Environmental Diplomacy: Negotiating More Effective Global Agreements

Environmental Diplomacy: Negotiating More Effective Global Agreements

Environmental Diplomacy: Negotiating More Effective Global Agreements

Environmental Diplomacy: Negotiating More Effective Global Agreements


Solutions to environmental problems require international cooperation, but global environmental treaty-making efforts, including the 1992 U. N.-sponsored Earth Summit in Brazil, have not accomplished much. International cooperation has been hampered by the conflicts between the developed nations of the North and the developing nations of the South; by the fact that science cannot accurately predict when or how environmental threats will materialize; and by the problem that the United Nations treaty-making system was never meant to handle threats to the environment.

Lawrence Susskind looks at the weaknesses of the existing system of environmental treaty-making and the increasing role of non-governmental interests in environmental diplomacy. Environmental Diplomacyargues for "nearly self-enforcing" agreements that ensure compliance without threatening sovereignty and maintains that new institutional arrangements are within reach. Susskind builds on the work of the Program on Negotiation at the Harvard Law School and the International Environmental Negotiation Network to offer guidelines for more effective global agreements that provide for sustainable development.


I am not an environmentalist--not if that means advocating protection of natural resources at any cost. Nor am I blindly prodevelopment. Clearly, we've got to feed, clothe, shelter, and find productive work for billions of people, but we ought to be able to accomplish these goals in a way that leaves future generations at least as well off as we are.

As the world's population grows, our task becomes increasingly difficult. Many nations do not have adequate resources to meet even the most basic needs of their citizens, let alone the resources they will need to feed millions of additional mouths in the future. In the meantime, some of the wealthier nations have taken their resource endowments for granted-- wasting energy, allowing land to become unproductive, polluting water supplies, and poisoning the air--all in the name of economic growth.

Environmental activists and advocates of sustainable development have pressed for changes in domestic policies in both developing and developed nations. In Europe, the United States, and several other places, substantial progress has been made: conservation efforts are under way and pollution levels have stopped climbing. Indeed, in some of these countries most resource management decisions are now made with much greater attention to minimizing environmental impacts and achieving sustainability. In a good portion of the developing world there is grudging acceptance that economic growth and wise resource management need not be traded off against each other; and the rapid rise of nongovernmental groups devoted to this proposition, even in some of the poorest nations of the world, suggests that the prospects for the future are improving.

However, just as environmental progress is about to be achieved at the domestic level, at least in some parts of the world, the environmental agenda is shifting. Now the most pressing environmental problems are global, including ozone depletion, pollution of the oceans, loss of biodiversity, and potentially devastating climate changes. The resources that need . . .

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