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Obstacles to Preventing States from Reaching Agreements in International Environmental Problems

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: International Relations
Wordcount: 3002 words Published: 24th Nov 2020

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Discuss this claim with reference to TWO environmental problems.

In this essay I will discuss the claim ‘There are significant obstacles that prevent states from reaching agreements to address international environmental problems’, with reference to two environmental problems featured in Block 2 (DD319, 2019). There will be a discussion of the key international policy responses to these global environmental problems, trade in endangered species and trade in hazardous wastes. Where I talk about both sides of the issue being covered. They will follow in the same pattern as above.

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Now I will cover the general concepts and models that agree with the central claim above. These include the Collective Action problem where a problem that arises when a country’s aims cannot be achieved by an individual action alone. It requires a multinational resolution, this is usually where major contention points start to occur. Game theory is the active modelling of scenarios in which interacting elements of the subject matter produce outcomes with respect to the preferences and/or goods of those agents, where the outcomes are improbable. They open new routes. International Anarchy is a removal of a governing body and of the strong-arming actions to uphold collective resolutions. Globally this parallels to the absence of a global collective entity. Then there are States’ self-interests, where states act in their own interests that may fall with or against other competing states. The Prisoners’ Dilemma (PD) is a subsection of game theory. Here the PD models two rational actors making individual choices. Neither actor knows the decisions that the other is taking. The outcome is decided by the combined decisions of both actors. The Prisoners’ Dilemma illustrates how individually rational choices can lead to outcomes that are collectively irrational. The Prisoners’ Dilemma can be applied to issues on a multilateral scale. Followed by the ongoing constraints of scientific uncertainty where scientists are uncertain about unproved issues giving rise to the certainty of uncertainty and economic doubt where nations are uncertain about their economic future and the value attributed to international actions in the long term. Where the actual value is greater than the perceived value. (All models and concepts are referenced from Jehlička, P. et al, 2019) I will return to these concepts and models in the course of the essay.

Nations managed to form agreements? In multiple cases through compromise. In some cases creating a convention albeit voluntary, then manipulating and interpreting the terms to meet their nations needs. In this essay we will meet conflicts as obstacles and show in discussion how they are overcome. Usually through identifying a global problem, with help from epistemic communities and watch groups. Be it species extinction or grand effects f illegal dumping of hazardous wastes. Coing  together to make a global convention. Obstacles being that the convention was crated to cover traded goods, in view of proecction of the sources and destinations. The good in question provided a revenue stream during a time of economic downturn. The cash in hand was more valuable than the appraised value. 

National interests How states’ interests diverge, are formed and transformed and how bargaining between states, and change in national interests, produce international environmental agreements

Contention over knowledge and values. How knowledge (particularly the role of epistemic communities) and values (relating to the value of nature and intra- and intergenerational equity) frame problems as well as their solutions. With edangeredd species

Contention over sustainability and development. How different views as to the appropriate relationship between sustainability and development are shaped by uneven development between industrialised and developing countries, and how these are accommodated in international agreements which involve both groups of countries

The issues are inextricably conjoined.  the trade in endangered species are secondly the national and international conservation attempts in the Prevention of selective endangered species by proceedings to counter extinction. This is a minefield at both levels. Here nations have made routes of protection ranging from national parks, breeding in captivity and trade sanctions. A major problem is the global migration patterns of wildlife, and because the ecosystems essential for a species’ survival often cross the borders between countries, species protection policies will require multilateral cooperation. I would argue that relevant nations would need to set up a policing strategy to keep numbers in check. 

The first key issue is to how counter Illegal trade in endangered species. This is of course, much harder to come to a collective consensus on. Trade has indirect and direct effects on species protection. Direct being removal of native species form ecosystem. Indirect being trade that enables routes of value, that propagate abusive incentivisation outside of the protective scope. Hence the creation of CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES, 2008). Its policy dictates that assigned nations must appoint an informed Scientific Authority to advise on related species trading activities. A major problem with CITES is that is it singular in its protective powers, localising on singular species in its appendixes as oppose to entire environments. National management problems are not included in its remit. Once a species is elected to CITES, nations have stark opinions on their attributed value to them, leading to controversy. Another obstacle. CITES itself was created as a resolution to a collective action problem on a global scale, principally as international trade was seen to be a contributing factor to endangered species existence.  For a long time a large part of a nations economy evolved around mass hunting of a certain species up to a point of extinction. In order for this to cease occurring again, nations agreed to work together. However. the central counter argument for this is that each convention is open to interpretation. So, with CITES trade can continue only if it does not threaten the overall species survival.  In the case of African nations making the case that trading in ivory leveraged FOREX inclusive of funds generated being cycled back to conserve the makers of the ivory. This seems ludicrous, effectively the actions of nations involved in bilateral trade would reap the benefits. Here a trade ban was put in place, but with a caveat. Selective trade could continue, but only in the interests of science.

For this case we will look at te popuations of the African elepnant. Whos population fell as a result of poaching and smuggling of their tusks. The population continued to drop as CITES took is time to deliberate on the issue. Here nations self interests came into play. The southern african nations saw value in the tusks of elephants. Their trade partner wanted the supply to meet the demand. Whilst the east African nations saw value of the elephant as a whole, inclusive of its place maintaining the local enviromnemt. Their allies calling for an outright ban on trade with full protection. The long term gambit they placed resulted in financial gains in the safari tourism industry, to which adds to the economies of many African nations. By framing the scenario to look outwards. The nations were able to come to an agreement. That satisfied all, for the moment. 

Although a convention was conveined illegal trade continues to be a major global prob;em. As is seen by the constant work of global conservation parties, like ZSL and WWF. 

All issues involve value-based conflicts dependant on the  points of view  of people and their involvement with the environment as well as the varied approaches to intragenerational and intergenerational equity evaluate different, often competing,

However as seen in CITES above developing countries who have often lagged on issues of policy for the greater good of themselves, are actively in contention against constricting of environmental controls. In the case of hazardous wastes, developing countries are endorsers of controls contending for stringent action on a global level.

The central obstacle rotates around nomaclature. What is identified as hazerdous waste, inc;lusive of what it constitutes. Namely these are liquids, solids or gases which are harmful to human health or to the environment, that are not utilised in the entire manufacturing process. Conversely the waste umbrella term includes reclycables, packaging and single use products. Ranging from food to computer products.

The international politics of hazardous wastes have centred around the econometric and monetary concerns around this trade. 

Most such waste is produced by the industrialised countries and most is disposed of domestically. Of exported waste, 90 per cent is hazardous wastes, which are mostly traded between industrialised countries (UNEP, 2007, p. 319).

The Basel Convention, as initially agreed, was based on the system of prior and informed consent. It stipulated that trade in hazardous wastes would be illegal to countries with less advanced storage and disposal facilities unless the importing country was provided with detailed information on the shipment and gave its consent to it. However, the Convention also had limitations, including restrictions as to which substances would be counted as hazardouswastes, and it made no provision for liability. The latter meant that if exports did not meet the Convention’s stipulations, or occurred illegally, there was no provision to make the exporting country liable for the exported waste or any of its negative effects.

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The agreement fundamentally reflected the industrialised countries’ negotiating power – they were in a position where, without a treaty, they would be able to find developing countries willing to receive hazardous wastes. They could therefore present the African countries with a choice of either a treaty based on prior and informed consent, or no treaty at all. However, the African countries did not simply accept the Convention as the last word on the subject, and pursued two further routes. One was to fashion an agreement among themselves to ban imports of hazardous wastes. One of the features of the problem, from the African countries’ point of view, was that they were in something akin to a PrisonersDilemma. Even if they all knew that a ban on waste imports would deliver a collectively socially optimal outcome by avoiding the negative environmental and health effects of such dumping, there were strong financial incentives for individual countries to cheat and import waste. At a time of crippling economic hardship in Africa in the late 1980s, the attractions of increased foreign exchange earnings were significant. One response to this situation was African countries’ creation of the Bamako Convention on the Ban of the Import into Africa and the Control of Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within Africa, agreed under the auspices of the Organisation of African Unity (now the African Union (AU)). Signed by twelve African countries in January 1991, the Bamako Convention banned all imports of hazardous wastes into those African countries which signed it

(Figure 6.7). It came into force in 1998 and by 2017 twenty-five countries had ratified the Convention (Bamako Convention, 1991; UNEP 2017). Although the industrialised states opposed the move, particular attention was focused on bans on materials intended for recycling. Here the definitions of ‘waste’ mentioned at the beginning of this section became particularly important. Whereas the industrialised countries sought to retain trade in ‘recyclables’, Greenpeace released research showing that much hazardous waste was traded by being falsely labelled as ‘recyclable’

(Chasek et al., 2006). In the end, the G77 won the argument and passed an amendment to the Basel Convention in 1994. What became known as the ‘Ban Amendment’ stipulates a ban on trade in hazardous wastes, including recyclable waste, between countries listed in Annexe VII of the Convention (mainly the OECD countries, the EU and Lichtenstein) and non-Annexe VII countries (Basel Action Network, 2006).

Second, the fact that the debate has operated around this axis is itself a reflection of the influence of particular political claims about what is right and equitable in relations between the developing and developed worlds. That is, policy differences rest on different, underlying ethical judgements.Let us now tease out two linked aspects of the issue through anexamination of a notorious document which surfaced around the time.You might have various reactions to this memo. Most often it seems toprovoke something close to outrage, especially in those who considerthemselves to be concerned about issues of development, human rightsand international justice.

The dominant view of industrialised countries was that, as long as certain safeguards were in place (such as prior and informed consent), then it made economic sense to have trade in hazardous wastes between industrialised and developing countries. One policy response is to estimate their social cost and for government to create market regulations which force these costs to be included within market transactions. This approach takes a particular view of the social place of the environment: as something that can be valued economically. The issue of appropriate policy response is precisely the point around which debates within the Basel Convention turn: whether to ban tradeoutright or ensure it continues under changed regulations. the cost of disposing of hazardous wastes is higher in industrialised countries than in developing countries for a variety of reasons: because wages arehigher in industrialised countries, so health-related days off work costmore to the economy;

The task of reaching agreements on these and other crucial issues will remain difficult as processes of uneven development continue to reshape states’ interests and values, and the costs and benefits of action and inaction.

To colclude we have discussed how states have attempted to tackle obstacles through attempts to regulate international policy via cooperation. As can be seen with the contention points related to trade in endangered species, they are often interlinked. Hence the obstacles are comparable in these cases. The same can be said of the trade of hazardeous wastes. One obstacle stems from another.

To answer the question, why have we not been successful in dealing with the issues and arguments? The answer is not so simple. It extenuates from our thought process, every one of us holds a unique point of view. Respectively nations act the same way in negotiations. Epistemic communities that hold a collective view are often used to amplify a percieved notion. The concepts and models helped to understand the issues in question, by unravelling the obstacles and seeing both sides of the coin. In doing so some issues are inextricably conjoined. 

Retrospecctivesly ow the nations overcame the obatacles are very similar. They show that using thetricks of the trade, they were ablee to get their desired outcome for a short term. They effectively framed their issue using new knowledge and present it to gain a new outcome.


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