Risk and Disorder

International Organizations and their role in environmental protection

May 8, 2009

Introduction

            Our planet has become a risk society; being exposed to the disastrous efforts as a result of the harm caused by human. There are several risks with varying magnitude and severity such as the natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunami, tornado etc. and man made disasters such as biological weapons, nuclear energy and so on. Ulrich Beck, the German anthropologist intimates that the above mentioned factors indicate a world risk society.

         Let us have a look at the obvious natural hazards which are posing threats to a huge mass of human lives. Rising or falling sea level can remould the world’s coastlines and seashores and most of the densely populated areas on earth will be affected as a result. There is a drastic change in the behavior and rhythm of the sea that the uniformity of the sea  which was found previously is terribly missing now. The living beings in these coastal areas would be going for a task; it affects the agricultural fields and extends to a level of causing great damage to cities across the coastal areas. As per the reports of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the coastal regions inclusive of mangroves, reefs and several other regions are on high risk.

         Another alarming effect is the greenhouse effect. The role of Carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and hydrogen nitride are proportionately high when relatively compared to the other greenhouse gases. Reports from IPCC confirm an anticipated response in proportion to the rapid increase in greenhouse gases. The overall effect is observed to increase the temperature of atmosphere, precipitation and evaporation rates. Rising ocean levels and relative changes in the atmosphere are additional effects.

         Another relevant effect which is thrown in  lime light is global warming- a rapid increase in the temperature of earth’s atmosphere(in simple words the air we breath) due to   the blockage of the earth’s radiation (that reflects back from the surface of the earth) caused by the formation of a blanket like layer from the excessive emission of hazardous gases such as Carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen nitride. This is also the reason for acid rain; due to the hazardous contamination of clouds with these gases the rain gets polluted  and returns to the earth in the form of nitric acid, sulfuric acid, carbonic acid and so on. All the above mentioned effects have led to the depletion of a huge diameter of ozone especially in Australia and according to the reports it continues to expand.

         The practice of nuclear energy testing and and the dumping of nuclear waste has led to change in the demographic position of tectonic plates which was the main reason for tsunami and earthquakes in India, Indonesia and the other coastal regions. It is important to be reminded that the disaster has caused a huge death toll. In addition to the existing hazards, there are so many pandemic diseases such as SARS, anthrax, bird flue and other diseases that has targeted several countries, leading to a significant death toll.

International Organizations

         Every individual has started giving a thought about the environmental protection and preservation of energy. They are worried that the next generation would be left empty with nothing in reserve for survival. Environmental protection has become every country’s concern in today’s world. In their attempt to preserve environment from further deterioration of environment, the states push off the economical cost to be borne by someone or the other, walking away with whatever benefit that could be incurred in the attempt. We are running on high risk with clear evidences such as hole in the Ozone layer, fast melting of icebergs, global warming and many natural havocs which are a result of exceeded exploitation of  nature by human. The forthcoming natural hazards would be even worse beyond the imagination of human brain.

         Many International organizations such as World Meteorological Organization, UNEP, UNDP, IPCC have played a major role in the protection of environment. UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea(shortly recognized as DOALAS) is the secretariat of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). DOALAS in coordination with UNCLOS assists, advices and submits reports on the marine resources, ecosystem and environment. Similarly the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES)- established in 1902; an International Organization attributed to the protection and preservation of the living beings and to maintain a check on the ecological balance of the North Atlantic Sea. The report also includes the rate of contamination and the source of contamination. This guides them to decide on the steps to curtail preventable contamination if any.

         United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) – an association formed to create awareness on the issues of environmental hazards, the causes of the environmental hazards and eventually to raise voice against the industrial sectors or individual accountable for environmental degradation. When the depletion of ozone layer was brought into limelight by the American scientists, UNEP and few NGOs volunteered to make a consolidated effort to build awareness among public through public awareness programmes.

         European Environmental Agency was established in 1990; aimed at consistent development and record maintenance on the improvements in Europe’s environment. They conduct periodical meeting and exchange information on the report submitted to know the real condition of the environment. They also established European environment information and observation network (Eionet) to provide a coordinated effort towards the protection of environment and preservation of resources. They form a group of 27 EU member countries which is inclusive of Turkey, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Switzerland and Norway

The Role of United Nations

         UNEP conducted an international conference in Washington in 1977 with the issuance of World plan of Action for the Ozone layer and an ad hoc working party was formed to be in charge of the issue. The working party was constituted of environmental experts from 22 countries, eventually they submit a report of all the negotiations at the end of the ever year.

         The Toronto Group (IO formed by USA, Canada and Scandinavian countries) pinpointed the increased release of CFC from EU. EU refused to agree to reduce the production of CFC by using the lapse that there was no evidence to prove the connection between ozone depletion and CFC. Eventually in 1985, Vienna convention was established. It is an agreement signed by most of the European countries and the objective is to acknowledge the efforts to protect ozone layer and to cooperate to protect the layer.

         The UNEP along with the Tornoto Group conducted marathons for public awareness and various conferences to insist the reduction of CFC by a significant proportion say 95%, but the EU agreed to reduce it only by 50% in 1999 due to the pressure from Germany. Yet the developing countries and small countries were under tremendous pressure as the reduced production of CFC would affect their growth, eventually they agreed to reduce it to a great extent as much as 300 grams per capita. In 2000, EU joined 81 states and showed an active participation in ban the production of CFC. The developing countries were guaranteed  financial aids to assist the reduced production of CFC. The USA and Japan was slowly backing out with its slowing of the process whereas EU was very concerned and it continued till 2004, until the issues were resolved and the countries agreed to stop the production of CFC completely.

         There were a couple of treaties such as Vienna convention of 1985, the Montreal Protocol of 1987, the Amendments of London (1990), Copenhagen(1992), Vienna(1995), Montreal (1997) and Beijing (1999) (www.unep.org/ozone/index.asp) regarding the fund allocation and technical assistance. World Bank, UNEP and UNDP played a major role in allocation of funds to execute Montreal Protocol. In the context of dealing with transboundary environmental issues, UNEP and WMO (World Meteorological Organization) played a major role in the formation of Coordinating committee on the Ozone Layer (CCOL). The objective of the committee was to create awareness and to spread the pros and cons of Ozone depletion.

         Later with the help of the scientists they were able to discover the fact that the reduced production of CFC will contribute towards the decelerated depletion of Ozone perhaps would not stop the depletion completely. The Ozone was measured by the US space agency NASA, the connection between the CFC emancipation and the depletion in the Ozone layer was also proved.

Conclusion

         Global environmental issues have always been an issue of concern since there was no coordinated efforts from the International organizations. The continued efforts to preserve  mother Nature from the industrialist countries and developing countries have not been successful down the years, since there was no coordinated efforts. The industrialist countries were concerned about their growth and in the process failed to realize hazardous effect that was caused in turn.

         The most prudent effort of an International organization purely depends on the way it deals with the political and technical accords. Several times their attempt to convince the developing countries and capitalistic countries was in vain. Most of the times the International Organizations are driven by the politics of the global economy and that is the  major cause for a biased decision making. Nations which follow the ideologies of capitalism and socialism, both followed paths to develop their countries at the cost of exploiting the environment and causing maximum utilization of available resources. The major reason for such an unorganized work style is due to the lack of global governance.

References:

EEA: http://www.eea.europa.eu/about-us/who

Nations online: http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/org.htm#Environment

Paul Joan George Kapteyn. (1997). International organization and integration: annotated basic documents and descriptive directory of international organizations and arrangement. 2nd edition. BRILL. ISBN 902472578X, 9789024725786

Robert V. Bartlett, Priya A. Kurian, Madhu Malik. (1995). International organizations and environmental policy. Edition: illustrated. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0313296235, 9780313296239

Thaddeus C. Trzyna, Julie Didion, International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural. (2001). World directory of environmental organizations: a handbook of national and international organizations and programs–governmental and non-governmental–concerned with protecting the earth’s resources. International Center for the Environment and Public Policy (California Institute of Public Affairs), Earthscan. 6th edition. Earthscan, ISBN 1853837946, 9781853837944

Volker Rittberger, Bernhard Zangl. (2006). International Organization: Polity, Politics and Policies. Palgrave Macmillan

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