Chaire de recherche du Canada en ÉPI

Université Laval


Noémie Laurens is a postdoctoral researcher at the Geneva Graduate Institute. She currently works on an interdisciplinary project in international relations, economics, and law which revolves around making trade agreements work in the service of society, including social and environmental issues. Noémie completed her PhD in political science at Université Laval. She previously obtained a joint Master’s degree in Management and business law from HEC Paris and Université Paris I, and a Master’s degree in environmental economics from Université de Bordeaux. Her article-based doctoral thesis deals with when, why, and how international environmental agreements evolve over time. She also has several publications on the trade-environment nexus.

In 2022, Noémie won the prestigious Oran R. Young Prize from the Earth System Governance project for her article entitled "Institutional adaptation in slow motion: Zooming in on desertification governance". 

From 2017 to 2022, Noémie worked as a research assistant at the Canada research chair in international political economy and contributed to building and analyzing large data sets of trade and environmental treaties. Noémie is also particularly interested in mixed methods research and taught an undergraduate course on the structuration of research to a group of 100 students in 2021. 

She was a visiting researcher at McGill University (Montreal) in 2019, at the Graduate Institute (Geneva) in early 2020, and at the Montreal Center for International Studies (CÉRIUM) in early 2021. 

Dissertation: Learning to embrace change: On adaptive environmental treaties


Research interest

International relations, environmental governance, international trade, institutional design, institutional change, survival analysis, statistical analysis, network analysis, QCA, mixed method

Peer-reviewed articles

  • Laurens, N., J. Hollway and JF Morin (2023) "Checking for Updates: Ratification, Design, and Institutional Adaptation" International Studies Quarterly. tbp.

    Although most international agreements are concluded for indefinite periods, the issues they address and parties’ preferences are constantly evolving. In some cases, parties seek to close any growing gaps between negotiators’ expectations and the changing context by updating their original agreement to its new circumstances. States have several formal tools at their disposal to do so, such as protocols, amendments, and addenda. We refer to this process as institutional adaptation. This paper seeks to explain why some agreements are adapted numerous times during their lifetime while others are not. It argues that state parties are more likely to adapt their international agreements when they acquire new information about their partners’ behavior, preferences, or the state of the environment. We focus on two key elements facilitating this process. The first consists of unexpected variation in treaty participation, and the second concerns the design features of the agreement. Relying on event history analysis and an original dataset of design features and membership of 371 multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), we find that low levels of ratifications, high levels of accessions, highly institutionalized MEAs, and anticipatory design features are associated with more frequent institutional adaptation. These findings provide important lessons for the design of dynamic treaties.

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  • Laurens, N (2023) "Institutional adaptation in slow motion: Zooming in on desertification governance" Global Environmental Politics.

    The ability of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) to keep pace with their changing circumstances is crucial for a more effective global environmental governance. Yet, we know little about how new institutional design features are taken up by MEAs, allowing them to evolve over time. Building upon Kingdon’s (1984) multiple streams theory, I conceive the development of new institutional design features as the association between streams of problems, solutions, and political receptivity at critical moments. I apply this framework to two features introduced within the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) framework and find that the main design entrepreneurs were the UNCCD Secretariat and independent scientists. The article provides important insight into characteristics that can make MEAs more adaptive. Namely, treaty bodies able to generate feedback about problems, push for solutions, and provide windows of opportunity for advocates to present and revise their proposals were found critical to the development of new design features.

  • Laurens, N, C. Brandi & J-F Morin (2022) "Climate and Trade Policies: From Silos to Integration" Climate Policy 22(2): 248-253.

    This paper investigates linkages between trade and climate policies by examining commitments made in preferential trade agreements (PTAs) and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. While environmental protection and economic growth are often perceived as conflicting policy goals, PTAs and NDCs have the potential to encourage mutually supportive approaches to climate and trade governance. Building upon three recent datasets, the paper locates a sample of 21 countries in a typology of four issue-linkage strategies across both types of instruments: policy integration, policy silos, asymmetry in favor of trade policy, and asymmetry in favor of climate policy. It finds that countries that reveal a preference for strong linkage with climate in their PTAs typically do not reveal a preference for strong trade linkage in their NDCs, and vice versa. No state from the sample favors strong policy integration. After sketching out possible explanations for this observation, the paper concludes that policy-makers have significant room for enhancing synergies between trade and climate commitments and that scholars have a role to play in this endeavor.  

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  • Laurens, N and JF Morin (2019) "Negotiating Environmental Protection in Trade Agreements: A Regime Shift or a Tactical Linkage?" International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 19(6), 533-556.

    The prolific literature on the relationship between the trade and environmental regimes suffers from three shortcomings. First, it myopically focuses on multilateral institutions while the vast majority of trade and environmental agreements are bilateral. Second, when studies consider preferential trade agreements’ (PTAs) environmental provisions, they are often limited to US and EU agreements. Third, it examines how the trade and environmental regimes negatively affect each other, leaving aside their potential synergies. Conversely, this article assesses the potential contribution of PTAs to international environmental law. Several PTAs include a full-fledged chapter devoted to environmental protection and contain detailed commitments on various environmental issue areas. One possible scenario is that countries that are dissatisfied with traditional settings for environmental lawmaking engage in a process of “regime shifting” toward PTAs to move forward on their environmental agenda. The alternative is that PTAs’ environmental provisions are the result of “tactical linkages” and merely duplicate extant obligations from international environmental law to serve political goals. We shed light on this question by building on two datasets of 690 PTAs and 2343 environmental treaties. We investigate four potential contributions of PTAs to environmental law: the diffusion of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs), the diffusion of existing environmental rules, the design of new environmental rules, and the legal prevalence of MEAs. The article concludes that the contribution of PTAs to the strengthening of states’ commitments under international environmental law is very modest on the four dimensions examined.

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  • Laurens, N, Z Dove, JF Morin and S. Jinnah (2019) "NAFTA 2.0: The Greenest Trade Agreement Ever?", World Trade Review 18(4) : 659-677.

    The renegotiation of what US President Trump called “the worst trade deal ever” has resulted in the most detailed environmental chapter in any trade agreement in history. The USMCA mentions dozens of environmental issues that its predecessor, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), overlooked, and in line with contemporary US practice, brings the vast majority of environmental provisions into the core of the agreement, and subjects these provisions to a sanction-based dispute settlement mechanism. It also jettisons two controversial NAFTA measures potentially harmful to the environment. However, this paper argues that the USMCA only makes limited contributions to environmental protection. It primarily replicates most of the environmental provisions included in prior agreements, and only introduces three new environmental provisions. Moreover, it avoids important issues such as climate change, it does not mention the precautionary principle, and it scales back some environmental provisions related to multilateral environmental agreements.

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Peer-reviewed presentations

Op eds