Why have environmental issues emerged as important for international relations in recent years?
An environmental issue has become an important part of international relations politics since 1960s. It does not mean that they did not exist before that time, but just did not have such a big volume over international relations. Moreover from that time environmental problems become more evident and dangers matter.
“Billions of people suffer daily from air pollution. Acid rain, stratospheric ozone depletion, and climate change are major regional or global problems arising from atmosphere pollution.”(Green, 2004, 452)
From 1960s become certain than enviromental problems are not local or national but global responsibility. World started to see that pollution, climate change or ozone depletion have not have boundaries and are affecting whole globe.
“Problems of the global commons are frequently transboundary: for example, climate change, ozone depletion and marine pollution do not respect national boundaries. Global problems represent a major threat to the environment and can only be solved through concerted action by international community.”(Carter, 2001, 164)
The single state can be to small or to weak to do anything about the environmental issues and even if it could do something it would be probably pointless, simply because effort of one state could be destroyed in minutes by other, since we life on the same planet. So collective action is needed as joint venture has bigger chance to make the change.
The three approaches are associated with the environmental issues in international relations, taking into account the sovereignty of state and global problems solving. The first approach called “international regime” approach does not recognise any contradiction between sovereignty of the state and cooperation on global scale to solve environmental crises.
“Perhaps most importantly, they make a normative assumption that states system caning participle respond to global change, because of the premise that there are no insuperable obstacles to cooperation under the basic anarchy of international politics (Paterson, 1999, 794)
Second global governance approach is talking about huge importance of international organisations as NGO, UN in the process of governance on global scale.
“For Hamplel, global environment governance emerges because the sceptical scale of the state is inadequate in dealing with the scales of environmental change. The state is simultaneously too small and too big to deal effectively with such change, and thus practices of governance move towards local levels, in response. (Peterson, 1999, 795)
Some writers are opinion that international organisation have more influence over global issues that states itself. The third approach associated with Karlinger’s term “grassroots globalisation” is taking critical view on global governance over environmental issues, as it may pose threats for states sovereignty and security matters. Fallowers of this approach were concerned that “going global” could build serious problems for the particular countries. The question arises: if most powerful military and economies power can have more influence on decisions making during agreements and pacts? And could the environmental politics lead to violent conflicts?
“Discussion of-balance-of-power politics, military hegemony, and gunboat diplomacy seem alien to international problem solving. Military threats are strikingly irrelevant to efforts to persuade China not to fully exploit into high-sulphur coal resources, for instance, or to convince Brazil and Malaysia not to decimate their forests.”(Litfin, 1999, 332)
So the answer is not and as history shows has not lead to violent conflicts but does not mean that is free from any conflicts completely.
From Stockholm Conference in 1972, Montreal Protocol in 1987 on ozone depletion, Rio Conference on emission of greenhouse gases to Kyoto protocol in 1997, up to this date there were around 130 mulitereal environmental agreements and over hundreds bilateral ones. More or less successful in reaching their targets, all included some conflicts and difficulty in reaching it.
The Montreal Protocol was an example of successful international action in resolving problem of ozone depletion. The protocol from 1987 had been signed by 24 mainly industrialized countries and European Communities, which were obligated to reduce their consumption of five types of CFSCS by 50 percent by 1999 to save the ozone protection and prevent from illnesses which ozone hole could caused.
“The Montreal Protocol was the first ever global reaching environmental collaboration between developed and developing countries, moreover protocol employed thousands of researchers and scientist from all over the world in name of collective cause. (Benedick, 1999)
Definitely it was a global venture, which turned out to reach the target- as data shows ozone depleting gases emission has been reduced. If the nation will continue to fallow the provisions of the Protocol the further decrease will continue throughout the 21st Century.
“The success of the Montreal Protocol stands as a beacon of how science can guide decision makers to overcome conflicting political and economic interests and reach solutions. The ozone history demonstrates that even in the real world of ambiguity and imperfect knowledge the international community, with assistance of science is capable of undertaking difficult and far reaching actions for the common good.”(Benedick, 1999)
By this date 168 nations are part of Montreal Protocol, but even so it is considered as victory, the agreement reaching met some difficulties on the way. The main problem was to urge the developing countries to participate in the regime. As developed countries were much more responsible for the damages to the ozone condition than developing once, states as China and India though than is was not fair if they have to pay for damages they did not caused.
Those countries insisted on using the CFCS gases or getting the financial and technological support from develop world otherwise. In consequence China, India and Brazil did refuse to sign the Protocol until the London meeting in 1990 where they demands were fulfilled and they joint the regime.
Not all pacts and agreements were so fortunate; the Kyoto Protocol is still open issue after 8 years from first time it was on the agenda in 1997. The Kyoto Protocol is an amendment to United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and international treaty on global warming. Officially 141 countries ratified the Protocol in 1997 in Japan. Position of some countries as Australia, Japan, Russia and especially United States of America has been highly controversial.
Australia the second largest emitter per capita of greenhouse gases refused to sign the agreement as regarding to Australia’s current president would damage Australian economy. As the Kyoto Protocol is very delicate issue on international and national level the opposition party – Labour Party strongly supports the regime and situation may change after general election.
A United States position is one of the most complex one as well as illustrates the importance of foreign policy in environmental matters. Originally America was pretty “enthusiastic” about the polices in the protocol and supported strongly binding the greenhouse gases emission. Former president of the country Bill Clinton signed the agreement back in 1998, but the approach to the policies completely changes with the new president cadent ion. President Bush namely repudiated the Protocol in 2001 as in his opinion was not in US interest .As he said:” The world largest emitter of greenhouse gases is China. Yet, China was entirely exampled from the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol. This is a change that requires100 percent effort from ours and the rest of World. American’s unwillingness to embrace a flared treaty should not be read by our friends and alliances as any abdications of responsibility. To the contrary my administration is committed to a leadership role on the issue of climate change. Our approach must be consistent with the long-term goal of stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations in atmosphere.”(Bush speech, white House, 2001)
American game with the Kyoto protocol has not been straightforward. Firstly the US government is not accepting the protocol if Japan and Russia are not obligated to it and as mentioned before China is not on the map. The reason behind the president Bush decisions lies in international and national policies. The fact that US have been engaged in oil, gas and aluminium industry on the large scale has a lot to do with the policies regarding Kyoto. Bush politics is to put America first as he notes:
“I will explain clearly as I can today and every other chance I get, that we will not do anything that harms our economy. Because first things firs are the people who live in America. That is the priority.”(Gerstenzang, 2001).
US government points out that agreement is not fair because does not include every state, overlooks the one of the biggest population as India and China for instance.
In this case is not going to be effective anyway.
“…First, the protocol would be ineffective because it exams developing countries from controls: second the Protocol’s targets are not based on sciences: third, the targets are precipitins: fourth the Protocol’s is likely to cause significant harm to the US economy: and fifth, the Protocol leaves the US dependant on other countries because US will need to buy emissions reduction credits from them to meet its emission targets. (White House, 2001)
The major concern for US was the dependence of Russia and Ukraine, giving especially Russia big manouver field to control those supplies. US position has been pushed by EU, which has adopted the rules of selling the emission credits.
EU has been great supporters of Kyoto from the beginning setting out the target of 15 percent reduction in gases emission. However that figure, up this day has not been meet and 10 percent only has been successful allocated among the EU members.
The position of Japan has a complex background. The fact that Japan is an big energy consumer and at the same time has not have the resources have a lot to do with current polices of Japanese government After oil crises and pollution problems natural gases were solution to mountain the energy, so needed by Japanese
“Japanese energy policy has always been burden with security considerations especially after the oil crises. And long time after the oil crises, the energy market remained the “sellers” market and the market for major resources remained underdeveloped”(Matsumera, 201.16)
Kyoto Protocol can affect the Japanese economy quite significantly, acceptance of polices is difficult for the country from social – cultural perspectives as well.
The society of largest consumers would have to change the way of living and thinking towards the environment. The treaty is a huge challenge for Japanese industry that would have to change dramatically. Dependence on oil pulls the government of Japan back and puts it next to current position of US towards the Protocol.
How EU will perform, after accepting the reduction of the gases is closely monitored with curiosity by US and Japan.
” The movement of EU member countries will have an extremely important meaning in the coordination process between the government and the industrial circles in Japan as well.”(Matscumura, 2001.18)
China so much pressurised by US signed the agreement in 2002, all together with developing countries on voluntary reduction basis. As despite the fact that it is the biggest emisser in general, does not emissses more gasses per had that US but much less.
Russian position has been interesting case. As the one of the gas and oil producer Russia could gain on Kyoto by selling the emission permits.
“Russian oil and gas interest are likely to boost Russia’s inclination to sell permits”
(Holtsmark, 2003, 411)
After US and Australia the biggest potential buyers of the “hot- air” withdrawn from the agreement on Global Warming position of Russia was watched closely. In November 2004 president Putin notified the UN of its ratification of Kyoto Protocol.
Overall the Kyoto is a very good idea and tackles the problem of climate change in same scale, unfortunately has not worked as smoothly as Montreal Protocol
“Certainly international efforts to migrate climate change have been less successful than action on ozone depletion”. (Carter, 2001, 237)
In deed environmental matters are an important issues for international relations politics. On this two examples can be illustrated how complex those issues are and how much their success or failure depends on political and economical situation.
It would be naive to think that global cooperation would be easy to achieve.
Despite the difference in relations among the countries, their historical background, long conflicts or alliances, something can be done on the huge scale to prevent human disasters and that is the important fact. Since the problem of environment become larger that national or local boundaries the way to tackle it had to change as well. Collective action is indispensable as affect more or less whole world population. In the age of instant consumption, hopefully globe will manage the environmental issues as effective or even more effective than today.
Carter, N. 2001, “The Politics of the Environment: Ideas, Activism, Policy, Cambridge University Press, United Kingdom
Dessai, S. 2001 “Why did Hague Climate Conference fail?” Environmental Politics, Vol. 10, Issue 3, pp.139-144
Dyer, H. “The environment in international relations”, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, Vol. 3, April 2001, pp. 105-114
Greene, O., 2004 “Environmental issues” in Baylis J ; Smith S. “The globalisation of world politics”, Oxford University Press, New York,
Holtsmark B., 2003, “Russian behaviour in the market for permits under the Kyoto Protocol”, Climate Policy Vol.3, Issue
Lifting, K. 1999 “Environmental security in the coming century”, Paul ; Hall “International Order and future of world politics”, Cambridge University Press, UK
Matsuma, H., 2001″Japanease ratification of the Kyoto Protocol”, Climate Policy, Vol. 1, Issue 3, pp.289-429
Paterson, M., 1999, “Overview Interpreting trends in global environmental governance”, International Affairs 75, 4, pp. 793-802
www.earthinstitute.colombia.edu/library/earthmatters.htm – Benedick “The Indispensable element in Montreal Protocol”
www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001- President Bush discusses Global Climate Change