May 22, 2008

Ph.D. Thesis

Posted in Ph.D. Dissertation, Publications at 8:47 PM by Brian Gareau


  • Dangerous Holes in Global Environmental Governance: The Roles of Neoliberal Discourse, Science, and California Agriculture in the Montreal Protocol

By: Brian J. Gareau

ABSTRACT The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is a global environmental treaty that commits all signatories to strict schedules for the decline in the use of ozone-depleting substances, including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and methyl bromide (MeBr). The successful phase-out of CFCs under the protocol prompted analysts to declare it to be the most successful example of global environmental governance in existence. The current phase-out of MeBr, however, has been greatly delayed, prompting significant criticism from environmental advocates, national governments, and members of the scientific community. “Critical Use Exemptions” (CUEs) to the MeBr phase-out, granted mainly to strawberry and tomato growers in the US, have led to a great deal of controversy at the protocol. Using empirical data gathered while attending Montreal Protocol meetings from 2003-2006, this dissertation explores the MeBr controversy, illustrating how the stalled MeBr phase-out involves interconnections between geopolitics, agro-industry, and scientific knowledge. I obtained information for the case study from several sources: 1) in-depth and informal interviews; 2) direct observation, and; 3) historical and archival research. From 2003 to 2006, I attended each of the annual “Meetings of the Parties” (MOP), the two “Extraordinary Meetings,” and the annual “Open-ended Working Group” (OEWG) meetings of the Montreal Protocol as an “Observer.” The dissertation shows how neoliberalism, as a dominant discourse and economic practice, has become embedded in the protocol, and how the US is able to act protectionist amid that discourse. The dissertation, however, also demonstrates how the MeBr controversy involves much more than just economic protectionism per se; it also involves the protection of the legitimacy of US science. While the global community pushes for acknowledgement of global scientific knowledge on the alternatives to MeBr, US actors stress the primacy of US scientific knowledge. Therefore, while the US is indeed determined to protect its economic interests, the MeBr case shows how it is perhaps just as keen on protecting the legitimacy of its scientific knowledge base as the spokesperson for global science/knowledge on MeBr and its alternatives. The dissertation illustrates how global civil society groups involved in the protocol are affected by the neoliberal discourse, which has left them relatively ineffective in reversing the CUE process.

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