Can global environmental politics help address local developmental concerns?
Global environmental politics forms the best platform for addressing the global and local developmental issues. This is mainly due to the recent realization of the interconnected nature of the global environment and the inability to solely address the resultant problems. Sustainability as a concept has dawned globally with great emphasis that reveals the precarious nature of the globe’s resources under the current consumerism patterns. Notably, all aspects of the local and international development are entirely dependent on the environmental resources a notion that has called for inclusive research and better management of global ecosystems through global policies and regulations (Chasek, 2006, pp. 85-90).
Global environmental politics is the relationship between the global political forces and the environmental changes as a result of exploitation and consumption of its components. Local developmental issues are the grassroots problems assimilated from economic activities that must exploit the environment resources for progress to be realized. Notably, the latter is largely shaped by global politics which have taken a center stage in dictating the orientation of local policies which are totally inclined towards sustainable utilization of the natural resources.
Overview of the paper
This paper explores the rise of global environmental politics as a mode of addressing the emergent developmental problems. Using examples, the paper examines various problems that have warranted international consideration as the only mode of addressing them. To add to that, the paper explores the implication of various global policies and agreements that have been established as well as the localized capacities and will to articulate use them. With reference to specific development problems, the paper explores the emergent conflicts at the global and local arena with emphasis on environmental justice. The essay also provides strong counterarguments that briefly explore the opposing school of thought.
Background of environmental politics and developmental concerns
Notably, environmental politics has a strong historical connotation anchored in communities’ management of their resources. The management of the resources was however much simplistic and therefore viewed from a local point of view that turned to be very ineffective (Miller, 1995, pp. 54-57). However, the current global environmental politics has been linked to the onset of industrial revolution which formed the basis of the present day complex problems. Particularly, it was during the last quarter of the 20th century when international politics took a center stage through conventions like Rio Summit, agreements, protocols like Kyoto, and regional cooperation like EU were established to address these problems. Presently, global environmental politics defines exploration and harvesting of the resources, processing particulars and consumption of final products. All the local developmental issues have been defined and operationalization policies that guide them outlined. Mukund (1997, pp. 71-73) indicates that most of the current resources exploitation and consumerism patterns can be solved effectively but laments that there lacks the necessary goodwill.
International institutions and emergent systems
(a) United Nation Convention on Human Environment (UNCED)
This was one of the first responses to complexities of the emergent developmental issues. The convention was held in Stockholm in 1972 and served as the initial platform for the present global environmental politics (Gareth, Brown and Chasek, 2000, 45-47). During this convention, the UN member states agreed to entrench the necessary framework as the major international authority in all issues dealing with environment. In the convention, the developed nations presented industrial related problems like water pollution and human industrial-systems biological problems. On the other hand, the developing countries indicated underdevelopment mainly borne of poor technological and financial capacity to install effective systems. Therefore, the United Nations Environmental Program was established with an overall mandate projected at addressing all the developmental issues and environmentally related problems. It was from this meeting that proliferation of international cooperation, emergence of inter-governmental cooperation for multilateral cooperation policy making sprouted. Therefore, the global politics took a different turn where decisions making aspects started drifting from the local administration grip to the international stetting (Wagner, 2007, pp. 611-615).
(b) Earth summit (United Nations Conventions on Environment and development)
Following the establishment of UNEP, it became clear that developmental issues posted one of the mammoth local and international problems. By this time, controversies reigned between economists and environmentalists on the cut line between the two in terms of resources ownership, exploitation, and waste management. Dauvergne (2005, pp. 88-91) argues that the quagmire still remains a major issue of concern especially in the third world countries. With poor comprehension of interlink between environment and development, most of the resources were exploited without intra and intergenerational equity consideration. However, the problem was resolved with revelation of the following underlying issues;
The natural resources are infinite and not finite
The environment is the source of all natural resources used for economic purposes
Lack of resilience enhancing mechanism would reduce the overall ability of the resources to serve mankind.
Resources should be utilized in a sustainable mode for inter and intra-generational equity.
Of greater effect from this meeting was the ability to present the world development issues as they were and provide workable solutions. According to miller (1995, pp. 102-104), the developed countries shouldered more blame for the fast deterioration of natural environment due to their consumerism patterns. With the global cooperation and the need for harmony and development being the core icon for most of the countries that were stabilizing from the Second World War and colonization, the extended administration was of great importance. Therefore, the convention called for establishment of entities that have stronger authority of ensuring that all the development issues were addressed.
l Agenda 21 and developmental issues solution
As Lipschutz (2004, pp. 112-114) notes, Rio Summit’s main outcome was Agenda 21 which is considered to be one of the most comprehensive policies to have ever been produced by UN. Lipschutz continues to say that after realizing the need for exploiting the resources in a sustainable mode, the international community shifted their outlook that saw the prior divisions especially between the developed and the developing countries ebb out with speed. AS indicated earlier, the meeting dissected all the problems of the globe with sincerity and thoroughness and derived the most professional decisions in addressing present and future problems of the globe. It did set the stage for the formation of later agreements and conventions that would emphasis its components were applied locally by the member states.
(c) Basel Convention on Control of Trans boundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal
This convention took place in 1992 and sought to address issues related to waste management. By this period and presently too, the globe was faced with increasing piles of wastes that were poorly disposed due to lack of effective legislations that would effectively address it. Following her intensive research on movement of Trans-boundary movement of hazardous chemicals in the environment, Rachael Carson revealed how localized activities affect not only the neighboring ecosystems but also those at far distances (Ronnie, 2004, pp. 74-76). Therefore, the convention established the binding principles that called for treatment and recycling of all the wastes before it was released into the environment. The convention also established a ban for shifting hazardous wastes from one region to another by the member states. This convention has been built upon by the later systems where massive upgrading has seen emergence of the hybrid Environmental Management Systems and ISO organizations.
(d) United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and Kyoto protocol
Global warming and climate change are two terms that have sank into the international community, states, institutions, and individual with mixed reactions due to the shocking revelation of its effects. This convention was a progress derivation of the Rio Summit recommendation of Agenda 21. The Conference was established to address the major causes of global warming. It established a secretariat that saw the later formation and operationalization of the Kyoto Protocol. It also identified the major causes of global warming and the extended effects that gave the desire to raise the overall authority in controlling the dangerous phenomena.
Therefore, Kyoto Protocol followed in 1997 after an intensive period of research into the green house gases, their dynamics and link to global warming and climate change. The protocol has formed one of the most important fulcrums that cut across the developed and developing countries with authority (Gareth et al, 2000, pp. 64-65). It gave an operationalization framework that seeks to reduce green house gases to the levels that are harmless to human beings and the natural systems. Particularly, the protocol is guided by the principle of commitment, implementation, minimization, accounting, and compliance of the system by the member countries. Collectively, it requires that developed countries reduce their green hose gases production levels of 1990s with 5.2% by the period 2008-2012. Of greater significance is the protocol’s provision for compliance path and incentives that are sensitive of the development stages of different states.
Other important conventions on the play at the global environmental politics include the convention on biological diversity, Ramser convention on wetlands of international importance, and the law of the sea. Arguably, since the provision of agenda 21, environmental management has shifted from global to regional emphasis where pressure for compliance is becoming more intrinsic (Ronald, 2000, pp. 19-20).
Localized developmental issues
l Lack of adequate market for goods and products
Poor market systems have been cited as a major obstacle to development especially for the developing countries. Chapter two of Agenda 21 called for secure, equitable, open, and non discriminatory trading system where tariff and non-tariff barriers are eliminated. This system allows for better flow of goods and services globally and promotes healthy competition. This issue has been seen by many of the developing countries to be the missing link for their goods to access international markets. Clifford and Clifford (2007, pp. 196-200) argues that though it might not be the major cause of amalgamation by most of the present economic groupings, the call by the Rio Summit and emphasis on its benefits played a vital role in convincing states to merge. Through cooperation, it becomes easy to access technology and improve production systems via specialization.
Globally, the environmental politics have taken a turn where ethical stewardship is demanded for admission into an economic block. In EU, it is a requirement that all the goods and services accessing the market to the member states employ the most effective and environmentally friendly systems in their production systems. In the year 2007, China products were denied access to the EU market due to its environmentally unfriendly production processes. Besides, EU and Australia have established effective green labels for compliance by the local products a system which has seen drastic rise in utility and demand of the same goods (Porter and Reinhardt, F.L. 2007, pp. 24-25).
Besides, international politics have over the years called for use of cost effective systems in production of goods and services to enhance quality in order to be able to compete in the global arena. Agenda 21 and Kyoto protocol have indicated that adequate financial systems should be established and macroeconomic approaches established to reduce reliance on the local market by the smaller economies.
l Pollution of the ecosystems
According to Lipschutz (2004, pp. 120-125), pollution has been a developmental issue since historical times and can only be resolved via international global politics. Air pollution has been the major cause of climate change a phenomena that has extended natural and human negative effects globally. Pollution has been linked with major upper respiratory problems to the people. It has also been cited as one of the major cause of Ozone layer depletion system in the atmosphere. To add to that, it is the major cause of global warming and climate change. Though analysts have tried to argue on a different note to justify emissions, it has resulted to excess thawing of the polar icecaps. Kyoto protocol has called for reduction of the green house gases into the atmosphere a system which has been taken with great emphasis by countries like Australia, EU members and Netherlands. Notably, the protocol has established effective systems for encouraging countries to comply like carbon trading and green projects.
United Nations Environmental Program, Basel Convention, Ramser convention, and the Convention on Biological diversity have over the years called for proper waste management and concerns for the quality that enhances the ability of the resource to continuously regenerate and remain abundant for later generations. Convention on biological diversity acknowledges that the most important aspect for enhancing biodiversity conservation is through maintenance of their ecosystems (Ronnie, 2004, pp. 74-76). Many countries have appreciated the importance of tourism and embraced the international ideals of in situ and ex-situ conservation.
l Waste management
Since the onset of industrialization wastes releases into the ecosystems has been a thorn in the fresh. However, international politics have played a major role in enhancing the use of modern technology in treatment of this waste. Previously, waste management was considered as part of the major externalities that could be avoided. However, regional cooperation like EU have been strongly emphatic on the need to use the main principles of waste management as indicated by the Basel convention. Companies operating in any of the member states like Coca Cola are required to ensure that they reduce their materials that result to major wastes especially at the source. Besides, they are also required to recycle most of the recyclable wastes and reuse it back in the production systems. It is also a requirement that they treat their wastes before disposing it off to the environment.
l Desertification and declining forest cover
As indicated earlier, developmental issues cannot be addressed in isolation and therefore require cooperation between states in addressing the problem holistically. Desertification is a multidimensional problem that affects development very negatively. It reduces the agricultural communities’ capacity to effectively manage their economic activities. Globally, the most affected areas include the Sahara, the drier Australian desert regions, and Thar Desert areas in the Middle East. Provision of drought resistant species, training in modern ranching techniques, and alternative economic activities has been established to assist these communities. Of greater importance is the emphasis on irrigation systems and harnessing of solar energy from these regions to increase their overall productivity (Ronnie, 2004, pp. 74-76). Besides, major afforestation systems as provided for by the Kyoto protocol have been established in major highlands and buffer sections to counter the deserts’ progress.
Though global environmental politics have played a major role in addressing the developmental issues, analysts have continuously questioned the persistence similar problems locally. In deed, some of them argue that the world seem to be getting worse. Besides, others especially those drawn from the developing countries have indicated that the global environmental politics is a system that aims at perpetuating extended rule by the developed countries globally. Though these arguments have some elements of truth, it is clear that they are one sided in that the present development issues are no longer imaginary but proven through effective scientific research. To add to that, the views are far fetched in that many of the countries have accepted to take responsibilities regarding their former activities that may have compromised the later development ability of various states. Impartiality is however very emphatic with the Kyoto protocol that classifies various states and their emissions reduction requirements depending on the levels of industrialization (Eva et al, 2009, pp. 79-85).
Summary and conclusion
The Future of the global environmental politics in addressing the major developmental issues remains the most viable option due to its ability cut across the major eco-political and social-cultural demands of the different states. These politics not only point out the problems, but provide the respective frameworks to guide the initiatives of addressing them. However, the emerging misunderstanding especially with regard to regional conflicts and international nuclear weapons proliferation forms a major setback that seeks to widen the gap between various countries and regions. To add to that, economic recession has revived the notion of the differences between the North ; South and West and East a system that can kill the long sought coope4ration and harmony in addressing the local problems with global solutions. All countries should therefore operate in harmony and seek to reach others by establishing similar platforms for operations that not only resolve their problems, but deletes the sense of sabotage completely.
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