From Local to Global: The Changing Face of the Environmental Challenge

Daniel C. Esty, Yale Law School


Today, environmental policy now must include action on several fronts: local, state or provincial, national, regional, and global. This article maps the drivers behind the globalizing of environmental policy over the past 25 years. Technological advances have revolutionized our understanding of how environmental issues transcend boundaries; economic integration and trade liberalization has made us more interconnected; worldwide communications has allowed us to connect with each other and to once-distant problems, create a global ecological identity, and learn from each other. The policy implication is the need for a more robust international environmental regime to complement conservation and pollution-control efforts at the national and local levels. This regime would build on the success of past international coordination and encourage international collective action to meet environmental challenges that have not yet been adequately addressed. The world needs a multi-tier environmental “governance” structure that “thinks globally, acts globally,” as well as regionally, bilaterally, domestically, and locally.