The environmental nation state in decline

Arthur P.J. Mol*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

58 Citations (Scopus)


The environmental nation state is not a formal category but a substantive one. The current set of national environmental state institutions originated in the late 1960s/1970s but has since changed in character. Many scholars note that since the new millennium, the environmental nation state in OECD countries is losing power and authority and is thus in decline, in line with wider concerns about the positions of states versus markets under conditions of (neo-liberal) globalisation. Assessing the decline of environmental nation state authority, three conclusions are drawn. States do not lose power in all sectors vis-à-vis markets. Hence, environmental nation state decline does not follow a general tendency. Second, the decline of environmental nation state powers cannot be equated with less effective or lower levels of environmental protection, as other environmental authorities have stepped in, and the jury is still out on their environmental effectiveness. Third, declining powers of environmental nation state institutions increasingly become a self-fulfilling prophecy of environmental policymakers, but non-state environmental authorities cannot take over all environmental state functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-68
JournalEnvironmental Politics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2016


  • environmental performance
  • globalisation
  • private governance
  • state authority
  • state capacity


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