Home Moral guidelines From the FSJ archives: Diplomacy and the environment

From the FSJ archives: Diplomacy and the environment


Many battles were fought at the national level between polluters and the new federal control agency created on December 2, 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency. Additional laws have been passed and applied or tested in the courts. …

Abroad, the United States assumed early leadership from 1971, as its fledgling EPA began to meet, plan, negotiate, and exchange information with dozens of other countries just waking up to the ecological peril. Only Sweden (in 1967) had already formed a national EPA. This country and Great Britain created theirs in 1970. To date, there are about fifty federal depollution agencies spread over five continents. In addition, a handful of multinational organizations are busy establishing pollutant measurement criteria and monitoring guidelines among their members.

The magnificent results of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972 are still being felt. That fall, the United Nations General Assembly formed another specialized agency and named it the United Nations National Environment Program. Based in Nairobi, UNEP is largely an environmental monitoring activity, but it can and should draw the world’s attention to major pollution issues.

—Fitzhugh Green, former associate administrator of the EPA, from his article of the same title in May 1978 FSJ.

The fate of Carter’s proposed year-long study of global resource trends up to the year 2000 illustrates the bureaucratic issues involved. Carter proposed the study to reassess US foreign policy in terms of issues such as population and the environment. But the State Department was reluctant to get involved; apparently no one at Foggy Bottom felt qualified to deal with these issues. …

Some critics outside of government challenge the moral arrogance that they say underlies these attempts to tie environmental conditions to foreign policy. Walter of New York University sees it as a “neo-imperialist vision” and says, like most diplomats and economists, that environmental controls are an economic decision that each country must make on the basis of a rough compromise. between pollution and economic growth.

This view is contested by most development experts and almost all environmentalists. They point to the growing evidence that poverty cannot be eradicated in the Third World without addressing the ecological damage that accompanies and exacerbates that poverty.

Elizabeth Sullivan, reprinted from The Inner Dependent (UNA-USA, March 1978) in May 1978 FSJ.

When population growth exceeds environmental resources and a country lacks the capacity to cope with the resulting stress, intrastate conflicts result. … Scarcity works primarily by triggering social effects, such as poverty and migration, which analysts often interpret as the immediate causes of conflict.

While developed countries may have the skills and resources to deal with environmental problems, most developing countries do not. If societies cannot adapt to environmental problems, the resulting scarcity of renewable resources will contribute to impoverishment, migration, sharper distinctions between racial, ethnic and socio-economic groups, and a greater great potential for collective violence between these groups.

—Al Perez, FSO, from his article with the same title in March 1998 FSJ.

Climate change is no longer just an environmental problem, but one of the greatest economic, political and security challenges of the 21st century. And it will also be one of the most complicated and compelling diplomatic challenges. Increasingly, climate change is becoming a matter of life and death, not only for animals and plants, but for humans; and not sometime in this century, but today. …

Preparing for and adapting to a changing climate will be one of the central tasks of international relations for the remainder of this century.

Twenty years ago, in a historic act of forethought, two United Nations agencies – the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program – established the Intergovernmental Panel on the Evolution of weather. An intergovernmental scientific body, the IPCC has delivered increasingly clear and convincing reports on the growing threat of climate change. The now authoritative science underscores the urgent and expected need to act. … This action must take at least three forms: negotiation, investment and adaptation – negotiation to reduce global emissions, investment to bring about a complete transformation of global energy systems and country-by-country adaptation to the inevitable effects of climate change.

– Timothy Wirth, former member of Congress (House and Senate) and Under-Secretary of State for World Affairs, from his article with the same title published in February 2008 FSJ.

Predicted climate changes in the Arctic present challenges unparalleled in human experience to date. They are likely to cause significant upheaval and expose the vulnerabilities of residents. Moreover, because these changes are directly linked to global processes such as sea level rise, the availability of new shipping routes, and the opening up of new natural resources, the effects promise to be just as profound in the world. the whole world. …

A major factor that needs to be taken into account is the asymmetry between the timescale in which the climate system responds to increases in greenhouse gases and the timescale for recovering from those increases. Recovery takes about 10 times longer than it took to increase global greenhouse gas concentrations in the first place.

—Robert W. Corell, Director of the Global Change Program for the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment, from his article by the same title in February 2008 FSJ.

A number of factors were critical to the success of the Montreal Protocol. Among them, the leadership role played by the United States from the beginning, long before the protocol negotiations began, was important. The United States was among the first to recognize the threat posed by CFCs and moved quickly, along with some Nordic states, to ban their use in most aerosols. …

Montreal Protocol negotiators, like those now seeking to agree on how to address the challenge of global warming, have encountered formidable difficulties in dealing with a problem whose effects, though perhaps tolerable in the short in the long run, risked being catastrophic in the long run. in a “business as usual” scenario. Plus, like with climate change, they’ve had to deal with skepticism about the science involved.

—Richard J. Smith, OFS (retired), from his article by the same title in the December 2010 issue FSJ.

Climate change is one of the most serious dangers facing the world today, with profound implications for the future of all humanity. … These issues will long remain at the heart of US security and economic interests and will also remain of great interest to our partners around the world. We ignore them at our peril. …

Climate change is more than an environmental problem. It is fundamentally about how our economies are fueled. … In essence, international climate negotiations have been a ‘design and build’ process, restructuring 21st century economies so that we can move from fossil fuel-based development to low-carbon or zero-emission development. carbon. No country can solve the global challenge of climate change on its own, but the United States has an outsized role in finding a solution, both substantial and symbolic. Much of the world looks to the United States for leadership, not only because of our political, military, and economic might, but because of the historic responsibility we have as the historic largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse. …

For more than 25 years, climate change negotiators around the world have strived to bridge the deep divides between virtually every country in the world in order to reach consensual decisions with far-reaching implications for how economies are. structures and how we will maintain a habitable planet.

—Tim Lattimer, FSO, from his article of the same title in July-August 2017 FSJ.

Although the Paris Agreement has attracted the lion’s share of recent international climate headlines, it is far from the only forum in which Americans can, and do, address climate issues. A glorious profusion of state, non-state and hybrid entities in the United States and elsewhere demonstrates impressive ingenuity in relevant policies and technologies.

—Karen Florini, former Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change at the State Department (2015-2017), and Professor Ann Florini, excerpts from their article of the same title in July-August 2017 FSJ.


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