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Change in Global Environmental Politics
Temporal Focal Points and the Reform of International Institutions

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  • Date Published: May 2022
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781009165884

CAD$ 126.95 (F)

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About the Authors
  • As wildfires rage, pollution thickens, and species disappear, the world confronts environmental crisis with a set of global institutions in urgent need of reform. Yet, these institutions have proved frustratingly resistant to change. Introducing the concept of Temporal Focal Points, Manulak shows how change occurs in world politics. By re-envisioning the role of timing and temporality in social relations, his analysis presents a new approach to understanding transformative phases in international cooperation. We may now be entering such a phase, he argues, and global actors must be ready to realize the opportunities presented. Charting the often colorful and intensely political history of change in global environmental politics, this book sheds new light on the actors and institutions that shape humanity's response to planetary decline. It will be of interest to scholars and advanced students of international relations, international organization and environmental politics and history.

    • Introduces a new theory of institutional change, theorizing the role of Temporal Focal Points in world politics
    • Diagnoses a chief impediment to change in international institutions and highlights policy-relevant solutions
    • Provides a detailed analysis of the history of global environmental politics, using newly released archival documents and an extensive program of interviews
    Read more


    • Winner, 2022 Chadwick F. Alger Prize, International Studies Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘A stimulating and thoughtful contribution to our understanding of how great international decisions get taken. Professor Manulak brings theory and sound historical analysis together to show how gradual change can culminate in decisive and surprising shifts. His work has valuable lessons for policy-makers dealing with climate change today.' Margaret MacMillan, Emeritus Professor of International History, University of Oxford

    ‘As we stare down at the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution and waste, the stakes have never been higher for multilateral action. Michael W. Manulak's engaging book provides a comprehensive overview of five decades of global environmental politics and affords us important insights into reinvigorating multilateralism to address challenges of a dynamic world.' Inger Andersen, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme

    ‘In this original and fascinating work, Michael W. Manulak expands our understanding of the dynamics and evolution of global environmental governance. Drawing on a set of compelling historical case studies, he shows how high-profile multilateral events, in and of themselves, can drive institutional breakthroughs, by focusing the minds of policymakers and reinforcing convergent expectations about the possibility-and desirability-of new forms of international cooperation.' Stewart M. Patrick, James H. Binger Senior Fellow in Global Governance and Director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program, Council on Foreign Relations

    'Scholarship on international institutions has paid insufficient attention to temporality: explaining when successful initiatives occur. Michael W. Manulak fills this important gap in the literature with his account of temporal focal points: salient moments in time around which negotiations can coalesce. Change in Global Environmental Politics: Temporal Focal Points and the Reform of International Institutions, which focuses in detail on environmental agreements, makes an important contribution to our understanding of international institutional change.' Robert O. Keohane, Princeton University (emeritus)

    ‘Manulak’s book offers the tools for understanding, explaining, and creating system-wide and long-lasting change. It provides well-evidenced arguments which call for broader attention to timing in social sciences and serves as an insightful repertoire of lessons for change entrepreneurs; mapping past conditions that have facilitated change and inviting them to prepare and be ready to seize upcoming opportunities.’ Simon Beaudoin, Environmental Politics

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    Product details

    • Date Published: May 2022
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781009165884
    • length: 280 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 157 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.61kg
    • contains: 2 b/w illus. 6 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: Institutional suboptimality in world politics
    2. It's about time: Explaining change in UN environmental institutions
    3. The Stockholm conference and institutional change
    4. UNEP and the 1982 Nairobi conference
    5. The Brundtland commission and the seeds of change
    6. The Rio conference and institutional change
    7. Post-UNCED UN environment institutions
    8. Conclusion.

  • Author

    Michael W. Manulak, Carleton University, Ottawa
    Michael W. Manulak is Assistant Professor at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University. His research focuses on international organizations, global environmental politics, and international security.


    • Winner, 2022 Chadwick F. Alger Prize, International Studies Association

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