Course code:



MA - Intermediate/Advanced

Class size limit:


Meets the following requirements:

  • HS - Human Studies

Lab fee:


Typically offered:

Upon occasion

Climate change and biological diversity are prominent issues on the global political and environmental governance agendas and in public environmental consciousness. Each issue will be the focus of a major United Nations summit in 2020. Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity will negotiate new post-2020 goals for halting biodiversity loss; parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will see the launch of new commitments and a framework for action under the Paris Agreement. Meanwhile, public narratives of the escalating and intersecting dual “crises” of climate change and biodiversity loss provide a broader context for questioning the role and effectiveness of intergovernmental treaty regimes in addressing these crises.

This course will take a comparative and critical look at two multilateral treaty regimes: the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Students will study legal characteristics of each of the treaties, how problems are defined and addressed within each, mechanisms used for implementation, and the governmental and non-governmental actors involved in the work of treaty implementation. We will also look at how these two treaty bodies work together to address issues at the intersection of climate change and biological diversity. Finally, we will spend some time in the course reading a range of theoretical perspectives and pondering larger political and philosophical questions: Are our current intergovernmental institutions up to the challenge of addressing these immense planetary challenges? What are the potentials of and limits to intergovernmental spaces and collective action that might we discern? What role might there be for non-governmental actors and social movements to contest and construct more effective regimes? How does a study of these regimes help us imagine what a global politics of the terrestrial might look like?

Students will be evaluated based on their participation in class discussions, regular writing assignments reflecting on course readings, a presentation related to one of the treaty regimes, and a final synthetic essay that engages with topics covered during the term.


Permission of instructor.

Always visit the Registrar's Office for the official course catalog and schedules.