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The Failures Of Environmental Multilateralism Demonstrate The Need For A World Environment Organisation

2705 words - 11 pages

‘The failures of environmental multilateralism demonstrate the need for a World Environment Organisation.’ Critically evaluate this claim.

One of the main challenges that face environmental politics today is a significant lack of integration between the global governance structures that address ecological matters. The international trade system has some of the most powerful institutional actors, such as the World Trade Organisation, where legal rules are supported by a dispute resolution body, trade sanctions, as well as the power to authorise other retaliation tactics when a country does not comply with a ruling (Eckersley 2003.) In contrast, the existing multilateral framework for ...view middle of the document...

Following this will be a specific proposal to consolidate the many ecological governance structures into a World Environment Organisation. Finally, I will conclude by appraising the potential outcomes of implementing the WEO.

Current Failures of Environmental Multilateralism

Poor management in response to climate change and other ecological challenges has prompted interest in reforming the framework of environmental governance. Evidently, there are a number of environmental problems which can be handled from a national scale itself, but an increasing number of transboundary ecological issues have started to emerge, including natural resource distribution, atmospheric pollution and energy security (Esty & Ivanova 2001.) Threats to the 'global commons' thus highlight the necessity of effective coordination between all sovereign nations.

Multilateral environment management, however, has not been as efficient as it needs to be. There is a huge challenge of coordination at both national and international levels. Intergovernmental actors currently include: the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD); the United Nations Development Programme, which has a large environmental portfolio; as well as agencies like the World Meteorological Organization, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (IISD et al. 2007.) As a result of the multitude of organisations currently influencing environmental politics, effective joint coordination has not been possible (Esty & Ivanova 2001.) In fact, this issue has even led to an increase in the number of institutions responsible for coordinating joint action, including the Environmental Management Group (EMG) and the Global Ministerial Environment Forum (GMEF.) As quoted by the International Institute for Sustainable Development et al (2010), “the irony is that although there are many institutions, the key players - i.e., the Member States - within all these institutions are the same. The failure of coordination, therefore, has to be seen not just as a failure of the institutions, but as a failure by the “owners” of these institutions: the Member States themselves.”

Another adverse consequence of increased institutional actors is that organisations in charge of addressing sustainable development are often limited by insufficient funds or a lack of executive powers. The United Nations Environment Programme, for example, is currently mandated as the global environmental body, and has achieved quite a few advances over the years. Notably, this includes facilitating the establishment of new Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs), such as the negotiations on ozone depletion, desertification, and the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change (UNEP 2004.) It has also developed partnerships with the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) and World Conservation Union (WCU) to advance the climate change debate (Biermann & Bauer 2005.)...

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