College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree

International Studies


climate change, capitalism, sustainable development, neoliberalism, political economy


The climate is in crisis, and the policies put in place now will have a dramatic impact on international development, international relations, and social movements for generations to come. In recent years there have been two major conferences bringing together international policy makers to craft a treaty to address climate change that would take the place of the Kyoto Protocol when it expires at the end of 2012: the United Nations Framework Convention in Climate Change (UNFCCC; resulting in the 2009 “Copenhagen Accord” and the 2010 “Cancún Agreements”) and the World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change (WPCCC; resulting in the 2010 “People’s Agreement of Cochabamba”). In this paper I will juxtapose these two climate conferences, and the political maneuvering of various political actors that led to them, to demonstrate how various national, regional, and international power configurations led to two very different approaches to climate policy. In doing so, I will demonstrate that the "Cancún Agreements" are deisgned to sustain a neoliberal model of industrial, capitalist development; and the "People's Agreement of Cochabamba" is designed to formulate a counter movement to the expansion of market-driven capitalist development by embedding it into a larger set of social concerns (e.g. human and environmental rights). Thus, each set of climate agreements advocates for a remarkably different approach to "sustainable development." The climate crisis has altered political and economic configurations and refocused international debate on models of development. As the crisis unfolds, new political alliances will be formed that have the potential to challenge the dominant neoliberal model.