One of the biggest issues facing the world and international politics today is global climate change. Climate change is a problem which is shared by every nation. Because of this, there have been numerous attempts to find an international solution to climate change, such as the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 and the Copenhagen Accord of 2008. These agreements, however, have fallen short of the type of environmental change that was hoped for when negotiations began. What is holding back international institutions from effecting real change in the environment? According to David Victor, the issue is an international one – difficulty in achieving international cooperation is preventing institutions from being truly effective. I agree with Victor; if the large scale agreements of the past haven’t worked, smaller agreements could be the answer.
In his paper, Victor asks whether international institutions can get states to cooperate on climate change. He answers this with a resounding no. There are a number of reasons he cites for this conclusion. One reason is that the benefits from committing to fighting climate change will not be realized until the future but the costs must be pad today; this idea has been repeated by a number of other editorialists. The cost-benefit factor is a major deterrent to international cooperation. States are not likely to commit to the high costs of environmental change when they are not realizing immediate benefits, especially when they have other domestic issues. It is difficult for institutions to achieve international cooperation when there are no benefits to participating in cooperation.
The next question Victor asks is: if you can get states to agree to woking together on climate change, will they be able to come to a strong compromise that will create real change? Once again, Victor says no, at least not if theres too many parties involved. Agreement is difficult, when theres too many parties involved finding a solution that pleases everyone and that still holds weight and can cause effective change can be impossible. Continuing long, drawn-out negotiations in large settings could just prove counter productive because compromise could decrease the strength of reforms toward reversing climate change. The difficulty in creating widespread international agreement is a huge international barrier to these institutions.
Victor argues that the answer to the international barriers to international environmental institutions is to utilize small international agreements. By uniting key players, it could be possible to create a small institution that could be more effective than larger predecessors. This could be especially effective because the key players account for a large amount of carbon dioxide emissions. “The top six emitters account for 64% of world emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossils fuels; the top dozen are responsible for about 74%.” If it could unite the top six or even the large top dozen, an institution could deal with over half of the emissions of these gases. This fact makes a smaller institution more viable than it might be in other issues.
In creating future institutions, states should address these international barriers to environmental institutions. These institutions could benefit from smaller membership, which would negate some issues of creating a compromise that is favorable to all parties. In these smaller settings, there also might be more options for offering benefits to participation to eliminate some of the cost factor. This could range from support on different issues internationally to decreasing barriers to movement between the nations or to offering aid to each other for certain projects.This could make international agreement and cooperation more attractive to all involved.