Our current global reality consists of social, political, financial and environmental networks that permeate national borders, creating opportunities for effective collaboration, as well as violent conflict. It follows that managing interactions created through globalization demands an analysis of good governance that reaches far beyond state governments. This is particularly relevant when addressing environmental global governance, in which every man, woman and child at all levels of society has a vested interest in the outcomes; “the environment impacts human survival, well-being and dignity – all aspects of human security” (Khagram, Clark & Raad, 2003, p. 294). Weiss discusses global governance in the context of the dependence and intensification of economic and political ties: “with the increasing diffusion of authority and a corresponding loss of control, states and the intergovernmental organisations created by them are no longer always the only or even the most important players on the world stage” (Weiss, 2000, p. 810). Therefore, creating, developing, applying and adjusting an effective and ethical global governance model that can oversee environmental policy worldwide, requires contributors, implementers and evaluators at every level of society.
Timeline and Key Actors of Environmental Global Governance
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Programme and World Meteorological Association. IPCC assessments are the “scientific underpinning[s] of international negotiations” (UNFCCC, 2015) addressing the environment, while also providing leadership on extreme event and disaster management. The 1992 Rio Climate Change Summit saw near universal signatories (196 countries) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), and it was adopted in 1994. The world’s first greenhouse gas emissions reduction treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, went into effect in 1997, with ratification in 2001, but only entering into force in 2005 with the long-awaited ratification by the Russian Federation (The Climate Group, 2015). An annual series of global panels on climate change have followed, leading to a common goal of reducing global warming by 2°C (COP21, 2015), a measurement which is wrought with difficulties, not the least of which is an unclear pathway, an absence of accountability measures, and an outcome which is extremely challenging to measure.
In the discussion that followed the 2012 Rio Summit, nine major areas were identified that needed to be addressed for the well-being of all, which one could argue is the ideal result of good global governance. Three of them make direct reference to the environment, identifying the need for addressing green economies, environmental problems, ecosystem disturbances, as well as food, water, climate and energy issues (Jan-Gustav Strandenaes Stakeholder Forum, 2014).
There is a broad acceptance that a wide range of civil, financial, corporate and governmental agencies need to be involved to guarantee the effective governance of the environment. A diverse range of civil society groups have taken an active role in accessing and participating in global processes, creating frameworks to ensure environmental global governance is “transparent, accountable and effective” (WEDO, 2015). Khagram, et al. (2003) highlight the multilateral approach necessary to achieve good global governance in the environmental sector. “Community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations, social movements, professional scientific and technical associations, private sector firms, religious groups and others that are considered part of civil society – at various level from the local to the global, are often champions for positive change” (Khagram, et al., 2003, p. 304).
The Paris Summit - December 2015
A major goal of the UN Paris Summit is to create climate change protocol or legal instruments applicable to all parties of the UNFCCC. “The stakes are high: the aim is to reach, for the first time, a universal, legally binding agreement that will enable us to combat climate change effectively and boost the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies” (COP21, 2015, para. 3). It is a daunting task, as the parties of the FCCC forces are aiming to create a framework for the overall plan including, mitigation, adaptation, technology and economics of addressing climate change (COP21, 2015). And there has been colossal failure in the past. The Copenhagen Summit in 2009 was viewed worldwide as little more than resulting in an agreement to agree in the future; it was a marked failure of the current environmental global governance community to take real action against climate change (Vidal, Strattan & Goldenberg, 2009).
Canada's Commitment and the Complexities of Environmental Global Governance
The 2013 UN climate conference saw Elizabeth May, a recognized advocate of the environment, Canadian Green Party leader and opposition MP, joining the Afghanistan delegation because then Prime Minister Harper disallowed her (and other MPs) from joining the Canadian delegation (Bryden, 2015). Thankfully, we have quickly turned that corner. Our new government, led by Justin Trudeau, is including Elizabeth May and other women leaders in the Paris Summit talks (Bryden, 2015). These fluctuations, however, are a clear demonstration that even democratic and economically advanced nations struggle with good governance and allowing women leaders to contribute and participate in an equitable and open way. Multiply that complexity by 196 national signatories to the IPCC, millions of economic, cultural, religious and social scenarios, and it is easy to see why finding common environmental ground has, to date, eluded us on a global scale.
In addition to ever-changing national leadership which inevitably results in varying levels and focus of funding and support, accountability and delegation of responsibility to the environment continues to be a central issue. Countries persist in diverting blame to others, near and far, and fail to meet internationally established environmental goals as outlined in the Kyoto Protocol. Or, they withdraw altogether, as was the case with Canada under Harper’s leadership. However, on a positive note, Trudeau is looking to take a strong stance at the Paris Summit so that “people know that Canada’s years of being a less-than-enthusiastic actor on the climate change file are behind us” (Bryden, 2015, para. 14).