Government and International Relations Honors Papers

Document Type

Honors Paper


Jane Dawson

Publication Date



What are environmental states, how do they form and where can they can be found? As ecosystems around the world collapse under the pressure of human activity, the role of the state is growing to include environmental protection as a key function. The concept of the environmental state has typically been applied to likely candidates in the developed world where wealth and relatively free public spheres have allowed for active environmental movements. It is increasingly clear however, that environmental degradation is disproportionately impacting states in the Global South. Because of this, it is necessary to consider whether or not environmental state formation can effectively occur in states with different economic, social and political contexts. Looking to China, a state which is infamous for problems such as air pollution, this study will show that environmental state development can take hold in such contexts. By comparing the Chinese case to that of Germany, this thesis will show that while there was no unified environmental movement in China that was able to affect significant change, similar outcomes were still reached. Specifically, underlying similarities found between the two states in regards to political legitimacy, international influences and processes of ecological modernization will provide an explanation as to why both states were able to achieve environmental state statuses despite their differences. In both cases, environmental concerns were effectively tied with the legitimacy imperative of the state which, in conjunction with developments at the international level, necessitated strong levels of ecological modernization to balance the environmental and economic goals of the states. This comparative analysis then provides useful insights into how signs of environmental state growth in other states of varying political and social contexts can be explained.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.