct research in the area of international environmental governance. My empirically-grounded work contributes to scholarly and policy debates on environmental management, policy and politics. It spans traditional disciplinary boundaries by drawing on data and perspectives from across the social and natural sciences. It combines a range of research approaches and methods, such as process tracing, interviews with international officials and national policy makers, personal observations at international meetings and treaty negotiations over two decades, and document analysis. I have always valued and sought out opportunities for research collaborations with scholars from both the social and natural sciences. Over time, I have expanded and deepened my research agenda within three main empirical areas (allowing for my different interests to inform each other): i) global cooperation on sustainable development; ii) multilevel management of hazardous substances and wastes; and iii) regional environmental politics and policy-making.
My first research area focuses on global sustainability cooperation. My early work examined how divisions between the global North and the global South influenced a series of global conferences from the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and onward. I found that the conferences served important agenda-setting functions, but that a lack of political will and effective mechanisms for monitoring and accountability contributed to a lack of implementation, leaving many targets and promises unfulfilled. Later, I started to explore how an increasingly multipolar world shapes the sustainable development agenda. I argue that there are opportunities for incremental institutional change, but that there are greater prospects for moving forward based on new conceptualizations of human development together with a stronger system for reviewing progress. Additional work examines efforts to advance global climate change cooperation and opportunities and risks facing the implementation of the global Sustainable Development Goals toward 2030.
My second research area examines multilevel environmental policy making on hazardous substances and wastes. My work has developed from an early focus on regime creation to paying greater attention to institutional linkages within and across different forum and scales. Initially, I clarified how leader states advanced treaty-based efforts to control persistent organic pollutants (including major science-policy linkages). I also studied how states, international organizations and non-state groups worked together to develop regional and Arctic cooperation, including the influence of indigenous peoples groups. In addition, I demonstrated how different forms of institutional linkages shaped actors’ behavior and decision-making across different agreements. I also elucidated how decision-making was linked across global, regional, national and local forums, impacting efforts to address environmental and human health problems and institutional effectiveness. My recent research details the importance of cross-scale policy-making and institutional linkages on mercury abatement.
My third research area explores the dynamics and drivers of regional environmental policy-making with a focus on North America, Europe and the transatlantic region. My North American-centered research demonstrated how bottom-up factors drove early climate change policy-making at sub-national levels in the face of federal inaction. My initial European-focused research developed a model for characterizing and analyzing institutional linkages, demonstrated the difficulty of operationalizing the precautionary principle, and uncovered drivers of regional cooperation. Later, I expanded this research into a more comprehensive focus on European Union environmental policy-making in the broader context of moving towards sustainable development. My early transatlantic research explored major areas and patterns of European and North American cooperation and conflict on environmental policy-making. More recent work details the multiple and changing ways in which regional bodies, national and sub-national governments and non-state actors on both sides of the Atlantic interact on climate change and other environmental issues.