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Greening Governance Seminar Series: Tipping Points in Global Environmental Policy

An engaging discussion on tipping points in environmental policy—what factors contribute to transformational change and how can we replicate breakthroughs to protect the global commons?

April 20, 1970, the first Earth Day, marked the beginning of an unprecedented five-year period of environmental policy breakthroughs in the United States. Millions of Americans demonstrated in support of environmental protection and conservation. Richard Nixon’s administration created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), established the Council on Environmental Quality, and adopted the National Environmental Policy Act. Landmark legislation, including the Clean Air Act, Water Pollution Control Act and Endangered Species Act, was passed in rapid succession.

Never before or after this five-year period has such public concern for the planet, political action and legislative consensus on environmental issues existed in the United States.

What precipitated this tipping point in American environmental policy, and how can we replicate transformational change to curb global warming and environmental degradation? How do we prevent the Trump administration from dismantling the EPA, unraveling critically important environmental legislation, and withdrawing from the Paris Agreement?

To help answer these questions, Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Sustainable Development Robert Repetto will examine past tipping points in environmental policy. He will outline the political, institutional and legal factors that contribute to unprecedented policy breakthroughs.

Neelam Singh, a Senior Associate from WRI’s Climate Program, will join Robert Repetto on the panel to share her work on transformational change in the context of climate change mitigation and sustainable development policies. Together, they will discuss the application of this approach to understanding tipping points and identifying opportunities for protecting the global commons.


Robert Repetto, Senior Fellow, International Institute for Sustainable Development

Neelam Singh, Senior Associate, Climate, World Resources Institute


Mark Robinson, Global Director, Governance, World Resources Institute

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About the Series

WRI's Greening Governance Seminar Series bridges the divide between the governance and environmental communities to identify solutions that benefit people and the planet.

  • Why do some environmental policies succeed in one country but fail in another?
  • What will it take to transform the Paris Agreement’s ambitious commitments into actionable policies?
  • How can decision-makers engage a range of stakeholders, from average citizens to Fortune 500 companies, to build support for policies that protect natural resources and the communities that depend on them?
  • How can governments sustain this environmental action across election cycles?
  • Many of the answers to these questions are, at heart, issues of governance.

Increasing public participation in environmental decision-making can deepen civil society’s commitment to climate change mitigation and yield more equitable, effective policies. Enhancing government transparency equips communities with the information that they need to engage in these policy-making processes. Strengthening accountability frameworks helps ensure that governments make progress on their Paris Agreement emissions reduction targets. In short, good governance can improve climate and environmental outcomes.

Yet the governance and climate communities continue to work in silos, conducting research and implementing programs that remain largely divorced from one another.

WRI’s Greening Governance Seminar Series seeks to bridge this divide by bringing together leading experts from both fields to discuss the intersection of their work, the most pressing environmental governance issues at hand, and solutions that benefit people and the planet.


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