Benedick - SELECTION 25 5afeguording the Planet Richard...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–8. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 2
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 4
Background image of page 5

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 6
Background image of page 7

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Background image of page 8
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: SELECTION 25 5afeguording the Planet Richard Elliot "Benedick By 1987 the world had been shocked by the discovery of the Antarctic “ozone hole,” a recurring and precipitous decreaSe in the protective stratospheric ozone concentration in a huge and expanding area surrounding the South Pole. Furthermore, most scientists studying this problem agreed that this phenomenon is related to and confirms the theory that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) pose a threat tothe ozone layer, which was first proposed 13 years earlier by physicai chemists F. S. Rowland and Mario J. Molina. ln 1987 an international conference of political and scientific delegates from both developed and developing nations, meeting in Montreal, Canada, reached historic agreement that few political analysts had thought was possible: the Montreal Protocol, which committed the signatory nations to significantly reducing the use of CFCs and related industrial chemicals. - ' In subsequent years, as evidence of the destruction of Stratospheric o'zone resulting from atmospheric contamination by these substances mounted, this initial agreement was strengthened, and by'1996 the production of CFCs by developed nations had been banned. ' '- - - Richard Elliot Benedick is a seasoned diplomat with many years of experience in the US. Foreign Service. As deputy ' assistant secretary of state for environment, health, and natural resource issues, he was assigned to be the chief -U.S. negotiator at the Montreal meeting. in Ozone Diplomacy: New Directions in Safeguarding the Planet (Harvard University i3ress, 1991., 1998), _ he describes the lessons he learned from that experience. In the following selection, which has been taken from the first and last chapters of Ozone Diplomacy, Benedick explains how these lessons can be applied in the quest forinternationai agreements on other important global environmental problems. in particular, he emphasizes the need for action on the more complex and difficult issue of reducing the potentially disastrous consequences of climate change'due to atmospheric accumulation of greenhouse gases. Key Concept: strategies for negotiating international environmental agreements : I A New Global Diplomacy: Ozone Lessons and Climate Change Experimenting with Planet Earth The Antarctic ozone hole conveyed a warning. Nature is capable of producing unpleasant surprises. Even seemw ineg small interferenceswin this case, an increase in strat— ospheric chlorine concentrations of a little more than one part per billion—could trigger dramatic and sudden reacw tions. Recent experience with the forests of central Europe and North America indicates that other areas may also have unforeseen thresholds beyond which natural proc~ esses are unable to absorb the assaults of contemporary economies. The world may not have the luxury of early warning signals before an irreversible collapse occurs in some other segment of the planet’s ecosystem. . . . 119 The new environmental threats to national and plan— etary securitym—of which climate change appears to be the most far~reaching~challenge both traditional science and diplomacy. A new science has evolved in recent years, made possible by advances in computer mod— eling, satellites, and measurement technologies. Known as earth systems science, this discipline attempts to inte- grate chemistry, physics, biology, geology, anthropology, meteorology, oceanography, and other subjects in order to understand more fully the interrelated forces that govern this planet. In 1986 the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) launched a long-term interdis- ciplinary initiative that has been described as the biggest international scientific effort ever organized. Its purpose isto develop new insights into planetary processes and the ways they are being affected by human activities. Designated as the International Geosphere—Biosphere Programme, it was adopted unanimously by the more 120 Global Warming and Ozone Depletion than 70 national academies and 20 international scientific unions that form the membership or lCSU-a manifes— tation of universal concern about the seriousness of the problems. Dilemmas for Policy: Striking a Balance Because cooperation among sovereign states is essential for developing effective policies to address these issues, the new science requires an analogue in the realm of international relations. . . _ _ The negotiators of the Vienna Convention and the Montreal Protocol faced issues similar to those raised by potential climate change. The science was uncertain, and the predicted harmful effects, though grave, were remote and unproven. Entrenched industrial interests claimed that new government regulations would cause immense economic and social dislocations. Technological solutions were either nonexistent or were considered unacceptable by most major participating governments. -' Under these conditions, some governments at first allowed conunercial'selfuintereSt to influence their posi— tions and used scientific uncertainty as an excuse for delaying decisiOns. Many political leaders were long prew pared to accept'future environmental risks, rather than to impose the short—term costs entailed in limiting use of CFCs and halons viewed as essential to modern standards of living. Short—range political and economic concerns proved formidable obstacles to cooperative international action based on the ozone—depletion theory. Goverrunent-policymakers face a dilemma in attempting to deal with the new environmental challenges. Premature actions or'regulations based on imprecise and possibly incorrect theories and data can incur costs that later turn out to be unnecessary. But postporiing a decision might also not be cost free. Waiting for more complete evidence can run the risk of acting too late to prevent major and possibly irreversible damage. In the event that wishful or Panglossian thinking turns out to be erroneous, the future economic and social costs could be much higher, perhaps even catastrophic. Even with the success of- the Montreal protocol, humanity will have to endure the consequences of increased ultraviolet radiation for several decades. And it could have been much worse had action been delayed as the special interests had at first recommended. Unfortunately, the market is essentially neutral with respect to the environment, and the current state of economics is not helpful in analyzing such situations. Relying on Adam Smith to protect the ozone layer—or to mitigate climate change—could be disastrous. Tra- ditional methods of measuring income and growth appear increasingly irrelevant in the modern world: the more ozone—depleting substances or coal. that a country produces, the greater the growth in its gross national product. Under current accounting standards, enterprises can avoid the “external” costs of environmental damage caused by their activities, but the bills, whether in terms of health or quality of life or depleted resources, must be paid somewhere or sometime by society. And the econo» mist’s prescription for coping with future monetary flows is inadequate for reSponding to large but distant dangers: present-value discounting can reduce even huge long« term costs, in terms of harm to future generations, to insignificance, while predisposing managers to maximize short~run profits. Rather than rewarding environmental protection efforts, our financial markets regard them as irksome charges against current profits. Thus, the appli- cation by policymakers and investors of the tools of con» ventional economics may result in precisely the erng decisions from an ecological perspective. The history of efforts to protect the ozone layer clearly demonstrates the crucial role played by industry in developing and implementing international environ— mental policy. Although the US. government was instru~ mental in first reducing CFC emissions in the 19703 and in achieving the Montreal Protocol in 1987, at several points during the ozone negotiations before and since, senior officials or legislators for largely ideological rea- sons came close to reversing pro-environment positions. In contrast, on every such occasion since 1985, prag- matically oriented industry forces consistentlywand successfully—intervened in favor of the international regulatory regime, whether that involved support— ing the original American position for strong controls at Montreal, endorsing the new financial mechanism at London, or testifying before congressmen who were intent on domestically unraveling the treaty’s controls. A key role in this respect was played by the Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy, a consortium of several hundred companies that produced or were dependent on ODS and their substitutes. ‘ The response of industry to an environmental problem is conditioned by a complex of considerations and pres- sures generated by the market, which is itself directly influenced by consumer preferences and by govern— ment regulatory actions; and underlying these immedi— ate influences may be educational activities of the media and environmental organizations. The personal values of corporate leadership and stockholders, as well as general societal attitudes toward a given environmental issue, will also affect industry reactions. In the early years of the ozone history, both American and European industrialists were resolutely opposed to controls over CFCs. It seemed almost as if business leaders simply could not bring themselves to believe-that these apparently ideal chemicals, with so many benefits to society, were capable of inflicting a remote assault on the environment. American industry, however, through the Chemical Manufacturers Association, was consistently committed to resolving the uncertainties raised by the scientists, even if the results were to prove unpleas- ant: industry strongly promoted international scientific research and the 1985 Vienna Convention. The position of American industry toward international regulation was also conditioned by their desire for a “level playing field” with their European competitors. During the negotiations before both the Montreal con— ference in 1987 and the London Meeting of Parties in 1990, industrialists almost inevitably complained that the proposed controls were too harsh and too costly to imple- ment, while environmental groups argued that they did not go far enough. The treaty negotiators had to seek. a balance in the severity of controls. if the protocol were too soft on industry, there would be greater risks to the ozone layer. However, if the reduction schedules were economi~ cally or technically unrealistic, they could engender bitter industry resistance, loss of jobs, consumer backlash, court battles to delay implementation, and noncompliance—«all of which c0uid delay the needed structural changes and commercialization of substitute products. An important lesson of the ozone experience is that industry requires clear signals and a stable regulatory envi- ronment to give it the confidence and incentives to make long—term investments in new and safer technologies; this consideration emerged very clearly in the continuing debates over the HCFC transitional chemicals. Meaning- ful controls may be necessary to overcome initial inertia or preoccupation with near—term profits, and also to give a competitive boost to companies that are inclined to inno- vate. As German Envirorunent Minister Klaus Topfer (a member of the conservative Christian Democratic Union party) put it in June 1990: “I am absolutely convinced that if yOu give a clear cut timetable, it will stimulate industry to come up with substitutes. But if more time is allowed, I really believe they will take more time.” In these circumstances, informed consumers can have a decisive influence. In the case of CFCs, aroused American consumers, through their changed purchasing habits, brOught down the US. aerosol spray market by two—thirds in the late 1970s and thereby stimulated competitive development of alternatives even before government regulations were in place. . . . Even though large companies have substantial resources available for public relations and advertising, it becomes no longer worthwhile for them to try to resist when consumer feelings are sufficiently intense. And this same public attention can help to discourage possible temptations to evade environmental regulations, whether by exploiting loopholes or by moving production to other cOuntries. As it happened, the Montreal Protocol departed from the hitherto—customary accommodation of environmental regulation to commercial convenience. Rather than prem scribing “best available teenologies” to replace CFCs, the treaty in 1987 boldly mandated deep cuts in consump- tion of these useful substances with full knowledge that the technologies did not yet exist to fully achieve those reductions. The outcome was, as we have seen, an extraordinary wave of innovation. And it turned out that industry and economists had vastly overestimated the Richard Elliot Bencdicla Safeguarding the Planet 12.1 costs of solutions. By changing the rules of the market, the controls induced entrepreneurs to reexamine their familiar industrial processes, an exercise that had been unnecessary when CFCs were cheap and plentiful; in many instances, the requirement for change resulted in unexpected cost savings. The Montreal Protocol brought change not only to industry, but also to environmental organizations. An often—overlooked legacy of the ozone negotiations was the formation of an international network of NGOs, linked by electronic media, that now regularly consult, coordinate positions, and work jointly to influence government positions on international environmental issues and negotiations. . . . Lessons for a New Diplomacy 'i'he heads of the World Meteorological Organization, G. O. P. Obasi, and of UNEP, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, wrote in 1995 that “the action to defend the ozone layer will rank as One of the great international achievements of the century.” Given the extraordinary nature of the danger to the planet and the extent of international cooperation mobilized, few observers would regard this statement as hyperbole. Had there been no protocol, the expanding uses and growth in emissions of ozone—depleting substances could have induced an incredible 30 percent thinning of the protective ozone shield over heavily populated regions during the next century, with incalculable effects on human health and the environment. Recent research has indicated that, for example, in the absence of restrictions 0n ODS there would have been a “runaway increase” in skin cancer, up to a quadrupling of incidence by the year 2100. Even with the strengthening in 1990 and 1992 of the original protocol, scientists estimate a peak skin cancer increase of 10 percent by the middle of the next century. This is a price that will be paid for the initial 'hesitancy in applying stronger measures. The experience gained from the historic ozone~ protection process suggests several elements of a new kind of diplomacy for addressing such similar global ecological threats as climate change. Scientists must play a central role in international environ- mental negotiations. Without modern science and technol— ogy, the world would have remained unaware of what was occurring 30 miles above the Earth, and the conse— quences could have been truly catastrophic. Research on the ozone layer reveaied previously unrealized link- ages among different scientific disciplines. The ozone treaty was a truly interdisciplinary effort, involving strat- ospheric chemists, physical chemists, meteorologists, oceanographers, biologists, material engineers, electrical and chemical engineers, soil chemists, agronomists, toxi— cologists, botanists, oncologists, entomologists, and more. Science became the driving force behind the formation of public poiicy on the ozone isSue. The development of a 122 Global Warming and Ozone‘Depletion commonly accepted body of data and analyses and the narrowing of ranges of uncertainty were prerequisites to a political solution among negotiating parties that were initially far apart. In effect, hundreds of scientists from many nations worked together with a commitment to scientific objectivity that transcended divergent national interests. In this process, the scientists had to assume new responsibilities for relating the implications of their find- ings to alternative remedial strategies. Close collaboration between scientists and key government officials ulti» mately prevailed over the more parochial and short—run interests of some national politicians and industrialists. Governments may have to act while there is still scientific uncertainty, responsibly balancing the risks and costs of delay. By the time the evidence on such issues as the ozone layer and climate change is beyond all dispute, the damage may be irreversible, and it may be too late to forestall serious harm to human life and draconian costs to society. Politi- cians must therefore resist a tendency to lend too much credence to self-serving economic interests that demand scientific certainty, maintain that dangers are remote and unlikely, and insist that the costs of changing their Ways are astronomical. The signatories at Montreal knowingly risked imposing substantial short—run economic dislocations even though the evidence was incomplete; the prudence of their decision was demonstrated when the scientific models turned out to have underestimated the effects of CFCs on ozone. Governments must sponsor the needed research and act responsibly on the basis of often-equivocal results. Unfortunately, the current tools of economic analysis are inadequate aids in this task and can even be deceptive indi» cators; they are in urgent need of reform. A well-informed public opinion can influence hesitant poli- ticians and private companies to act with responsibility for the environment. The interest of the media in the ozone issue, and the collaboration with television and press by diplo- mats, environmental groups, and legislators, had a major influence on governmental decisions and on the interna- tional negotiations. The findings of scientists needed to be interpreted and communicated to a wider public. UNEP and WMO played important roles in disseminating infor- mation through publications and electronic media, and through other activities. Many individual governments were also particularly active in informing their constit— uents about the ozone science, treaty obligations, and new technologies. Informed and concerned consumers brought about the collapse of the CFC aerosol market. In their educational efforts, the proponents of ozone layer protectionwat least in the early years—generally avoided invoking apocalypse and resisted temptations to overstate their case in order to capture public attention. Exaggerated pronouncements and selective use of scien— tific data have a way of backfiring: damaging credibility and providing ammunition to those interest groups that want to delay action. The media have a special responsi- bility to educate themselves on the issues and not simply parrot conflicting claims that only confuse the public. Multilateral diplomacy, involving coordinated negotia~ tions among many governments, is essential when the issues have planetary consequences. The manifold activities of an international organization~the United Nations Envi— ronment Programme—were crucial in promoting a glo— bal approach to the protectiori of stratospheric ozone. UNEP coordinated research, informed governments and world public opinion, and played an indispensa— ble catalytic and mediating role during the negotiation and implementation of the protocol. Other intergovern— mental organizations, including WMO, the World Bank, UNDP, UNIDO, the Global Environment Facility, and the World Health Organization, were also drawn into varied aspects of the ozone-protection prdcess. The Montreal Protocol itself generated an institutional structure of sub sidiarybodies and committees that supported the decision- making responsibilities of the parties. Because of the large number of countries participating in the interna» tional environmental negotiations—often more than 120 delegations~it is essential to have an effective secre— tariat and chairperson. A major role in such negotiations is played by regional or interest groups: loose associa- tions of states, generally like-minded, that meet regularly during a negotiation to exchange ideas, resolve differ- ences, and attempt to hammer out coordinated posi— tions; examples include the “Toronto Group” in the early ozone negotiations; the OECD industrialized countries; the “Group of 77 and China” (actually more than 130 cleveIOping nations); the 15—nation European Union; the Arab states; Nordic nations; and regional groupings from Africa, Asia, eastern Europe, and Latin America. Strong leadership by a major country can be a significant force in developing international consensus. The US. gov- ernment early on reflected its concerns over the fate of the ozone layer by stimulating and supporting both American and international scientific research. Later, convinced of the dangers, it undertook coordinated dip" lomatic and scientific initiatives to promote an ozone- protection plan to other countries, many of which were initially hostile or indifferent to the idea. As the largest emitter of both ozone—destroying chemicals and green- house gases, the United States has great potential to influence the policy considerations of other governments in favor of environmental protection. In fact, because of the geographic size and population of the United States, its economic and scientific strength, and its international interests and influence, progress in addressing global environmental problems can probably not be achieved without American leadership. However, in the mod- ern world, no single country can prevail; alliances must be forged, in particular between North and South. The European Union can also be an important force, although it has had problems forging and holding internal consen— sus among its 15 member nations. It may be useful for a leading country or group of coun» tries to take preemptive environmental protectiOn measures even in advance of a global agreement. When influential governments make such a commitment, they legitimize change and thereby undercut the arguments of those who insist that change is impossible. Preemptive actions can also support moral suasion in encouraging future par« ticipation by other countries. In addition, action by major countries can slow dangerous trends and hence buy time for negotiations and for development of technological solutions. The 1978 US. ban on aerosols both relieved pressure on the ozone layer and lent greater authority to the government when it subsequently campaigned for even more stringent worldwide measures. Although environmental controls might conceivably harm a coun- try’s international competitiveness in the short run, they may also, by stimulating research into alternative tech— nologies, give that country’s industry a head start on the future. Pioneer countries—and companies—that adopt more stringent controls can provide valuable experience for others who follow on the same path; this has been an important factor in aiding developing countries to reduce their dependence on ODS. The civic sectorwincluding citizens’ groups and private industrymhas a crucial role in the new diplomacy. The activi— ties of both environmental organizations and private industry in undertaking research, lobbying governments, and influencing public opinion significantly affected the international debate on the ozone issue. A major by—prod— uct of the ozone negotiations was the development of closer relations among hitherto—separated environmental groups around the world, reflected in their coOperation at environmental treaty negotiations and conferences in the last decade. Environmental organizations can also play an informal watchdog role in monitoring compli- ance by governments and industry with internationally agreed commitments. For their part, entrepreneurs are becoming aware that their corporate image is increas— ingly affected by environmental issues. The intellectual and financial resources of the private sector are, more over, essential for developing the necessary technological solutions. The ozone process was in fact characterized by an unparalleled degree of collaboration among industry, environmental groups, governments, and international organizations; wide—ranging joint activities included cooperation in research and development of alternatives, participation in the protocol’s technical panels, and pro- viding information and technologies to developing coun— tries. Economic and structural dijj‘erences among countries must be equitably reflected in an international regulatory regime. In the longer run, the developing countries, with their huge and growing populations and needs, could undermine efforts to protect the global environment. For many devel- oping countries, the Montreal Protocol provided the first intensive exposure to environmental problems, leading to a sensitization of both private and public sectors and the development of capacity to deal with other environ- mental challenges. As a consequence of the ozone issue, a North-South bargain was struck that set an important Richard Elliot Benedicli Safeguarclingthe Planet 123 precedent for future environmental accords: the richer nations for the first time acknowledged a responsibility to help developing countries to implement needed envi- ronmental policies without sacrificing aspirations for improved standards of living. The Montreal Protocol broke new ground with its uniquely balanced voting procedures and with the Multilateral Fund’s concepts of incremental cost funding and partnership between the World Bank and UN agencies; the MLF itself became a model for the Global Environment Facility and for finan~ cial mechanisms in the climate change and biodiversity conventions. The protocol was the first global experi- ment in environmental technology transfer, served by a network of formal consortia and infotmal connections involving governments and enterprises, reinforced by UNEP’S extensive clearinghouse activities. The explicit linkage between developing countries’ performance and their receipt of adequate financial and technical support was another innovative feature. Finally, the noncompli» ance procedure was the first to be tested in a global envi- ' ronmental treaty, and its sensitive handling of the CEIT issues demonstrated the equitable but effective function- ing of the system. The efi‘ectioeness of a regulatory agreement is enhanced when it employs market incentives to stimulate technologi— cal innovation. Technology is dynamic and not, as some industrialists have seemed to imply, a static element. But left completely on its won, the market does not necessarily foster the right technologies to protect the environment. Although in 1987 the ozone protocol set targets that were initially beyond the reach of the existing best—available technologies, its goals were in fact achievable for most of industrywthereby averting monolithic industrial opposi- tion that might have delayed international agreement. The Montreal Protocol was not a “radical” treaty, as some idem logues have suggested: on the contrary, it was an expres— sion of faith in the market system, in the system’s ability to respond to incentives. The treaty actually stimulated collaboration among otherwise competing companies in research and testing that saved both time and money in the development of replacement technologies. By expedi~ tiously getting the protocol established in international law in 1987 even with a 50 percent reduction target, the negotiators effectively signaled the marketplace that research into solutions would now be profitable—thus set" ting the stage for the later decisions for phaseout. For one substance and application after another, as the technology advanced, the oppositiou to stronger controls inevitaw bly receded. Policymakers must be careful not to convey vague or ambiguous signals, as appeared to be happen— ing on the HCFC issue, which could heighten uncertainty and undermine industry’s confidence in the regime. The signing of a treaty is not necessarily the decisive event in a negotiation: the process before and after signing is critical. It was extremely important to separate the complicated ozone—protection issue into manage» able components. The informal fact~finding efforts 124 Global Warming and Ozone Depletion during 1985 and 1986 and again after the treaty entered into force—workshops, conferences, consultations— established an environment conducive to building per— sonal relationships and generating creative ideas, and thereby facilitated the formal negotiations. During the negotiations themselves, the use of small working groups and a single consolidated text (prepared by a legal drafting group) fostered the gradual emergence of consensus. The developments following the 1987 sign~ ing illustrated the wisdom of designing the treaty as a flexible instrument. By providing for periodic integrated assessments—the first of which was advanced from 1990 to 1989 in response to the rapidly changing science— the negotiators made the accord adaptable to evolving circumstances. In effect, the protocol became a dynamic process rather than a static solution. A guiding principle throughout was to send the right signalswwand avoid the wrong signals—to industry as well as to the contracting parties themselves. Hence the Meeting of Parties and its associated institutions interpreted the treaty flexibly while not doing damage to the fabric of its obligations, as manifested in the actions on essential-use nominations, MLF issues, the CEIT problems, and data reporting. The delicate interplay between the Meeting of Parties and the various expert panels was an important factor in the protocol’s success. Firmrzess needs to be combined with pragmatism to achieve diplomatic success. The proponents of strong controls in 1987 refrained from extreme positions but never relented in their pressure for a meaningful treaty. They did not insist on perfect solutions that might have unnecessar— ily prolonged the negotiations. Nor did they wait for universal participation, or even for agreement on future steps among all potential major players. Instead, they achieved an interim solution with built—in flexibility that could, on the basis of scientific and technological devel- opments, serve as a springboard for future action. The 1987 protocol deliberately did not attempt to predeterv mine every future step: many issues were marked but left open for future resolution, including the financial mecha— nism, trade measures, and noncompliance procedures. In subsequent stages of the protocol, Whenever there were large disagreements among the parties, every attempt was made to reach consensus rather than to bludgeon the minority; a useful and repeated technique was for the parties to commission studies, gradually building up the weight of scientific and technical analysis and illumi- nating the policy options. When differences remained, instead of postponing any action the treaty moved for- ward with modest shun-term steps (as in the methyl bromide freeze), which set the stage for stronger future actions. The important thing was to maintain momentum and get started on the right track—a characteristic of the Montreal Protocol from its creation. Individuals and impondcrables car: make a surprisingly significant drfiference; not every element of a successful negon nation can be predicted and preplanned. UNEP’s Mostafa Tolba provided overall personal leadership throughout the critical phases leading up to the 1987 agreement and the substantial revisions at the London and Copenhagen Meetings of Parties. He initiating critical consultations with key governments, private interest groups, and international organizations. During the negotiations, he moved from group to group, arguing for flexibility, applying pressure, often floating his own proposals as a stimulus to the participants. Individual scientists, nego— tiators, environmentalists, and industry officials also pro- vided ideas, decisions, and actions that proved vital to the final outcome. A few political scientists have tried to construct elaborate, engineering like models of the envi» ronmental negotiations (press this° button and that will happen). Real negotiations are, however, both richer and more treacherous than academic models. One can offer some “lessons,” as this list of a dozen items attempts to do; but even if the lessons are applied, things may still not work out. Impasses are not always resolved. Like it or not, a lot in life still depends on the right people being in the right place at the right time——and also on Forhma. Toward Action on Climate Change The relevance of the ozone treaties was not lost on the international community as it turned to address the issue of climate. In the summer of 1987, while preparing for the conclusive negotiation in MOntreal, I recommended that the United States take an initiative to establish a formalized international scientific assessment of climate change, similar to what we had done On the ozone issue. Before then, scientific pronouncements on climate had emanated from a relatively small body of excellent but largely self-selected scientists under the aegis of WMO and UNEP, called the Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases, that had originated in the 1985 Villach meeting. My feeling was that the subject w0uld gain more cred— ibility and influence if a larger, more diverse group of scientists was given responsibility under intergovernmen— tal auspices to coordinate systematic research, including assessment of feasible response stragegies. . . . In December 1990 the United Nations General Assembly established the Intergovernmentai Negotiating Committee for a Framework Convention on Climate Change (INC), aiming at a treaty that could be signed at the 1992 UN Con— ference on Environment and Development in Rio de laneiro. Because of the scope and politics of the climate issue, the [NC was a creature of the General Assembly rather than of UNEP, and a separate secretariat was established with headquarters in Geneva (moved in 1996 to Bonn). Five negotiating sessions were held over the ensuing 17 months, a fast timetable by any standard of displomacy, particularly considering the complexity of the issues. These were big negotiations, involving an average of 120 governments (approximately 90 from the South), plus more than 48 observers from industry and from environmental and civic groups. The negotiations were very difficult, as greenhouse gas emissions were inextricably linked with energy, industrial, agricultural, and transportation policiesw the very foundations of modern economies, North and South. Because of the many interconnected aspects of the problem, there were no quick and easy solutions: it would be necessary to take actions on many fronts that could involve substantial changes in the ways people lived, worked, and consumed. Nations would need to reduce their dependence 0n fossil fuels, which accounted-for more than half of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Agricultural practices that caused emissions of nitrous oxide and methane would have to be modified. Measures would also have to be taken to half the massive destruction of forests, which not only released carbon dioxide into the atmosphere but also diminished a major natural sink for absorbing carbon dioxide from other sources. Since most forest destruction was related to the needs of poor people in the developing c0untries, issues of poverty and population growth were also crucial to climate change. Widely varying national interests had to be reconciled in the climate negotiations. Regions and countries dif— fered considerably in their probable vulnerability and in their ability to adapt to climate change. Generally, the prospects were least favorable in already ecologically fragile and poor parts of the world, notably arid areas of Africa, parts of South America and southeast Asia, and low-lying island states that were threatened by a rise in sea level. Indeed, the climate negotiations stimulated the formation of a new bloc in the United Nations, a group of about 40 countries comprising the Alliance of-Small Island States (AOSIS). ' ' The heavily industrialized North, including the eco— nomics in transition in central and eastern Europe, were the major emitters of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. But within this group there were also major differences in industrial structure that influenced respective national positions on controis. For example, the United States, eastern Europe, Russia, and Australia were heavily dependent on coal; Norway, Australia, and other developed countries were major coal exporters. New Zealand, with a large sheep population, was concerned about controls on methane emissions. The United States, with its powerful coal, oil, and transporta— tion sectors, was the main opponent to early and strong limits on carbon dioxide emissions. . . . Nevertheless, the United Nations Framework Conven— tion on Climate Change {FCCC) was signed on schedule in Rio and has since been ratified by approximately 160 nations. Sorne observers and jOurnalists were disap- pointed that the FCCC did not impose stringent controls on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases similar to what the Montreal Protocol effected for ozone—depleting substances. However, contrary to conventional wisdom, the climate convention was actually a much strOnger agreement than its analogue framework treaty on ozone, Richard Elliot Bencdich Safeguarding the Planet 125 the 1985 Vienna Convention. Whereas the Vienna Conn vention was limited to cooperation in research and exchange of information on the ozone layer, and did not even contain any mention of CFCs, the FCCC embodv ted commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with specific reference to carbon dioxide. Certainly the American coal and oil interests and anti«environrnental ideologues, who had opposed the negotiations every step of the way, clearly understood what had happened and were furious with the Bush administration for its lastwminute concessions. - A number of elements testify to the comparative strength of the FCCC as a “framework convention”: the term itself clearly implied that furtherlactions, presum- ably more specific and stronger, would follow, as the Montreal Protocol had followed the Vienna Conven~ tion. Perhaps most significant was the FCCC’s “ultimate objective,” against which all actionswould be meas- ured: "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentratiOns in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system” (article 2). The precautionary principle was also promi» nent as a guiding principle of the convention: "Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a rea- son for postponing such {precautionary} measures. . .” (article 3.3). . . . The lessons outlined earlier in this chapter are appli- cable to the climate change negotiations but are no guarantor of success. At the present juncture, the best recommendation for the climate negotiators would be to cut through the complexities and without further delay adopt some initial quantitative target, however modest. A target, any target, will provide experience and can always be adjusted. It is essential, as in the Montreal Protocol, to send unambiguous signals to the market in order to stim- ulate competition, innovation, and decisions to invest in less carbon-intensive technologies. But emission reduc“ tion targets alone will not be sufficient to accomplish this. If targets are set unrealistically high, for example, they may encourage resistance and noncompliance or may inhibit key nations from ratifying the protocol. Targets must in any case be complemented by policies to create me conditions for a technology revolution in energy simi» lar to that which occurred for ozone~depleting substances. Only in this way can market forces be mobilized to work to diminish fossil fuel use and to expand sinks for carbon dioxide (for example, through reforestation}. Governments should not be overwhelmed by the fact that energy affects all sectors of the economy. All sectors are not equally important. it could be advantageous to disaggregate and concentrate on the most impor— tant energy users, such as transportation, heating, and energy-intensive industries. Quantitative targets could be complemented by “no regrets” policies that generate other benefits besides reducing greenhouse gases; exam» ples include energy conservation, reducing dependence 126 Global Warming and Ozone Depletion on imported fossil fuels, and more efficient burning of coal. Other feasible policy instruments toward emissions reduction include removing subsidies (both direct and indirect) for fossil fuels, increasing research and fostering market expansion for renewable energies, raising energy efficiency standards, changing government procurement policies to promote energy conservation and alterna- tive energies, and enacting a small but gradually rising energy tax. . . . Like the Montreal Protocol, the climate convention already has the built-in flexibility to reexamine and grad- ually ratchet up the stringency of commitments on the basis of periodic scientific, economic, and technical assess— ments. The situation is far from hopeless, if the political will is present. The meaSures need not be draconian: the important thing is to get started—as we did in Montreal. Global Stewardship Mostafa Tolba has described the Montreal Protocol as "the beginning of a new era of environmental statesmanship.” Yes, it was, even though most other global environmental initiatives have not yet-achieved similar fruition. When the Vienna Convention in 1985 set the stage for the Mon~ treal Protocol, we could never have imagined the mul— tiplicity of environmental conferences, negotiations, and workshops that lay ahead. We did not foresee the trans— formation of governmental bureaucracies to focus more attention on the environment, and the creation of special ambassadors for environmental negotiations. There was no indication of the expanding scope of national report~ ing to freshly created international secretariats, the grow- ing influence of citizens’ groups, the surge of industrial innovation in environmental technologies. The protocol’s influence was perceptible in the; 1989 Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Move- ments of Hazardous Wastes; the establishment in 1991 of the Global Environment Facility; the 1992 UN Confer— ence on Environment and Development and its offshoots, Agenda 21 and the Commission on Sustainable Devel— 0pment; the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change; the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity; the 1993 UN Conference on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks; the 1994: UN Conference on Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States; the 1994 Convention to Combat Desertificatiom the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development; and numerous intergovernmental work» ing groups on such subjects as sustainable forest manage— ment, land and water resources, economic metruments, and biotechnology. These were not one—shot events, but rather constituted ongoing institutional arrangements and continuing negotiations to appraise the effectiveness of commitments made and to address evolving condition. Taken together, they represent a system for international environmental governance. The story of the ozone treaty reflects the new reality that nations must work together in the face of global threats, because if some major actors do not participate, the efforts of other will be vitiated. The process of arrivv ing at the Montreal agreement, and the developments that followed its signing, represented new directions for diplomacy, involving unconventional emphasis on science and technology, on market forces, on equity, and on flexibility. For all of this, the Montreal Protocol should prove to be a lasting model of international cooperation. In the realm of international relations, there will always be resistance to change, and there will always be uncertaintieswwpoiitical, economic, scientific, psycholog~ ical. The ozone protocol’s greatest significance, in fact, may be as much in the domain of ethics as environment: its success may help to change attitudes among critical segments of society in the face of uncertain but poten- tially grave threats that require coordinated action by sovereign states. The treaty showed that even in the real world of ambiguity and imperfect knowledge, the inter- national community is capable of undertaking difficult cooperative actions for the benefit of future generations. The Montreal Protocol has proven to be the forerunner of an evolving global diplomacy, as nations seek ways of accepting common responsibility for stewardship of the planet. . . . ...
View Full Document

This note was uploaded on 12/26/2009 for the course LSP T07.5005.0 taught by Professor Caseyking during the Fall '09 term at NYU.

Page1 / 8

Benedick - SELECTION 25 5afeguording the Planet Richard...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 8. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online