Transparency in Global Environmental Governance

From Earth System Governance

Transparency in Global Environmental Governance

Critical Perspectives

Edited by Aarti Gupta and Michael Mason

A critical assessment of whether transparency is a broadly transformative force in global environmental governance or plays a more limited role.





A critical assessment of whether transparency is a broadly transformative force in global environmental governance or plays a more limited role.

Transparency—openness, secured through greater availability of information—is increasingly seen as part of the solution to a complex array of economic, political, and ethical problems in an interconnected world. The “transparency turn” in global environmental governance in particular is seen in a range of international agreements, voluntary disclosure initiatives, and public-private partnerships. This is the first book to investigate whether transparency in global environmental governance is in fact a broadly transformative force or plays a more limited, instrumental role.

After three conceptual, context-setting chapters, the book examines ten specific and diverse instances of “governance by disclosure.” These include state-led mandatory disclosure initiatives that rely on such tools as prior informed consent and monitoring, measuring, reporting and verification; and private (or private-public), largely voluntary efforts that include such corporate transparency initiatives as the Carbon Disclosure Project and such certification schemes as the Forest Stewardship Council. The cases, which focus on issue areas including climate change, biodiversity, biotechnology, natural resource exploitation, and chemicals, demonstrate that although transparency is ubiquitous, its effects are limited and often specific to particular contexts. The book explores in what circumstances transparency can offer the possibility of a new emancipatory politics in global environmental governance.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262027410 368 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 4 figures, 11 tables


$35.00 X ISBN: 9780262526180 368 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 4 figures, 11 tables


Aarti Gupta

Aarti Gupta is Associate Professor in the Environmental Policy Group of the Department of Social Sciences at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

Michael Mason

Michael Mason is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science.


  • A critical assessment of the empirical and conceptual underpinnings of the 'transparency turn' in global environmental governance was long overdue. This collection by leading experts provides an invaluable contribution to the literature on this vital topic.

    Peter Newell

    Professor of International Relations, University of Sussex; author of Globalization and the Environment: Capitalism, Ecology and Power

  • Transparency in Global Environmental Governance is a stand-out volume. This well-researched and timely collection thoughtfully considers the potential and limitations of transparency and information disclosure as governance mechanisms across a diverse range of global environmental issues. The book's top-notch authors provide critical insights and reflections that advance the field in important ways.

    Jennifer Clapp

    Professor and Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security and Sustainability, University of Waterloo

  • As governments retreat from strict regulations to protect the environment, NGOs, activists, corporations, and governments themselves are turning to 'governance by disclosure' with claims it will lead to accountability and effective action. This book asks the toughest questions yet about the motivations, purposes, and effects of transparency to critically assess this purported link. More fundamentally, deeply insightful case studies show how different answers to these questions shape our very understanding of global problems and what knowledge is privileged in addressing them.

    Steven Bernstein

    Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of the Environmental Governance Lab, University of Toronto