Climate change and international regimes

Ayesha Khattak ArticleClimate change does not respect border; it does not respect who you are – rich and poor, small and big. Therefore, this is what we call ‘global challenges,’ which require global solidarity. -Ban Ki-moon

Climate change is the change in weather patterns, weather conditions or the time variations of weather, and the change lasts for a lengthy time period. The term climate change as we hear today is not the creation of this century but in fact its first appearance dates back to 18th century with the invention of the steam engine in 1712- paving way for the industrial revolution. As the days went by, the enormous growth in industrialization took place, the increased technological development, interaction between the states with an urge of economic growth via industrial means- these factors together with many others lead to the competition among the leading states with the effect that the developed states grew more and more economically strong leaving the developing states indulged in the race of perpetual development. Hence now the entire globe is in active participation to contribute to climate change- some on the leap forward of economic boom while others already developed, craving to reach the economic pinnacle. Thus this seems a never ending story of ‘competition of all against all’ resulting in the menace of climate change. The possible workout for this menace of climate change could be the ‘International Regimes’, regime as defined by Krasner – “a specialized arrangement that pertain well-defined activities, explicit or implicit principles, norms, rules, decision making procedures around which actors’ expectations converge in a given area of international relations.”

The competition among states has grown even tougher, now it’s not just the race of developed countries but the developing countries are also giving a heads up to rapid industrialization. The adverse effects on environment and climate began with the burning coal and oil, fossil fuel burning, carbon dioxide emission, deforestation and then the greenhouse effect which is a matter of real concern- now the major concern is of the world today.

The wave of environmental activity served as a stepping stone for the regime of climate change when a hole in ozone layer was discovered. It all began with the focus on local, intense and relatively reversible forms of pollution such as oil spills and dumping of hazardous wastes at sea- by regulating particular pollutants, but the most recent cycle of climate change activity is concerned with the long term, irreversible global threats such as such as depletion of ozone layer, loss of biological diversity and ecosystem, water shortages and greenhouse warming- the focus together with environmental protection has shifted more towards the more general economic and social policies required to achieve sustainable development.

Climate change is an issue that not only affects the contributors but also the non-contributors. This planet is shared by all of us and so is the environment, any change caused in the environment will not only affect the section which contributes to it but the entire globe- whether it is contributors or non-contributors. Likewise, if internationally only the developed states are contributing to the climate change then the effects of it will equally fall on all the states and humanity of this planet. Climate change is not a national, regional or continental issue but rather it is a global issue and it needs to be dealt internationally with all the global

actors contributing in its resolution. Internationally, many efforts have been made such as United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), Montreal Protocol, Kyoto Protocol, Copenhagen Accord, Conference of Parties (COP) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), apart from this many conferences and summits such as Earth Summit etc. have been held, but the question arises that how much effective these efforts have been?

UN system being the international organization serves the purpose of peace and security around the globe. UN has stood up for the cause of climate change and has also involved many states to step in and work for the containment of climate change. But the inefficiency of such efforts can be seen as the powerful economies are shifting their industries to the developing countries and the process of industrialization is ever growing rather than being contained.

The instance of carbon credit is very valid here- carbon credit is the license for the holder to emit one ton of carbon emission, it is for those groups and states that have cut down their greenhouse gases below their emission quota. The carbon credit system looks to reduce emissions by having countries respect their emission quotas and extend inducements for being below them. But there is a huge disparity amongst the global north and global south- the technological disparities will make it more difficult to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions.

The economically strong and developed countries can afford the efficient technologies to minimize the greenhouse gas emission but in the rest of the world where still there are countries on the road to industrialization- the countries which cannot afford such efficient technologies and practically cannot install counter climate change measures. This has given birth to new conflicts among the developed and the developing countries and the efforts for minimizing climate change have only earned a stalemate. One must admit that the agenda setting of climate change effort is vividly impressive but the international responses to it are considerably not humble.

So far all the international organizations that have worked in the line of climate change have not seen any practical steps and implementations for minimizing the global threat of climate change. The words we hear from international bodies sound very pleasant to our ears but its reality is unpleasant- as the practical outcome is equivalent to zero.

The international system is so much indulged in the political indications that it has avoided the very core issue of climate change. States do perceive the threat from their neighbors and rivals but they are ignorant in perceiving a much bigger threat of climate change, which is affecting this whole planet and the entire human community. In different parts of the world we are experiencing global warming, global dimming, extreme temperatures, flash floods and many other disasters which result in drought, famine, issues of food and energy security etc.

Climate change remains ignorant as it is not having any direct effects on us but instead slowly and gradually it is indirectly degenerating the world we live in- and the sorrier part is that we misperceive theses climatic changes as natural disasters rather than digging out and acknowledging the fact that these are the seeds we have sown through intense industrial competition, this negative change and natural disasters are no more natural but rather the ‘artificial disasters’ in reaction to our very own actions of exploiting the natural resources and natural phenomenon of this mother earth.

The global issue of climate change has become so much intense that it has now caused irreparable damages to our world but at this time at least we can make some efforts to minimize these harms. The solution to climate change cannot be achieved unless we come out of the state centric attitudes and shift our minds towards a global cause to save our mother earth and to save the inhabitants of this very planet. A comprehensive and binding global agreement has substantial merits, and should be the ultimate destination, but that in working toward that end, international regimes must be given the due space to focus their efforts on concrete, incremental steps to avoid the catastrophic climate change. It’s time for the states, non- state actors, international regimes to play their role and present some practical implementations in this regard.

All the states in international system must give due concern to climate change and it must be accepted as a cornerstone of contemporary international relations via international cooperation. The international community must endorse climate change as a separate subject and a regime complex climate change must be established provided with the assistance of multilateral forces. All these attempts will be the interplay of four variables which are climate change, human security, international regimes and global security- in a nutshell the interaction of climate change and the challenges to global politics.

In contemporary international politics as we witness high degree of focus on the conflicts and political rivalries among various states, in concert with it we also see trade and economic cooperation which is holding the infrastructure of the international system. Likewise we need to establish effective global climate change regime to promote international climate change cooperation which will hold the infrastructure of the world we live in and also preserve the future of human race- a vital element of global security.

As efforts so far have been somehow relevant to the cause but they have not done much to the extent it should have been done. The climate change regime complex must adopt a futuristic vision, it should reform, refresh and renew the clean development mechanisms, force progress of climate change policies, construct a credible institution for monitoring, measuring, reporting, and verifying global emissions and emissions-cutting efforts.

Globalization has lead to global governance and presently it is the eminent need for climate change governance which will guide the process of mechanisms and response measures of social systems towards prevention, mitigation or adaptation to the risks posed by climate change. In the light of regime theory I come to the conclusion that cooperation is possible in this anarchic system and regimes are defined as illustrations of international cooperation. As the international organizations have almost failed to achieve the objective to stop climate change therefore the states must unite to the very cause of global security and fight the mutual threat of climate change by establishing workable international regimes which not only deliver the solutions to climate change but also practically apply them in order to fight against this piercing threat to the world today.

Ayesha Gul Khattak

Student, FJWU

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