Universität Wien

210106 VO M4 Environmental Diplomacy and the Future of Multilateralism (2020W)

4.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 21 - Politikwissenschaft

Die Lehrformate für das WS (digital, hybrid, vor Ort) befinden sich in Entwicklung. Die Lehrenden werden die geplante Organisationsform und Lehrmethodik auf ufind und Moodle bekannt geben. Aufgrund von Covid19 muss mit kurzfristigen Änderungen in Richtung digitaler Lehre gerechnet werden.

Nicht-prüfungsimmanente (n-pi) Lehrveranstaltung. Eine Anmeldung über u:space ist erforderlich. Mit der Anmeldung werden Sie automatisch für die entsprechende Moodle-Plattform freigeschaltet. Vorlesungen unterliegen keinen Zugangsbeschränkungen.

VO-Prüfungstermine erfordern eine gesonderte Anmeldung.
Mit der Teilnahme an der Lehrveranstaltung verpflichten Sie sich zur Einhaltung der Standards guter wissenschaftlicher Praxis. Schummelversuche und erschlichene Prüfungsleistungen führen zur Nichtbewertung der Lehrveranstaltung (Eintragung eines 'X' im Sammelzeugnis).


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


Language: English

Examination dates


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

Each session will take place live each Monday via Collaborate on moodle.
Here is the link of the class:

Monday 12.10. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Monday 19.10. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Monday 09.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Monday 16.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Monday 23.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Monday 30.11. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Monday 07.12. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Monday 14.12. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Monday 11.01. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Monday 18.01. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital
Monday 25.01. 18:30 - 20:00 Digital


Aims, contents and method of the course

This lecture introduces Master students to the basic features of environmental diplomacy, with a specific focus on diplomatic practice and the ‘sites’, where multilateral environmental agreements are negotiated (Vadrot 2020). The course is divided into three parts: 1) Theory and concepts (diplomatic theory, practice approaches, critical policy approaches), 2) Empirical cases (climate change, biodiversity conservation, ocean protection) and examples of how to study the ‘sites’ of environmental diplomacy, 3) Future challenges, including the effects of COVID 19 on diplomatic practice.

The measures taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19 led to the postponement of many intergovernmental negotiations and Conferences of the Parties (COPs), where environmental diplomacy takes place. These include COP 26 of the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), COP 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and ongoing treaty negotiations to protect the marine environment in the High Seas. During these negotiations, state and non-state actors seek to determine the rules, values and norms that should guide environmental protection in the future (e.g. Chasek 2000; Death 2014; Hughes and Vadrot 2019). Many students, researchers and activists participate in these conferences to study global environmental politics, to identify new forms of power and influence and to analyse the practices of environmental diplomacy and conflict. Yet, COVID-19 has affected both diplomatic practice and the study thereof (O’ Neill and Haas 2019).

Starting from the premise that negotiation ‘sites’ are important entry points to shape and study contemporary dynamics in global environmental politics, the lecture has three central aims:

1) To introduce students to key theoretical and conceptual foundations of multilateral environmental diplomacy and agreement making and to enable students to distinguish between their descriptive, normative and analytical potential.

2) To demonstrate how theoretical and methodological apparatus (including approaches drawing on the work of Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu) can be applied to study and critically investigate the ‘sites’ of environmental agreement making and the distribution of power within them. You will be introduced to cases
- in different policy fields (Biodiversity, Climate Change, Ocean Protection),
- in different settings of multilateral environmental diplomacy (COPs, assessment bodies, Intergovernmental Conferences )
- in relation to new emerging issues (biocultural diversity, biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction)

3) The third aim is to critically discuss the future of multilateralism and environmental diplomacy in light of scholarly scepticism, continuous environmental degradation, COVID-19 and the effects of digital practices.

The course targets Master students interested in the various themes of multilateral environmental diplomacy, diplomatic practice, and global environmental politics more broadly. The course combines theory and practice is therefore interesting for students that wish to increase their knowledge and skills related to 1) the application of theoretical approaches and concepts to specific empirical cases, 2) the practicalities of studying the ‘sites’ of environmental diplomacy.

12.10.20 Introduction: Why do the ‘sites’ of environmental diplomacy matter?
19.10.20 Theory & concepts I: Diplomatic theory of International Relations
09.11.20 Theory & concepts II: Practice approaches to the study of diplomacy
16.11.20 Theory & concepts III: Practices and practicalities of multilateral negotiations and environmental diplomacy
23.11.20 Theory & concepts IV: Conceptualising negotiation ‘sites’
30.11.20 Case I: Climate change - UNFCC
07.12.20 Case II: Biodiversity - CBD&IPBES
14.12.20 Case III: Ocean Protection
11.01.21 Future challenges I: Continuity and disruption
18.01.21 Future challenges II: COVID-19, multilateralism and digital diplomacy
25.01.21 Exam

Assessment and permitted materials

Written online exam composed of 10 multiple choice questions (20 Points in total), including questions on the definitions of terms, clarifications of principles and comprehension questions, 4 open questions (10 points each) and one opinion question/Essay (40 points).
100 to 90 Points: Very good (1)
89 to 80 Points: Good (2)
79 to 70 Points: Satisfactory (3)
69 to 60 Points: Sufficient (4)
>60 Points: Poor (5)

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

-Knowledge about the content of all lectures
-Familiarity with key principles, concepts and terminology
-Knowledge about the content of the background literature

Examination topics

The examination will be based on:
- The contents given in all lectures: Videos and PowerPoints of the class will be recorded and uploaded on Moodle.
- Each session will take place live each Monday via Collaborate (and be recorded)
- Obligatory readings of the class

Reading list


Campbell, L. M., Hagerman, S., & Gray, N. J. 2014. Producing Targets for Conservation: Science and Politics at the Tenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Global Environmental Politics, 14(3), 41–63.

Chasek, P. 2000. Earth Negotiations: Analyzing Thirty Years of Environmental Diplomacy. Tokio: United Nations University Press, 24-52.

Craggs, R., & M. Mahony. 2014. The Geographies of the Conference: Knowledge, Performance and Protest. Geography Compass, 8 (6), 414–430.

Death, C. 2011. Summit Theatre: Exemplary Governmentality and Environmental Diplomacy in Johannesburg and Copenhagen. Environmental Politics, 20 (1), 1–19.

Dimitrov, R.S. 2013. Environmental Diplomacy. In P. Harris (ed). Handbook of Global Environmental Politics. London and New York: Routledge, 259-271.

Dimitrov, R.S. 2012. The Politics of Persuasion: UN Climate Change Negotiations. In P. Dauvergne (ed). Handbook of Global Environmental Politics, Second Edition, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 72-86.

Hocking, B., Melissen J., Riordan S., & Sharp P. 2012. Futures for Diplomacy: Integrative Diplomacy in the 21st Century.

Holmes, M. 2015. Digital diplomacy and international change management. In C. Bjola & M. Holmes (eds.). Digital Diplomacy: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge.

Manor, I., & Segev, E. 2020. Social Media Mobility: Leveraging Twitter Networks in Online Diplomacy. Global Policy, 11(2), 233-244.

O’Neill, K., & Haas, P. M. 2019. Being There: International Negotiations as Study Sites in Global Environmental Politics. Global Environmental Politics, 19(2), 4–13.

Pouliot, V., & Cornut, J. 2015. Practice Theory and the Study of Diplomacy: A Research Agenda. Cooperation and Conflict, 50 (3), 297–31

Pouliot, V., & Adler, E. 2011. International Practices. Cambridge University Press, 3-35.

Rosendal, K. 2020. Biodiversity regime. In J.-F. Morin & A. Orsini. (eds.). Essential Concepts of Global Environmental Governance. Abingdon: Routledge. Second edition.

Sharp, P. 2009. Diplomatic Theory of International Relations. Vol. 111. Cambridge University Press. 1-72.

Suiseeya, K. R. M. 2014. Negotiating the Nagoya Protocol: Indigenous Demands for Justice. Global Environmental Politics, 14(3), 102–124.

Vadrot, A.B.M. 2020. Multilateralism as a ‘site’ of struggle over environmental knowledge: the North-South divide. Critical Policy Studies, 14(2), 233-245.

Vadrot, A.B.M. 2020. Ocean Protection. In J.-F. Morin & A. Orsini. (eds.). Essential Concepts of Global Environmental Governance. Abingdon: Routledge. Second edition

van Asselt, H. 2020. Climate change regime. In J.-F. Morin and A. Orsini. (eds.). Essential Concepts of Global Environmental Governance. Abingdon: Routledge. Second edition.

Association in the course directory

Last modified: Fr 12.05.2023 00:19