Global Governance of Hazardous Chemicals: Challenges of Multilevel Management – By Henrik Selin


Global Governance of Hazardous Chemicals: Challenges of Multilevel Management . Cambridge, MA : The MIT Press . vii + 235 pages. ISBN 9780262513906 , $44.00 cloth . Henrik Selin . 2010 .

Releases of hazardous chemicals pose significant threats to human health and the environment, but efforts to mitigate such risks through regulation are frequently complicated by the negative social and economic consequences of limiting or banning continued use of particular substances. Furthermore, management of hazardous substances can be complicated by the transboundary nature of chemical pollution, which can cross political boundaries both as a result of environmental factors and international trade in goods and waste. In his new book, Henrik Selin explores the global policy responses to these issues, analyzing the development, implementation, and future of multilevel governance of hazardous chemicals.

Building on empirical reviews of the four major multilateral treaties which comprise the core of the chemicals regime, Selin explores the linkages among these policy instruments and considers the ways in which both institutional developments and actors working within multiple venues create opportunities for policy diffusion throughout the regime. Selin's side-by-side reviews of The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, and the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, illuminate the close connections among the treaties, creating a complete picture of the major agreements that form the backbone of multilateral chemicals governance.

The contemporary chemicals regime, which has been developing since the 1960s, consists of a number of global, regional, national, and local legal instruments and programs designed to address the complex issues associated with management of hazardous chemicals. Together, these legally independent instruments address each stage of the life cycle of chemicals, including production, use, trade, and disposal, as well as unintentional creation of hazardous by-products during processes such as combustion and incineration of waste. Selin's detailed discussion of the creation and implementation of each of the major treaties brings into sharp relief the ways in which they work in parallel, and at times overlap, a circumstance which facilitates growing linkages among policies, institutional developments, and actors working throughout the regime.

Using these reviews as an analytical foundation, Selin critically evaluates the importance of linkages in policy development within the regime, posing research questions focused on three areas: (1) the formation of coalitions of actors seeking to support policy expansion; (2) the diffusion of regime components across policy venues; and (3) the influence of institutional linkages on the design and effectiveness of multilevel governance efforts. Selin concludes that growing institutional density in the chemicals’ regime leads actors to consider their strategies and preferences not only as they relate to a particular legal instrument, but also with regard to the ways in which decisions made in one venue will affect related policy choices throughout the regime. This will lead to growth of both governance and actor linkages across policy venues, and may have a significant impact on the effectiveness of multilevel management of the hazards posed by chemical pollution. Noting that institutional linkages may either facilitate or hinder policy making, Selin emphasizes that developing linkages raise the “political stakes” in policy making by magnifying the potential ramifications of decisions. Such insights are relevant not only for multilevel management of hazardous chemicals, but also for other cross-scale governance regimes with multiple instruments and programs responsible for addressing different aspects of complex issues.

This book provides a uniquely comprehensive and up-to-date analysis of the global chemicals regime. The detailed discussion of the four major treaties and their relationships to other instruments (e.g., Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management) provides excellent background information for scholars of environmental governance, as well as for policy makers, participants, and stakeholders in the chemicals negotiations. Selin's analysis highlights the ways in which the treaties have changed and developed over the years, as new issues have arisen and participants have faced unforeseen challenges in implementing their obligations. By tying together what can often seem to be the disparate elements of the chemicals regime, Selin manages to highlight the evolving relationships among the instruments of the regime, and particularly to critically assess the ways in which participants are affected by and make use of the interconnections as they work to implement effective governance and management of hazardous chemicals.