This chapter considers how the environment has been established as a category or “thing” in need of governing, and the ways in which it has subsequently been governed by an ever-expanding cast of actors. It begins by placing what we now know as governance within its historical context, exploring how national governments traditionally dealt with environmental challenges. It then considers the emergence of global environmental issues, and how these highlighted the shortcomings of traditional regulation at the national level. Piecemeal laws passed to control different types of pollution at the national scale were simply
unable to provide the kind of coordinated and strategic response demanded by global environmental problems. These specific pressures were compounded by a more general waning of state power in the face of economic globalization, and an associated right-wing assault on perceived incompetence and waste in the public sector, which together prompted a political shift from government to governance. Within the context of shrinking resources, governments have little choice but to work with other organizations in order to fulfill their duties in many different areas, including the environment.