Example International Relations Essay

International co-operation in Kyoto Protocol.

The environment started to beseen as a serious issue for some during the 1970's. Many politicians at thatpoint in time did not regard the environment as being an important issue,although the oil crisis of 1973 did make people think about pollution andresources. Concern for the environment was manly confined to ecologists and afew fringe environmental groups such as FOTE. However, greater scientificevidence of environmental damage that could seriously damage the future of theplanet placed the environment firmly on the global political agenda (Evans& Newnham, 1998, p.149). Although the environment got onto the politicalagenda it has not proved straightforward to gain fully internationalco-operation over taking meaningful measures to reverse or at least haltenvironmental damage. Effective co-operation has been delayed by the reluctanceof some countries to reduce their pollution levels, as it would mean loweringtheir prosperity like the United States. Also the resentment of third worldcountries that they should stop their economic development because the Westhave already used most of the global resources. There are issues concerning whoowns the remaining natural resources and who pays for the pollution that thatthey cause (Bannock, Baxter & Davis, 2003, p.120).

Ecological movements are notnew to the late 20th century and the early 21st centuryyet the amount of influence that environmentalists have is greater than ever.There were people and movements opposed to industrialisation due to its socialas well at its environmental impact (Eatwell & Wright, 2003, p.231).Ecological movements would usually have far more expansive plans for reversingenvironmental damage and would not be popular with political leaders, consumersand voters. Politicians rather than ecological movements almost alwaysdetermine the pace and direction of international co-operation on the environment.The ecological movements have won a partial victory in that the environmentlooks set to remain on the agenda indefinitely. The difficult part is to makesure that agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol are truly co-operative andeffective rather than just meaningless gimmicks by all governments that signedup to it (Eatwell & Wright, 2003, p.250).

It was probably nocoincidence that modern ecological movements emerged in the West during the1960s when growing affluence amongst the young middle classes allowed them thechance to think about the global economy and the impact that it had upon theglobal environment. In the 1960s many people if they thought about theenvironment at all assumed it meant nothing more or less than making the airand water clean (Hobsbawm, 1994, p. 262). The main political and economic tocapitalism, communism may have had different aims to its capitalist rivals yetit still aimed at rapid economic growth. Neither capitalism nor communism wereor are intended to be guardians of the environment. However growing knowledgeof the damage being caused to the environment would force countries toco-operate with each other especially after the fall of communism in Centraland Eastern Europe (Brown, 2002, p. 240). In the ever increasing consumptionof natural resources and increasing levels of pollution arguably intensifiedthe Global Warming problem and would mean that co-operation over theenvironment would become a major area of contention. For the instance theUnited States consumption of oil increased by 300 per cent between 1950 and thestart of the oil crisis in 1973. The highly ineffective factories of theSoviet Union produced almost as much as the United States for the production offar fewer goods (Hobsbawm, 1994, pp. 252-253).

Complacency about theenvironment started to be lifted during the 1970s eventually leading tointernational protocols to reduce pollution. The oil crisis of 1973 led tosome attempts to find alternatives to fossil fuels although it did nothing inthe long term to reduce oil consumption even if it did hurt the pockets ofWestern motorists and Third World governments. As the human populationcontinues to grow upwards of 6 billion plus beyond the use of resources andresulting pollution will grow (Nicholson, 1998, p.157). Environmental andecological movements started to make headway in Western Europe and NorthAmerica with concerns about acid rain, the emission of CFC's reducing the ozonelayer and most significantly global warming (Brown, 2001, p.252).

Global warming is now aconcern of most governments although they do not have an equal say as to thepolicies that should be pursued to stop or reverse the process. Rising sealevels are more of a threat to the Netherlands, parts of Britain or Bangladeshthan they are to the United States, Russia and China. The relative wealth ofthe Netherlands and Britain make their co-operation with the Kyoto Protocolthan that of Bangladesh. The exclusion of the United States, Russia and Chinaplus India would seriously damage the co-operation needed to make the KyotoProtocol near being effective (Nicholson, 1998, p.165).

It has been encouraging thathas been co-operation between governments over the environment. However thatco-operation has to be brought about by a process of negotiations andcompromises with little to force countries especially more powerful ones suchas the United States, Russia and China into agreeing to effective measures toprotect the environment. Aside from appealing to sense and reason there islittle way of enforcing measures agreed at the Kyoto Protocol or any otherenvironmental summit. The Kyoto Protocol, like its predecessor the Rio Earthsummit was the result of long drawn out talks similar in complexity to the GATTrounds or EU treaties or summits. Co-operation over the environment is often tothe minimum restrictions and measures that can be agreed rather than themaximum. The agreements over reducing CFC (chloroflurocarbons) emissions can beregarded as starting the process on international co-operation to slow downenvironmental damage although it amply demonstrated that politicians are onlywilling to take action once there is enough scientific of environmental damage.By that time much damage has already been done (Brown, 2002, p. 240).

The Rio Earth Summit wasintended to introduce measures and co-operation to tackle global warming on agreater scale. To a certain extent it succeeded in producing co-operation evenif it was hampered by the unwillingness of the Bush senior administration toagree to the most stringent measures that could have been agreed. The UnitedStates remains the world's largest individual polluting country yet itsgovernments are generally unwilling to jeopardise American living standards tosave the planet. The Bush senior administration did not however block theagreement at R as it could have done. The United States government came underpressure from other governments to take greater action yet did yield to it(Brown, 2002, p. 243).

Third World and developingcountries were not happy and remain unhappy that the United States does not domore to protect the environment as it gained most from the way that the globalenvironment operates (Nicholson, 1998, p.173). Other countries mainly in the EUand Scandinavia have been more active in seeing the environment as being ofvital importance and wished to go further that the agreements reached at Rio.The EU can play its part in protecting the environment as it can passlegislation and regulations that its member states have to conform to(McCormick, 2002, p.128).

EU states plus Australia andNew Zealand played their part in the Kyoto Protocol. Once again the UnitedStates proved reluctant to adopt tough measures. That reluctance was despitePresident Bill Clinton being keen on environmental issues. He was unwilling tocut American living standards and also realised that tough restriction wereunlikely to get through a Republican controlled Congress (Crystal, 2003, p.513).

Europeancountries such as Britain, France and Germany were unhappy about the lack ofUnited States support for the Kyoto Protocol. Tony Blair was especiallydisappointed as he expected Bill Clinton to have been more supportive of theKyoto Protocol and protecting the environment (Young, 2003, p.150). George WBush was even less willing for the United States to be constrained by any partsof the Kyoto Protocol. Indeed prior to the 9/11 attacks the bush administrationseemed cool to the idea of government co-operation most issues. Since 9/11 theUnited States government has been more interested in pursuing the war onterrorism rather than co-operation to uphold the Kyoto Protocol or protectingthe environment. The campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have done harm to theenvironment. The soaring oil prices seen after the invasion of Iraq may howeverboost the moves towards finding alternative fuels as much as any of the targetson reducing emissions agreed within the Kyoto Protocol would have done on theirown. OPEC countries seem far happier to cut oil production to maintain highprices, as it is not in their economic interests to co-operate with othercountries to reduce oil production. Such is the demand for oil that theconsumption does not decline even when prices are at record levels. Westerngovernments when talking with OPEC countries would rather get the oilproduction quotas raised than discuss co-operation towards reduced consumption(Evans and Newnham, 1998, p. 397).

The need forglobal co-operation to achieve the 5 per cent emission targets set out with theKyoto Protocol would seem to gathering with global warming seeming tocontribute to climate changes that are increasingly costly and dangerous(Crystal, 2003, p. 513). Climate changes have and will make floods anddroughts more common whilst lack of adequate food and water supplies willcontribute to greater instances of famine and severe poverty. Whilstcountries can take steps to avoid economic problems there is little they can doto stop a hurricane or tsunami. The costs of reducing pollution or improvingirrigation and building up flood protection high with no certainty that theywill be successful (Eatwell and Wright, 2003, p. 251). There was large-scaleinternational co-operation to help the Asian countries devastated by thetsunami of December 2004. Countries can only hope that such disasters areconfined to unpopulated or lightly populated areas to keep death anddestruction to a minimum. Aside from such hopes countries can increase theirlevels of co-operation by encouraging recycling, energy and water conservationschemes to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

Thereforealthough the Kyoto Protocol was a sign of global co-operation to start reducingpollution and trying to make the global environment safer it has had itslimitations. The failure of the United States to co-operate with the processmeans that the world's greatest polluter is not taking active steps to helpprotect the environment. Perhaps that might change depending on who succeedsGeorge W Bush to the presidency. Not every country has signed up to the KyotoProtocol and of those that did not all have ratified it. Should the currenthigh oil prices continue there maybe co-operation to find alternative fuels thatare cheaper and possibly cause less pollution. Some countries are morecommitted to co-operation in order to protect the environment. The memberstates of the EU are formerly aiming towards sustainable development and theemission reductions agreed to as part of the Kyoto Protocols.

Theselfishness of the United States and other countries that fail to co-operate toreduce environmental damage will come back to haunt us all and leave a terriblelegacy to our descendants to deal with its full consequences. However the RioEarth Summit and the Kyoto Protocols have provided a framework for globalco-operation that needs to be built upon. Perhaps global co-operation could beincreased through the auspices of the United Nations and aided by scientificevidence of the urgent need to act now. People should also consider acting onan individual and community basis to conserve and protect the environment asbest they could by recycling and conserving water and energy.

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