After Authority: War, Peace, and Global Politics in the 21st Century (Suny Series in Global Politics)

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As a result, the international order is unable to respond to the challenges of interdependence, which increasingly demand global governance. As detailed in section three, the demands of the Anthropocene can only be effectively, efficiently and equitably addressed when most of the major actors in the international system make the transition to post-sovereign identities. This movement implies abandoning, among other issues, the common discourse and practice in global environmental forums of dividing the world into two single categories: developed and developing countries.

Environmental politics and international regimes: managing sustainability in the Holocene. The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, held in Stockholm in , is recurrently considered by literature as the event that marks the entry of environmental issues on the international agenda. In the following pages, we address this process in two ways: the contribution of the major conferences in building an environmental civilizational consensus and the creation of formal international regimes for the management of specific environmental problems.

The Stockholm Conference, held under the auspices of the United Nations UN , was convened in the late s, reflecting growing concern about the negative environmental externalities of economic activity, mainly in industrialized countries. Stockholm was particularly relevant because of the articulation of an unprecedented statement on the challenge that humanity faced in its relationship with the surrounding environment and future generations.


Accordingly, Principle 1 of the Conference Declaration stated that:. Man has the fundamental right to freedom, equality and adequate conditions of life, in an environment of a quality that permits a life of dignity and well-being, and he bears a solemn responsibility to protect and improve the environment for present and future generations.

As a prelude to what would happen over the next four decades, countries expressed differing positions regarding the relevance and responsibility for the management of environmental problems MCCORMICK, In general, the developed countries - led by the USA and the countries of Northern Europe - operated as reformist powers, while the rest of the world formed a vast conservative coalition - the entire communist bloc, the so-called Third World and, some developed countries.

The next major international environmental summit was the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro, better known as the Rio Summit. These included the limitation of population growth and energy consumption, the protection of ecosystems, the rational consumption of water and food and the use of clean technologies in the industrialization processes of non-industrialized countries. In , the United Nations General Assembly convened a conference to assess the environmental situation in the two decades following the Stockholm Summit.

Ronnie Lipschutz

The resulting meeting - Rio 92 - was the highest point in terms of cooperative management of global environmental assets in the Holocene. It should be noted that the positive outcome of Rio 92 was influenced by the increase in cooperative tendencies in the international system following the collapse of the Soviet communist bloc and the consequent deactivation of the Cold War bipolar conflict LEIS; VIOLA, However, countries showed strong divisions regarding the centrality and distribution of responsibilities for environmental management.

As in the past, the main driver of dissent was associated with the degree of economic development: on the one hand, the United States, Canada, the EU and Japan promoted greater efforts in environmental protection, while almost all low- and middle-income countries rejected this agenda and emphasized the priority of development needs. Finally, and although it is correct to affirm that the political response generated by the Conference was below the demands of the scientific communities, the advance of the environmental agenda was undeniable and remarkable LE PRESTRE, The story was different at the following conferences.

In both Johannesburg and Rio de Janeiro , the international community was unable to move forward with legally binding mechanisms to manage environmental problems, even when the scientific community gave clear evidence of the worsening global situation.

The Domestic Analogy Revisited: Hobbes on International Order

However, when the failure inevitable in many cases because of the lowest common denominator characterizing the UN system i becomes present, the negotiating establishment that previously promised a solution goes on to argue - with an excuse - that, although there has been no progress in that specific meeting, the foundations were laid for concrete progress at the next conference. As stated in another work:. This industry of conferences is profoundly negative, because it not only does not contribute to the solution of problems, but it creates the fiction that its ineffectiveness is only temporary and not structural, hindering the emergence of other potentially more appropriate governance instances.

I believe that the text was a great success for the international community. However, it is possible to make a different - and profoundly negative - assessment of the outcome of the Summit. Firstly, the Conference had a less ambitious agenda than its reference, as there was no intention to negotiate legally binding instruments. Another relevant agenda item - the creation of a specific international environmental institution - also failed and even an update of the modest UNEP was not possible. The international community was remiss in refusing to discuss the critical situation of the planetary boundaries, dangerously omitting the evidence presented by the scientific community.

Even climate change, the best-known boundary in terms of causes and potential effects, did not enter the core of discussions. The issue was deliberately excluded at the initiative of the Brazilian government, which perceived in it a risk of obstructing any consensus. This maneuver was agreed by almost the entire international community with the clear exception of the European Union led by Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the Nordic countries , which preferred to avoid the inconvenient discussion of the main problem facing humanity, so as not to risk a failed summit.

What is GLOBAL POLITICS? What does GLOBAL POLITICS mean? GLOBAL POLITICS meaning & explanation

From this particular point of view, the strategy was successful, since there was an agreed final document, but whose content is nothing more than a reproduction of the diffuse consensus on environmental matters that humanity reached 20 years ago when the evidence of systemic disruption of the planet was marginal. But also the biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction BBNJ agenda. For the latter, a mandate for an ad hoc working group was established. The main way the international community found to cooperate in environmental issues in the last quarter of the 20th century was through the signing of International Treaties.

Strictly speaking, regimes are a system of rules set out in an international treaty between governments, which regulate the actions of the various actors on the issue. In the broad sense, environmental regimes are also considered to be a technological and cultural driver that influences the interests and identities of actors for the cooperative protection of a global common.

Using here the first strict definition, we list and analyze the main IERs, organized according to planetary boundary:. As for the other planetary boundaries, the international community has not yet generated regimes to administer them. In relation to freshwater scarcity, even if recognized as a relevant boundary by the international community, the World Water Forum is far from meeting the minimum requirements for its sustainable management.

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Other fundamental problems related to the management of a safe space for humanity - land-use change with dramatic soil losses, nitrogen and phosphorus cycle, other types of chemical pollution and atmospheric aerosol loads - are not yet considered relevant to the international agenda, and their management is therefore limited to actions at regional, national and local levels.

The negligence of the international community in addressing these issues is evidence of the limits of current international environmental management structures, as explored below. The development of international environmental policy in the Holocene had the virtue of bringing the subject to the center of the international agenda, having stimulated a civilizational consensus in relation to environmental protection, and having constructed a variety of institutional instruments to deal with specific problems. However, the final balance has been negative in terms of building cooperation instances and extremely negative cooperative if one considers the distance between these institutions and the requirements of stability of the Earth System defined by science.

This general limitation is expressed in three main forms:. The environment is a new issue on the agenda of international relations, with a presence of just four decades in multilateral fora. However, this presence is less prominent than that of other classic topics of international politics such as defense, security, and economics. For most societies, environmental issues are largely contradictory to developmental trajectories, and their demands may be abandoned or mitigated if economic growth or security threats demand it.

Conversely, only some societies - such as the Scandinavian countries and Germany - place environmental management as a constituent element of their economic and political development. The positive fact is that the reformist forces are advancing in most countries and in the international arena - in public opinion, civil society, the market and, governmental and administrative bodies - albeit at an insufficient speed to substantially mitigate the conservative inertia.

This empirical picture is reproduced in a relatively analogous way in the academic field of IR, since most of the departments and specialists consider the environmental issue as marginal, that is, not central to understanding the basic dynamics of cooperation and conflict that characterize the international system.

However, there has been a progressive expansion of the number of scientific pieces devoted to international environmental issues, as well as the number of specialists in the subfield. At the same time, there has been an increase in the proportion of internationalists who consider certain problems of the global environment - particularly climate change - to be fundamental, even though it is not their main area of research.

International environmental politics has basically been that, a set of agreements and understandings among nation-states. This does not mean that non-state actors have not had an impact on the construction of these instruments; on the contrary, it is possible to argue that the environmental has been one of the areas of IR where there is a higher level of agency among these actors. However, the negotiation, signature, and implementation of environmental management instruments are almost exclusively the responsibility of the States as they establish the normative, political and bureaucratic frameworks for the respective actions.

States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental and developmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areasbeyond the limits of national jurisdiction. Ultimately, the management of environmental commons under this rigid Interstate system becomes extremely limited, due to the intrinsically selfish character of the Westphalian project, based on individual state identities, the satisfaction of the self-interest of states and the propensity to view international relations as a field of conflicting rather than cooperative interaction.

This logic has been partly mitigated in the last two decades, with examples of successful environmental governance by other actors, following a well-known path of power diffusion in the international system NYE, Examples include sub-national entities, such as the State of California in relation to the problem of climate change, or private actors, such as Wal-Mart and Microsoft in relation to demanding high environmental standards for their suppliers. However, as already stated, the growth rate of this type of experience is insufficient to guarantee a new equilibrium in the Earth System.

The recurrent modus operandi for the establishment of international environmental regimes IERs has been the negotiation and signature of an international convention - which operates as the general regulatory framework - which is then complemented by protocols that set out the concrete measures to be implemented by the Member States. Within this design, the instruments tend to focus on a specific issue - such as biodiversity, climate change, desertification or persistent organic pollutants POPs - with little reference to other areas of international relations, and even the environmental area itself.

It is not difficult to see the limitations of this type of approach to deal with the problems of the Anthropocene, since the interaction among planetary boundaries demands not only to update and integrate the different international environmental regimes but also to assimilate them as a civilization al driver. This conception based on issue areas has also been recurrent in the literature of International Relations. As for the first point, concentration on specific and separate areas creates artificial boundaries between actors, ideas, and solutions.

As the previous pages suggest, the fundamental premise of this article is that the governance of the Anthropocene will be the main challenge facing societies and the social sciences particularly International Relations, Political Science, Economics, and Law in the first half of the 21st century. In this sense, the central obstacle to the development of effective global governance mechanisms lies in the fact that the institutions - international and domestic - created over the last decades do not reflect the deep level of interdependence among societies.

Transcending this limit implies profound changes in behavior, both individually and collectively. In this segment, we analyze these necessary transformations from the perspective of the International Relations. In this way, the concepts - and associated practices - of prosperity, security, growth, equity, justice, freedom, peace and democracy must be reformulated to include the safe operating space for humanity as the ultimate reference. The concrete examples of these developments will be detailed in the following pages, but mainly involve: an operational definition of a low-carbon green economy; the adoption of the planetary boundaries framework by major international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization WTO , the International Monetary Fund IMF and the World Bank; the progressive abandonment of planned obsolescence in the business cycle PACKARD, ; and the evolution towards political systems in which the debate on the safe operating space for humanity is consider as relevant as economic growth or freedom.

Table of Contents

In terms of the international system, the most structural of the transformations is the progressive abandonment of sovereignty as the archetypal pattern of state behaviour. Sovereign forces are those who consider that their national state should not cede powers to supranational structures and do not admit external interference in the internal affairs of countries, particularly in reference to themselves.

Post-sovereign forces have already accepted or are willing to accept power transfers to supranational structures and consider that the internal affairs of all countries are susceptible to interference. In general, democracy acts as a necessary condition for post-sovereignty, while large countries in terms of population, economy, and territory tend to be sovereignist.

Similarly, the perception of strategic-military threats tends to hinder the development of post-sovereign logics. In the first case, a given actor avoids paying for the costs of providing a common good - say, the stability of the atmosphere - by waiting for other actors to pay that cost, resulting in generalized inertia.

The International Framework in the 21st Century

Currently, among the major players in the international system, only the EU is openly willing to cede powers to supranational bodies, followed by Japan and South Korea with more ambiguous positions.