April 21, 2012
Is Environmental Cooperation Possible?
Perhaps one of the most controversial issues in international relations today is international protection of the environment and the battle against global warming. The controversy begins even before thinking about how to solve the problem, because many people disagree as to weather global warming is even a hazard, or to what extent it causes problems. If this initial hump could be overcome, it would be a lot easier for people to start cooperating to make the global environment a better place. Because the effects of global warming cannot be contained to one area, it becomes a huge free rider issue. Carbon dioxide emissions in the United State do not simply affect the air in the United States. So everyone around the world should want to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The problem is that, because air is a public good, even people or states that do not pitch in to solve the global warming issue will benefit from the cleaner air. And this is why the global environment poses a tragedy of the commons issue. Often times, there are simply not great enough incentives to make a state want to participate in carbon dioxide emissions. If a state is gaining personally by increasing industry and getting better profits from the emission of greenhouse gases, then they are not going to stop just to protect the environment. States tend to believe that it is the job of others to reduce their emissions in order to protect the environment – so that they, in turn, can benefit from this without having to alter their lifestyles.
However, it is possible for institutions such as nongovernmental organizations to motivate countries to voluntarily contribute to the global environmental cause. International environmental institutions can facilitate cooperation by establishing clear standards of behavior to which states can be held accountable. Take for instance the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. This convention, adopted in 1985, regulates activities such as the emissions of CFCs that damage the ozone layer. While certainly a start, the Montreal Protocol proved to be even more effective, because it specified progressively deeper cuts in emissions and increased the range of restricted chemicals and practices. The more complete the ban, the more likely states are to cooperate, because there is less wiggle room. The International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution of the Seas by Oil initially set standards that allowed some, but not a lot, of oil to be discharged into seawater. It later changed to be a more complete ban. Environmental TANs also are central in verifying compliance with international environmental accords. States under the Kyoto Protocol use an emissions trading system. This is extremely beneficial in that it allocates emissions to states that want to emit more, but it lessens overall emission. States have to trade in order to have more emitting power, and in turn, other states cannot emit as much. Nongovernmental organizations are also great for facilitating decision-making and resolving disputes. Clearly, none of these methods are perfect. People still disagree as to the extent of the problem, and the large number of people in the world makes it nearly impossible for everyone to agree on ways to fix the problem.
Posted by hlsoshni at April 21, 2012 12:44 PM
While reading what FLS and Snow have stated about climate and international cooperation, I started to become very pessimistic about global change. More specifically, it made me more pessimistic about the role of the United States in facilitating global cooperation. It seems that the U.S. has reacted to climate change and the Kyoto Protocol in the exact same what it has to the ICC. As a country we seemed hopeful about global change during the Clinton administration but then during the Bush administration we declared that it was too much of an economic burden. Similarly, Clinton expressed that becoming part of the ICC would make the U.S. an important leader in advocating human rights, yet as administrations changed serious objections were raised.
Posted by: spizer at April 22, 2012 09:46 PMLogin to leave a comment. Create a new account.