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The convention came into effect in and has over parties. The United States has signed but not ratified the convention. More than countries are members. Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer The Montreal Protocol—and subsequent revisions—is the primary international regime for controlling the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances such as CFCs, halons, and methyl bromide.

WHO Director-General: Climate Change is the Defining Issue for Public Health in the 21st Century

As of June , states, including virtually all major industrialized countries and most developing countries, had become parties to the protocol. The United States signed the protocol on September 16, , and ratified it on April 21, The protocol and its subsequent revisions modified the original Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. No single institution legislates or manages international environmental problems. Scores of official and semiofficial organizations and agencies have at least some environmental mandate. In the future, global environmental governance will continue to involve an array of multilateral, national, and intergovernmental organizations together with citizen groups and treaties.

This is as it should be, given that the concept of sustainable development embraces so many different disciplines and issues. No one organization has the authority or political strength to serve as a central clearinghouse or coordinator. In recent years, financial and political support of UNEP has lagged, and most observers question whether it can effectively champion environmental issues within the UN system. The result is that international environmental governance is still spread across too many institutions with diffuse, conflicting, or weak authorities.

Given these problems in the UN architecture for international environmental governance, there may be no escaping the need for broad institutional reform. Several important leaders have called for such reform. Other specific proposals have been advanced, including the creation of an environmental organization with powers analogous to that of the World Trade Organization. Such an organization could consolidate the different environmental secretariats and UNEP, creating one organization responsible for ensuring the implementation and enforcement of environmental treaties.

If a binding set of principles existed, a World Environmental Organization could also resolve environmental disputes more efficiently than can the current processes. Less ambitious, and perhaps more realistic in the short term, would be to strengthen the growing number of regional environmental institutions that are being established to manage shared natural resources.

Frontiers | Environmental Sciences in the Twenty-First Century | Frontiers in Environmental Science

For example, the International Joint Commission between the U. Regional fisheries management organizations are also emerging in many areas of the world and have been given potentially strong enforcement powers under recently negotiated global fisheries agreements. The concept of sustainable development requires the integration of environmental concerns into the fields of international trade, investment, and finance. Since the Earth Summit, environmentalists have made significant advances. Environmental issues are now legitimate concerns for discussion at such organizations as the World Bank and the WTO.

Indeed most of the international financial institutions, e. Even the IMF has created an environmental unit albeit thus far with only one person. Despite these policy and staffing advances, the successful practical integration of the environment and the global economy lags far behind. The approach of the international financial institutions IFIs continues to emphasize mitigating environmental impacts from poorly designed and inappropriate projects, rather than finding ways to proactively promote environmentally sustainable development.


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More importantly, the IFIs and trade institutions have not fundamentally reconsidered their general approach to building a global economy in light of the constraints implied by the concept of sustainable development. As a result, these institutions have failed to reduce significantly their adverse impact on the global environment.

Global Financial Architecture and the Environment. In light of the role that foreign capital flight played in precipitating the Asian and Russian economic crises, an increasing number of people have begun to question the dominant global economic prescription offered by the IMF and the World Bank. This prescription has long been promoted by the U. Department of Treasury as a critical component of U. As these capital investments have increasingly become short-term and speculative, the social utility of protecting capital flows is increasingly questionable.

Protecting the rights of countries to impose capital controls, particularly on short-term investments, may be critical for ensuring both long-term stability and increased benefits from natural resources for local people. Over the past decade, environmentalists have also shown that the IFIs frequently saddle developing countries with loan conditions that increase the pressures on natural resource exploitation with devastating environmental consequences.

Among other things, these structural adjustment policies SAPs significantly increase the rate of forest harvesting, mining, and fishery harvests. While these SAPs are increasing natural resource exploitation, many governments are also being directed to reduce public spending, including funds for environmental protection and natural resource management. To make matters worse, large structural adjustment loan packages heap additional debt onto already heavily indebted countries. But the United States must take a much greater leadership role in prodding the World Bank and the IMF to make broader and deeper cuts in developing country debt.

Such a step could help alleviate the pressures on low-income countries to exploit their environments in order to service their foreign debts. Greening International Trade. Negotiated by the outgoing Bush administration, NAFTA originally avoided addressing the environmental or labor aspects of free trade. Despite occasional promises to the contrary, free trade has become the paramount value driving most U.


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Lost is the balanced goal of integrating environment and trade as pronounced at the Earth Summit and subsequently in the environmental side agreement to NAFTA. Ultimately, the problem may be that liberalizing trade and investment is too often viewed as a positive goal in its own right.

Lost is any critical analysis of whether such liberalization always leads to improvements in human welfare and quality of life. Goals such as environmental protection, human rights, and social equity—which are arguably more closely linked to human welfare than is liberalized trade—have been relegated to the back seat during the drive toward free trade. Only by honestly evaluating the environmental and social impact of liberalizing trade and investment, sector by sector, can we determine whether expansion or contraction of the world trade system is more likely to lead to a sustainable future.

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Thus the United States should support calls by environmentalists for a thorough analysis of the impacts of current trade policies on environmental sustainability before supporting any expansion of liberalized trade and investment policies. Respecting Global Environment Agreements. IFIs and trade institutions also need to do a better job of mainstreaming concerns about the environment into their day-to-day operations. This general issue is highlighted by the way in which these institutions relate to the multilateral environmental agreements for example, the climate change regime or the Montreal Protocol with respect to ozone depletion.

The IFIs have yet to prohibit funding projects that exacerbate the very same problems that these global environmental regimes are meant to address. Overseas Private Investment Corporation OPIC has recently adopted a hopeful approach, announcing that it would not finance any projects that are inconsistent with certain international environmental obligations—for example, projects that use ozone-depleting substances controlled by the Montreal Protocol, projects that manufacture certain toxic chemicals, or projects affecting sites listed under the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.

Yet OPIC continues to finance projects that have a significant negative impact on the climate system. Similarly, the WTO still struggles with how to dovetail international trade law with international environmental agreements—although in a recent decision, a WTO dispute panel did agree that international environmental agreements should be taken into account when deciding an international trade dispute.

Balancing Investment Rights with Privileges. In promoting broad investment agreements, such as the proposed Multilateral Agreement on Investment MAI , the United States and other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development OECD countries are trying to formalize into international law a reduction in the power of national and local governments to control the environmental and social impacts of foreign investment. Sovereign nations should be able to retain the right to regulate how foreign investors operate in their territory and to determine the extent to which local people should be given preferential treatment with respect to local resources.

Although this may in some cases lead to reduced environmental protection, ensuring that local people benefit from natural resource exploitation is not only fair but, in the long run, will likely lead to more sustainable development. Although transnational corporations often operate in developing countries with higher environmental standards than do local companies, transnationals typically follow lower standards than they practice at home. Adhering to lower standards in developing countries raises serious questions of equity and competitiveness. To minimize the impact of lower standards abroad, the United States should ban the export of domestically prohibited technologies and goods and should impose minimum environmental standards on U.

The United States should also provide fair and equal judicial access to foreign citizens and communities harmed by environmental damage caused by U. Greening Technology Transfers. Many of these opportunities for environmental investments are being created or stimulated by international and domestic law. For example, the Kyoto Protocol under the climate change regime now requires a reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions in industrial countries, which may in turn create a massive new market for renewable and efficient energy technologies.

Transferring these green technologies to developing countries should be a priority of both U. Such lending should be earmarked for shifting societies to appropriate, nonpolluting technologies and not simply for improving the efficiencies of fundamentally unsustainable technologies, such as coal-fired power plants or nuclear reactors. Perhaps the most promising development for protecting the global environment since the Earth Summit is the rise of a global environmental movement. The number of environmental nongovernmental organizations NGOs addressing international issues, particularly in developing countries, has exploded in recent years, as has their capacity to build networks, gather and analyze technical information, and gain the attention of key policymakers.

Virtually every country has at least one environmental NGO, many of which actively seek to collaborate with their colleagues from other countries.

The Internet, in particular, provides a vast opportunity for forming and maintaining global networks, sharing information and experiences, and coordinating international lobbying efforts. In this regard, the most important developments are not in the formation of permanent federations or groups of formal networks but in the ability of temporary networks and campaigns to form, adapt, and dissolve readily.

This dynamic process allows for concentrated efforts through new and changing alliances that focus on specific issues. It allows coordinated action in many different countries around the same issue, with little need for expensive infrastructure or costly planning meetings.

50 grand challenges for the 21st Century

Success often depends as much on internal diplomacy—the ability to maintain the interest of a large number of NGOs through the use of information technology—as on any external communication strategy. In the Internet world, NGOs may have a slight advantage over corporations in that the informality of the NGO community helps in conducting business through the Internet, and trust can build quickly among NGOs with shared goals and vision.

Protecting Unrestricted Citizen Access to the Internet. Effective Internet use by citizen movements has not gone unnoticed by those who benefit from isolating civil society. Given recent pronouncements by several countries,—including Russia and Vietnam—about restricting or monitoring international Internet communication, and given the ongoing discussions by U.

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Democratizing International Environmental Law. Traditionally only nation-states have had the right to participate in the making, interpretation, and implementation of international law.