The environmental governance is the governance and management of the environment and natural resources from consideration as a global common good , for the specific category of those that divide when shared. The global character of these goods derives from the presence of each one of the elements that compose it in an integrated system. Thus, everyone benefits from the atmosphere, climate and biodiversity among others, and at the same time the entire planet suffers the dramatic effects of global warming, the reduction of the ozone layer or the disappearance of species. This planetary dimension appeals to a shared management.
A public good is characterized by non-rivalry (the natural resource acquired by someone can be at any time by someone else) and by non-exclusivity (it is impossible to prevent someone from consuming that good). However, public goods are recognized as a benefit and consequently a value. The notion of a global common good appears to establish a small distinction: they are the goods necessary for life and should not be controlled by a single person or a single State…
It is so that this character of non-rivalry requires a non-competitive or predatory management such as the so-called free market, which would lead to its extinction, and at the same time obliges to establish an economic value to the resource because its gratuity would also lead to the same result. Water is perhaps the best example of this type of goods.
But the current state of affairs in environmental governance is far from fulfilling any of these imperatives. Faced with the need to respond to the complex nature of environmental issues, a coherent multilateral management is needed among the most diverse actors involved, but the world community has been unable to respond to this challenge and current governance suffers from a series of blights. Thus, “despite the growing awareness surrounding environmental issues in developed and developing countries, environmental degradation continues, and new environmental problems appear, all due to the critical state of global environmental governance. is unable to adequately address environmental problems, due to several factors: fragmented governance within the United Nations, the lack of involvement of financial institutions; the proliferation of environmental agreements that often conflict with commercial measures. In addition to all this, the division between the countries of the North and the persistent abyss between the developed countries and the developing countries must be taken into account to understand the institutional failure of the current global environmental governance.
Environmental governance issues
Soil and land deterioration reduces its capacity for capturing, storing and recycling water, energy and food. Alliance 21 proposed solutions in the following domains:
include soil rehabilitation as part of conventional and popular education
involve all stakeholders, including policymakers and authorities, producers and land users, the scientific community and civil society to manage incentives and enforce regulations and laws
establish a set of binding rules, such as an international convention
set up mechanisms and incentives to facilitate transformations
gather and share knowledge;
mobilize funds nationally and internationally
The scientific consensus on climate change is expressed in the reports of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and also in the statements by all major scientific bodies in the United States such as National Academy of Sciences.
The drivers of climate change can include – Changes in solar irradiance – Changes in atmospheric trace gas and aerosol concentrations Evidence of climate change can be identified by examining – Atmospheric concentrations of Green House Gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide (CO2) – Land and sea surface temperatures – Atmospheric water vapor – Precipitation – The occurrence or strength of extreme weather and climate events – Glaciers – Rapid sea ice loss – Sea level
It is suggested by climate models that the changes in temperature and sea level can be the causal effects of human activities such as consumption of fossil fuels, deforestation, increased agricultural production and production of xenobiotic gases.
There has been increasing actions in order to mitigate climate change and reduce its impact at national, regional and international levels. Kyoto protocol and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) plays the most important role in addressing climate change at an international level.
The goal of combating climate change led to the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol by 191 states, an agreement encouraging the reduction of greenhouse gases, mainly CO2. Since developed economies produce more emissions per capita, limiting emissions in all countries inhibits opportunities for emerging economies, the only major success in efforts to produce a global response to the phenomenon.
Two decades following the Brundtland Report, however, there has been no improvement in the key indicators highlighted.
Environmental governance for protecting the biodiversity has to act in many levels. Biodiversity is fragile because it is threatened by almost all human actions. To promote conservation of biodiversity, agreements and laws have to be created to regulate agricultural activities, urban growth, industrialization of countries, use of natural resources, control of invasive species, the correct use of water and protection of air quality. Before making any decision for a region or country decision makers, politicians and community have to take into account what are the potential impacts for biodiversity, that any project can have.
Population growth and urbanization have been a great contributor for deforestation. Also, population growth requires more intense agricultural areas use, which also results in necessity of new areas to be deforested. This causes habitat loss, which is one of the major threats for biodiversity. Habitat loss and habitat fragmentation affects all species, because they all rely on limited resources, to feed on and to breed.
‘Species are genetically unique and irreplaceable their loss is irreversible. Ecosystems vary across a vast range of parameters, and similar ecosystems (whether wetlands, forests, coastal reserves etc) cannot be presumed to be interchangeable, such that the loss of one can be compensated by protection or restoration of another’.
To avoid habitat loss, and consequently biodiversity loss, politicians and lawmakers should be aware of the precautionary principle, which means that before approving a project or law all the pros and cons should be carefully analysed. Sometimes the impacts are not explicit, or not even proved to exist. However, if there is any chance of an irreversible impact happen, it should be taken into consideration.
To promote environmental governance for biodiversity protection there has to be a clear articulation between values and interests while negotiating environmental management plans. International agreements are good way to have it done right.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was signed in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 human activities. The CBD’s objectives are: “to conserve biological diversity, to use biological diversity in a sustainable fashion, to share the benefits of biological diversity fairly and equitably.” The Convention is the first global agreement to address all aspects of biodiversity: genetic resources, species and ecosystems. It recognizes, for the first time, that the conservation of biological diversity is “a common concern for all humanity”. The Convention encourages joint efforts on measures for scientific and technological cooperation, access to genetic resources and the transfer of clean environmental technologies.
The Convention on Biological Diversity most important edition happened in 2010 when the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and the Aichi Targets, were launched. These two projects together make the United Nations decade on Biodiversity. It was held in Japan and has the targets of ‘halting and eventually reversing the loss of biodiversity of the planet’. The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity has the goal to ‘promote its overall vision of living in harmony with nature’ As result (…) ‘mainstream biodiversity at different levels. Throughout the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity, governments are encouraged to develop, implement and communicate the results of national strategies for implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity’. According to the CBD the five Aichi targets are:
‘Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society;
Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use;
Improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity;
Enhance the benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services;
Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building.’
The 2003 UN World Water Development Report claimed that the amount of water available over the next twenty years would drop by 30%.
In the same report, it is indicated that in 1998, 2.2 million people died from diarrhoeal diseases. In 2004, the UK’s WaterAid charity reported that one child died every 15 seconds from water-linked diseases.
According to Alliance 21 “All levels of water supply management are necessary and independent. The integrated approach to the catchment areas must take into account the needs of irrigation and those of towns, jointly and not separately as is often seen to be the case….The governance of a water supply must be guided by the principles of sustainable development.”
Australian water resources have always been variable but they are becoming increasingly so with changing climate conditions. Because of how limited water resources are in Australia, there needs to be an effective implementation of environmental governance conducted within the country. Water restrictions are an important policy device used in Australian environmental governance to limit the amount of water used in urban and agricultural environments (Beeton et al. 2006). There is increased pressure on surface water resources in Australia because of the uncontrolled growth in groundwater use and the constant threat of drought. These increased pressures not only affect the quantity and quality of the waterways but they also negatively affect biodiversity. The government needs to create policies that preserve, protect and monitor Australia’s inland water. The most significant environmental governance policy imposed by the Australian government is environmental flow allocations that allocate water to the natural environment. The proper implementation of water trading systems could help to conserve water resources in Australia. Over the years there has been an increase in demand for water, making Australia the third largest per capita user of water in the world (Beeton et al. 2006). If this trend continues, the gap between supply and demand will need to be addressed. The government needs to implement more efficient water allocations and raise water rates (UNEP, 2014). By changing public perception to promote the action of reusing and recycling water some of the stress of water shortages can be alleviated. More extensive solutions like desalination plants, building more dams and using aquifer storage are all options that could be taken to conserve water levels but all these methods are controversial. With caps on surface water use, both urban and rural consumers are turning to groundwater use; this has caused groundwater levels to decline significantly. Groundwater use is very hard to monitor and regulate. There is not enough research currently being conducted to accurately determine sustainable yields. Some regions are seeing improvement in groundwater levels by applying caps on bores and the amount of water that consumers are allowed to extract. There have been projects in environmental governance aimed at restoring vegetation in the riparian zone. Restoring riparian vegetation helps increase biodiversity, reduce salinity, prevent soil erosion and prevent riverbank collapse. Many rivers and waterways are controlled by weirs and locks that control the flow of rivers and also prevent the movement of fish. The government has funded fish-ways on some weirs and locks to allow for native fish to move upstream. Wetlands have significantly suffered under restricted water resources with water bird numbers dropping and a decrease in species diversity. The allocation of water for bird breeding through environmental flows in Macquarie Marshes has led to an increase in breeding (Beeton et al. 2006). Because of dry land salinity throughout Australia there has been an increase in the levels of salt in Australian waterways. There has been funding in salt interception schemes which help to improve in-stream salinity levels but whether river salinity has improved or not is still unclear because there is not enough data available yet. High salinity levels are dangerous because they can negatively affect larval and juvenile stages of certain fish. The introduction of invasive species into waterways has negatively affected native aquatic species because invasive species compete with native species and alter natural habitats. There has been research in producing daughterless carp to help eradicate carp. Government funding has also gone into building in-stream barriers that trap the carp and prevent them from moving into floodplains and wetlands. Investment in national and regional programmes like the Living Murray (MDBC), Healthy Waterways Partnership and the Clean Up the Swan Programme are leading to important environmental governance. The Healthy Rivers programme promotes restoration and recovery of environmental flows, riparian re-vegetation and aquatic pest control. The Living Murray programme has been crucial for the allocation of water to the environment by creating an agreement to recover 500 billion litres of water to the Murray River environment. Environmental governance and water resource management in Australia must be constantly monitored and adapted to suit the changing environmental conditions within the country (Beeton et al. 2006). If environmental programmes are governed with transparency there can be a reduction in policy fragmentation and an increase in policy efficiency (Mclntyre, 2010).
On 16 September 1987 the United Nations General Assembly signed the Montreal Protocol to address the declining ozone layer. Since that time, the use of chlorofluorocarbons (industrial refrigerants and aerosols) and farming fungicides such as methyl bromide has mostly been eliminated, although other damaging gases are still in use.
The Nuclear non-proliferation treaty is the primary multilateral agreement governing nuclear activity.
Genetically modified organisms are not the subject of any major multilateral agreements. They are the subject of various restrictions at other levels of governance. GMOs are in widespread use in the US, but are heavily restricted in many other jurisdictions.
Controversies have ensued over golden rice, genetically modified salmon, genetically modified seeds, disclosure and other topics.
The precautionary principle or precautionary approach states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking an action. As of 2013 it was not the basis of major multilateral agreements. The Precautionary Principle is put into effect if there is a chance that proposed action may cause harm to the society or the environment. Therefore, those involved in the proposed action must provide evidence that it will not be harmful, even if scientists do not believe that it will cause harm. It falls upon the policymakers to make the optimal decision, if there is any risk, even without any credible scientific evidence. However, taking precautionary action also means that there is an element of cost involved, either social or economic. So if the cost was seen as insignificant the action would be taken without the implementation of the precautionary principle. But often the cost is ignored, which can lead to harmful repercussions. This is often the case with industry and scientists who are primarily concerned with protecting their own interests.
Leading experts have emphasized on the importance of taking into account the security aspects the environment and natural resources will cause. The twenty-first century is looking into a future with an increase in mass migrations of refugees, wars and praetorian regimes caused by the effect of environmental degradation such as water scarcity, deforestation and soil erosion, air pollution and, climate change effects such as rising sea levels. For a long time, foreign-policy challenges have focused on social causes as being the only reason for social and political changes. However, it is a crucial moment to understand and take into consideration the security implications that environmental stress will bring to the current political and social structure around the globe.
The main multilateral conventions, also known as Rio Conventions, are as follows:
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) (1992–1993): aims to conserve biodiversity. Related agreements include the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety.
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) (1992–1994): aims to stabilize concentrations of greenhouse gases at a level that would stabilize the climate system without threatening food production, and enabling the pursuit of sustainable economic development; it incorporates the Kyoto Protocol.
United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) (1994–1996): aims to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought and desertification, particularly in Africa.
Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (1971–1975)
UNESCO World Heritage Convention (1972–1975)
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) (1973–1975)
Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (1979–1983)
Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) (1992–1996)
Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (1989–1992)
Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedures for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade
Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (COP) (2001–2004)
The Rio Conventions are characterized by:
obligatory execution by signatory states
involvement in a sector of global environmental governance
focus on the fighting poverty and the development of sustainable living conditions;
funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for countries with few financial resources;
inclusion of a for assessing ecosystem status
Environmental conventions are regularly criticized for their:
rigidity and verticality: they are too descriptive, homogenous and top down, not reflecting the diversity and complexity of environmental issues. Signatory countries struggle to translate objectives into concrete form and incorporate them consistently;
duplicate structures and aid: the sector-specific format of the conventions produced duplicate structures and procedures. Inadequate cooperation between government ministries;
contradictions and incompatibility: e.g., “if reforestation projects to reduce CO2 give preference to monocultures of exotic species, this can have a negative impact on biodiversity (whereas natural regeneration can strengthen both biodiversity and the conditions needed for life).”
Until now, the formulation of environmental policies at the international level has been divided by theme, sector or territory, resulting in treaties that overlap or clash. International attempts to coordinate environment institutions, include the Inter-Agency Coordination Committee and the Commission for Sustainable Development, but these institutions are not powerful enough to effectively incorporate the three aspects of sustainable development.
Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs)
MEAs are agreements between several countries that apply internationally or regionally and concern a variety of environmental questions. As of 2013 over 500 Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), including 45 of global scope involve at least 72 signatory countries. Further agreements cover regional environmental problems, such as deforestation in Borneo or pollution in the Mediterranean. Each agreement has a specific mission and objectives ratified by multiple states.
Many Multilateral Environmental Agreements have been negotiated with the support from the United Nations Environmental Programme and work towards the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals as a means to instil sustainable practices for the environment and its people. Multilateral Environmental Agreements are considered to present enormous opportunities for greener societies and economies which can deliver numerous benefits in addressing food, energy and water security and in achieving sustainable development. These agreements can be implemented on a global or regional scale, for example the issues surrounding the disposal of hazardous waste can be implemented on a regional level as per the Bamako Convention on the Ban of the Import into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Waste within Africa which applies specifically to Africa, or the global approach to hazardous waste such as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal which is monitored throughout the world.
“The environmental governance structure defined by the Rio and Johannesburg Summits is sustained by UNEP, MEAs and developmental organizations and consists of assessment and policy development, as well as project implementation at the country level.
“The governance structure consists of a chain of phases:
a) assessment of environment status;
b) international policy development;
c) formulation of MEAs;
d) policy implementation;
e) policy assessment;
g) sustainable development.
“Traditionally, UNEP has focused on the normative role of engagement in the first three phases. Phases (d) to (f) are covered by MEAs and the sustainable development phase involves developmental organizations such as UNDP and the World Bank.”
Lack of coordination affects the development of coherent governance. The report shows that donor states support development organizations, according to their individual interests. They do not follow a joint plan, resulting in overlaps and duplication. MEAs tend not to become a joint frame of reference and therefore receive little financial support. States and organizations emphasize existing regulations rather than improving and adapting them.
The risks associated with nuclear fission raised global awareness of environmental threats. The 1963 Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty prohibiting atmospheric nuclear testing was the beginning of the globalization of environmental issues. Environmental law began to be modernized and coordinated with the Stockholm Conference (1972), backed up in 1980 by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. The Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer was signed and ratified in 1985. In 1987, 24 countries signed the Montreal Protocol which imposed the gradual withdrawal of CFCs.
The Brundtland Report, published in 1987 by the UN Commission on Environment and Development, stipulated the need for economic development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the capacity of future generations to meet their needs.
Rio Conference (1992) and reactions
The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), better known as the 1992 Earth Summit, was the first major international meeting since the end of the Cold War and was attended by delegations from 175 countries. Since then the biggest international conferences that take place every 10 years guided the global governance process with a series of MEAs. Environmental treaties are applied with the help of secretariats.
Governments created international treaties in the 1990s to check global threats to the environment. These treaties are far more restrictive than global protocols and set out to change non-sustainable production and consumption models.
Agenda 21 is a detailed plan of actions to be implemented at the global, national and local levels by UN organizations, member states and key individual groups in all regions. Agenda 21 advocates making sustainable development a legal principle law. At the local level, local Agenda 21 advocates an inclusive, territory-based strategic plan, incorporating sustainable environmental and social policies.
The Agenda has been accused of using neoliberal principles, including free trade to achieve environmental goals. For example, chapter two, entitled “International Cooperation to Accelerate Sustainable Development in Developing Countries and Related Domestic Policies” states, “The international economy should provide a supportive international climate for achieving environment and development goals by: promoting sustainable development through trade liberalization.”
Source from Wikipedia