From Waste to Resources? Interrogating ‘Race to the Bottom’ in the Global Environmental Governance of the Hazardous Waste Trade

  • Cristina A. Lucier Lynn University
  • Brian J. Gareau Boston College

Abstract

The rise of global environmental governance regimes allegedly contradicts the process of an environmental “race to the bottom” (RTB) that results from capitalist globalization. We examine new developments in this area through a qualitative case study of the Basel Convention. Here, we find that new regulations in toxic wastes governance are in fact being co-created with industry actors and aim to accelerate the flow of toxic “resources” to less-developed countries. Further, these shifts are legitimized by a shift in discourse— from thinking of toxics materials as “wastes” to thinking of them as “resources”— that re-frames the toxic wastes trade as essential for sustainable economic development rather than as a manifestation of global environmental injustice, thereby undermining environmentalist claims. Our findings suggest that, despite an expansion of hazardous waste regulations, the RTB concept is still relevant in the context of global environmental governance. We conclude that a fruitful avenue for applying the RTB concept in this context is to go beyond a strict materialist interpretation of global politics to also consider the role of discourses and contesting ideologies in shaping global environmental policy debates.

References

Bernstein, Steven. (2001). The Compromise of Liberal Environmentalism. New York: Columbia University Press.

Blair, David J. (2008). Trade Liberalization, Environmental Regulation and the Limits of Reformism: The North American Experience. Environmental Politics, 17(5), 693-711.

Bonds, Eric and Liam Downey. (2012). ““Green” Technology and Ecologically Unequal Exchange” Journal of World-Systems Research. 18(2), 167-186.

Brooke, James. (7/17/1988). Waste Dumpers Turning to West Africa. New York Times.

Buttel, Fredrich H. and Kenneth A. Gould (2004). Global Social Movement(s) at the Crossroads.

Journal of World-Systems Research. 10(1): 37–66.

Chan, Anita and Robert J.S. Ross. (2003). Racing to the Bottom: International Trade without a Social Clause. Third World Quarterly, 24(6), 1011-1028.

Clapp, Jennifer. (2002). What the Pollution Havens Debate Overlooks. Global Environmental Politics, 2(2), 11-19.

Clapp, Jennifer. (2001). Toxic Exports: The Transfer of Hazardous Waste from Rich to Poor Countries. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

Clark, Brett and John Bellamy Foster. (2009). Ecological Imperialism and the Global Metabolic Rift. International Journal of Comparative Sociology. 50(3-4)311-334.

Da Costa, Dia and Philip McMichael. (2007). The Poverty of the Global Order. Globalizations. 4(4), 588-602.

Dobbin, Frank, Beth Simmons, and Geoffrey Garrett. (2007). The Global Diffusion of Public Policies, Annual Review of Sociology, 33, 449-472

Dunlap, Riley, and Angela Mertig, eds. (1992). American Environmentalism: The U.S. Environmental Movement. New York: Taylor and Francis.

Elkins, Z. A. Guzman, B. Simmons. (2006). Competing for Capital: the Diffusion of Bilateral Investment Treaties, 1960-2000. International Organizations, 60, 811-846.

Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention. (2011). Shifting Paradigms: From Waste to Resources. Available: www.archive.basel.int

Frank DJ, Hironaka A, Schofer E. (2000). The nation-state and the natural environment over the twentieth century. American Sociological Review, 65, 96–116

Frey, R. Scott. (2015). Breaking Ships in the World System. Journal of World-Systems Research, 21(1): 25-49.

Frey, R. Scott. (2003). The Transfer of Core-Based Hazardous Production Processes to the

Export Processing Zones of the Periphery, Journal of World-Systems Research, 9(2),

-353.

Garcia-Johnson R. (2001). Exporting Environmentalism:U.S. Multinational Chemical Corporations in Brazil and Mexico. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

Gareau, Brian J. (2013). From Precaution to Profit: Contemporary Challenges to Environmental

Protection in the Montreal Protocol. New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press.

Gareau, Brian J. (2012) Theorizing Environmental Governance of the World System: Global

Political Economy Theory and Some Applications to Stratospheric Ozone Politics,

Journal of World-Systems Research, 18(2): 187-210

Gareau, Brian J. (2012). The Limited Influence of Global Civil Society. Environmental Politics, 21(1), 88-107.

Gibbs, Terry and Garry Leech. (2009). The Failure of Global Capitalism: From Cape Breton to Colombia and Beyond. Cape Breton University Press

Gilardi F. (2005). The institutional foundation of regulatory capitalism. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 598, 84–101

Goldman, Michael. (2005). Imperial Nature: The World Bank and struggles for social justice the age of globalization. New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press.

Gould, Kenneth A., Tammy L. Lewis, and J. Timmons Roberts. 2004. Blue-Green Coalitions. Journal of World-Systems Research. 10(1): 91–116.

Henisz W, Zelner B, Guill´en M. (2005). The worldwide diffusion of market-oriented infrastructure reform,1977–1999. American Sociological Review, 70, 871–97

Jordana J, Levi-Faur D. (2005). The diffusion of regulatory capitalism in Latin America. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 598, 102–24

Jorgenson, Andrew. (2006). The Transnational Organization of Production and Environmental Degradation, 1980-1995. Social Science Quarterly, 87, 711-730.

Jorgenson, Andrew, Christopher Dick and Matthew Mahutga. (2007). Foreign Investment Dependence and the Environment: An Ecostructural Approach. Social Problems, 54(3), 371-394.

Jorgenson, Andrew and Brett Clark. (2009). “The Economy, Military, and Ecologically Unequal Exchange Relationships in Comparative Perspective” Social Problems 56(4), 621-646.

Jorgenson, Andrew K. and Edward Kick, eds. (2006). Globalization and the Environment. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill Press.

Krueger, Jonathan. (1999). International Trade and the Basel Convention. Earthscan Publications: London.

Law, Marc and Gary Libecap. (2006). The Determinants of Progressive Era Reform.. Pp. 319- 342 in Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America’s Economic History.

Lazer D. (2005). Regulatory capitalism as a networked order. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 598, 52–66

Levi-Faur D. (2005). The global diffusion of regulatory capitalism. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 598,12–32

Lucier, Cristina and Brian J. Gareau. (2014). Obstacles to preserving precaution and equity in global hazardous waste regulation. International Environmental Agreements

DOI: 10.1007/s10784-014-9261-6

Massey RI. (1999). The credibility of exit threats: refining the “race to the bottom” debate. Journal of Public International Affairs, 10, 47–62

McCarthy, James. (2012). The Financial Crisis and Environmental Governance ‘After’ Neoliberalism. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, 103(2), 180-195

McMichael, Philip. (2000). World-Systems Analysis, Globalization, and Incorporated

Comparison. Journal of World-Systems Research. 3 (fall/winter): 68-99.

McMichael, Philip. (2010).Contesting Development. New York: Routledge.

Mol, Arthur PJ. (1997). “Ecological Modernization: Industrial Transformations and Environmental Reform” pp. 138-149 in The International Handbook of Environmental Sociology, Redclift and Woodgate eds. Elgar Publishing.

Mosley and Uno. (2007). Racing to the Bottom or Climbing to the Top? Economic Globalization and Collective Labor Rights. Comparative Political Studies, 40(8), 923-948.

Okereke, Chukwumerije. (2008). Global Justice and Neoliberal Environmental Governance. Routledge Research in Environmental Politics. London: Routledge

Pellow, David. (2007), Resisting Global Toxics. MIT Press.

Porter, Gareth. (1999). Trade Competition and Pollution Standards: “Race to the Bottom” or “Stuck at the Bottom.” The Journal of Environment and Development, 8, 133-151.

Redclift, Michael and Colin Sage. (1998). Global Environmental Change and Global Inequality: North/ South Perspectives. International Sociology, 13, 499–516.

Robinson, William I. (2001). Social Theory and globalization: The rise of a transnational state. Theory and Society, 30(2), 157-200.

Ross, Robert J.S. (2004). Slaves to Fashion: Poverty and Abuse in the New Sweatshops. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

Ross, Robert J.S. (2008). Annual Meeting of ASA. "Sweatshops in China and the "Race to the Bottom" in Global Labor Standards." Section on the Political Economy of the World System.

Schneiberg, Marc and Tim Bartley. (2008). Organizations, Regulation, and Economic Behavior: Regulatory Dynamics and Forms from the Nineteenth to Twenty-First Century. Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 4, 31-61.

Schofer, Evan and Ann Hironaka. (2005). The Effects of World Society on Environmental Protection Outcomes. Social Forces, 84(1), 25-47.

Secretariat of the Basel Convention. (2011). Where are WEEE in Africa? Available: www.basel.int

Sending, Ole J., and Iver B. Neuman. (2006). Governance to Governmentality: Analyzing NGOs, States, and Power. International Studies Quarterly, 50, 651-72

Shandra, John, Bruce London, Owen Whooley, and John Williamson. (2004). International Nongovernmental Organizations and Carbon Dioxide Emissions in the Developing

World. Sociological Inquiry, 74, 520–45.

Stigler, George. (1971). The Theory of Economic Regulation. Bell Journal of Economics and Management Science, 2, 3-21.

Swire, P. (1996). The race to laxity and the race to undesirability. Yale Law Policy Review, 14, 67–110

Tanguay GA. (2001). Bidding for polluting firms: the race for the bottom. Pennsylvania Economic Review, 10, 14–24

Vogel D. (1995). Trading Up. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press

Vogel D, Kagan RA, eds. (2004). Dynamics of Regulatory Change. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. (2005). After Developmentalism and Globalization, What? Social Forces, 83, 1263-1278.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. (1976). The Modern World System. New York: Academic Press.

Wheeler D. (2001). Racing to the bottom? Foreign investment and air pollution in developing countries. Journal Environment and Development, 10, 225–45

York, Richard and Eugene A. Rosa. (2003). Key Challenges to Ecological Modernization Theory. Organization & Environment, 16(3), 273-288.

York, Richard. (2004). The Treadmill of (Diversifying) Production. Organization and Environment, 17, 355-362

Published
2015-08-31
How to Cite
Lucier, C. A., & Gareau, B. J. (2015). From Waste to Resources? Interrogating ‘Race to the Bottom’ in the Global Environmental Governance of the Hazardous Waste Trade. Journal of World-Systems Research, 21(2), 495-520. https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2015.11