Constitutions and the Commons

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2014-03-18
  • Publisher: Resources for the Future

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Constitutions, Federalism, and the Global Commons looks at a critical but little examined issue; that is, the degree to which the federal constitution of a nation contributes toward or limits the ability of the national government to manage its natural resources (or commons) as well as bind its constituent states or subnational units to honor the conditions of international environmental treaties.This book uses the lens of the 'tragedy of the commons' to describe the importance of federal constitutions to the sustainable management of natural resources. The book first introduces the role of constitutions in establishing the legal framework for environmental management in federal systems. It next takes the reader along a continuum of constitutionally established natural resource management, from local governance of resources, to national governance, and lastly to global governance. These sections describe how subnational governance in federal systems may take on the characteristics of a commons - with all the attendant tragedies - in the absence of strong national constitutional authority. In turn, strong national constitutional authority over natural resources also allows these nations to effectively engage in efforts to manage the global commons, as these nations would no longer be constrained by subnational units of government during international negotiations. In this way we can see that national governments in federal systems are at the center of a constitutional 'multicommons,' with lower levels of government potentially acting as rational herders on the national commons and national governments potentially acting as rational herders on the global commons. Thus, national governments in federal systems are crucial to establishing sustainable management of resources across scales. The book concludes by discussing how federal systems without strong national constitutional authority over resources may be strengthened by adopting the approach of federal constitutions that provide more robust national authority over natural resources management.

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