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Green courts and global norms: specialized environmental courts and the global governance of environmental challenges




Angstadt, James Michael, author
Betsill, Michele M., advisor
Daum, Courtenay, committee member
Gruby, Rebecca, committee member
Stevis, Dimitris, committee member

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As the diversity and intensity of environmental challenges increase, so too does the demand for institutions equipped to address those issues. This dissertation examines the emergence and implications of one such institutional model: dedicated environmental courts, referred to within this dissertation as "green courts." In a foundational effort to better understand and characterize green courts, it examines why the global spread of green courts is occurring, how it is manifesting, and what the global spread of green courts may imply for the domestic development and application of international environmental law norms. To examine these questions, this dissertation employs literature and methods derived from constructivist international relations and global environmental politics, yet speaks directly to established international environmental law scholarship. Through qualitative analysis of academic literature, primary documents, original expert surveys, and semi-structured elite interviews, this dissertation develops a detailed portrait of the actors seeking to promote the spread of green courts, the potential diversity of green courts, and the nature and global extent of existing national-level green courts. Its findings indicate that diverse actors are promoting the diffusion of a norm advocating green court establishment, and that green court norm dynamics reflect broader trends of transjudicial exchange, but that relatively few green courts currently exist of the model holding the greatest capacity to implement international environmental law. Collectively, this dissertation and its insights provide a strong foundation for timely future research objectives, including efforts to evaluate implications of green courts in light of environmental justice, to consider contributions of green courts to broader procedural and distributive environmental justice initiatives, and to evaluate how green courts affect environmental quality and outcomes.


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international environmental law
specialized courts
norm diffusion
global environmental politics


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