GLOBAL GOVERNANCE SERIES
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Towards an Understanding of the Contemporary Global Environment Composition of the environment in which we live is twofold: natural and manmade. It is the natural environment, which includes all living and non-living things that occur naturally on earth, to which people refer when they talk of finite resources and limits to growth.
Scientific and political consensus today supports the notion that a concentration on economic and scientific progress has resulted in destruction of the natural environment and large-scale social destabilization. The 20th century saw a fourfold increase in human numbers and an eighteen-fold growth in world economic output. A report to the Club of Rome in 1972 explored the interactions between exponential population growth and finite resources to find that mankind faces some challenging scenarios for global sustainability (Meadows et al, 1972). We are reaching environmental tipping points whereby the carrying capacity of the environment and its limits to growth have been exceeded by human societal life. This situation is known as overshoot and presents gravely negative consequences for the environment when sustained over a long period of time. >
4 GOLD MERCURY INTERNATIONAL Eight Global Governance Areas: Global Environment
The Report of the 1987 Brundtland Commission, entitled Our Common Future, proposed that, “Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable – to ensure that it meets needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
Increased exposure of the global environment as a topic reflects the rise of an environmental movement in civil society and, more recently, in parliamentary politics. As an example, we can consider the 1957 Treaty of Rome which contained no explicit reference to the idea of environmental policy or environmental protection within the European Economic Community (EEC), whereas theThe Maastricht Treaty on European Union, signed in 1992, ensured that the economic growth ethos of the community had been ‘greened’ (Hildebrand, 1992). Key innovations in post-industrial, post-modern societies include the conversion of armaments, eco-technology, energy saving technology, nuclear fusion and new materials (Kung, 1990), yet despite these innovations, and despite the fact that the environmental problems are now within the mainstream of social, economic and scientific studies, there exists a mismatch between the urgency of the situation and the policies dealing with it. Distributive justice is a further dimension to the environmental problem and raises questions of environmental ethics. The Report of the 1987 Brundtland Commission, entitled Our Common Future, proposed that, “Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable – to ensure that it meets needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. In this respect, both states and citizens alike have an obligation to present and future generations to act responsibly toward our common future. This responsibility includes environmentally sound economic development and a commitment on the part of the developed world not to ask those who have contributed least to environmental degradation, namely the developing world, to withstand the majority of the implications. >
5 GOLD MERCURY INTERNATIONAL Eight Global Governance Areas: Global Environment
In terms of global environmental governance, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) was held in 1972 and formally introduced the paradigm of sustainable development yet these two concepts remained much at odds within the framework of the Cold War.
The importance of governance in terms of environmental protection is reflected in the notion that it is possible to have good governance and bad environmental policy, yet there exist to date no examples of bad governance and good environmental policy: â€˜good governanceâ€™ is therefore a necessary but not sufficient condition for sustainable development policy and practice (Evans, 2005). In terms of global environmental governance, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (UNCHE) was held in 1972 and formally introduced the paradigm of sustainable development, yet these two concepts remained much at odds within the framework of the Cold War. Twenty years later, the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro broadened the scope of global environmental diplomacy. If we are to understand a clean environment to be a global public good alongside health, knowledge, property rights, peace and security, governance of the global environment is paramount to the entitlements of both present and future generations. Today, two schools of thought typically approach governance of the contemporary global environment. Environmentalists, on the one hand, look toward a managerial approach to environmental problems often centred on compliance measures whereas ecologists, on the other hand, advocate fundamental changes in our values and in our relationship with the non-human natural world (Dobson, 2007a). Currently we see the cooption of environmentalism across the political spectrum. Whether environmental protection can be achieved from within accepted paradigms of governance is uncertain though. What is certain is that the global environmental requires concerted and collective action on the part of actors and decision-makers worldwide.
Published on Nov 23, 2012
The paper draws attention to global environmental citizenship and precedents such as the Montreal Protocol.