A Stand Against International Apathy towards Environmental Issues
Environmental issues entered the international political mainstream over fifty years ago, and were spurred on by UN conferences in 1972 (UNCHE), 1992 (UNCED) and 2002 (WSSD); yet a specialised agency focused on environmental devastation is non-existent. Soros (2002) called for the creation of a new body to defend public goods including environmental interests, human rights, animal rights and social welfare (the long term consequences of the first are so threatening they deserve one agency for it) (as cited in Sweeney, 2005). Despite the UNDP and UNEP prioritising sustainable development and the nullification of environmental harm, the foundations of these programmes make them lack conviction, unlike the fifteen existing specialised agencies which work at an intergovernmental level. The EU and other proponents have argued that a United Nations Environmental Organisation (UNEO) would be an essential tool to increase the political clout of environmental policies in the UN and beyond, with the ultimate goal of achieving sufficient political will to effectively address the globe’s environmental problems (Meyer-Ohlendorf and Knigge, 2007).
I believe these changes would make the world a better place as most forms of corporate structure today dictate the kind of short-termism that places people and the planet far behind profitability (Elkington and Zietz, 2014) and shareholder interest. The UN (2018) claims that countries and companies are failing to take the action needed to stave off the worst effects of climate change, this includes: spread of infectious disease; multiple forms of pollution; destruction of infrastructure built for security, practicality and health; along with the extinction of millions of species. Furthermore, the non-binding commitments made in the 2015 Paris agreement will not be met unless governments introduce additional measures as a matter of urgency (as cited in Harvey, 2018). Subsequently, the ratification of a UNEO and demand for sustainable business is critical. This is amplified considering that organisations inside of the USA have withdrawn from such agreements, and that business and industry are the major culprits of causing the decline of the biosphere, and the only institution that’s large, pervasive and powerful enough to lead humankind out of a linear unsustainable economy (Hawken, 1993). This is because if economic growth is high, the use of resources and subsequently environmental impact often correlates. However, if corporations and institutions alike are pressured to meet Elkingtons (1998) triple bottom line this can be altered. Ultimately by highlighting the importance of nature and focusing on community needs, this constructivist and alternative view would advocate sustainable growth from the top down and bottom up respectively.
I believe the United Nations has the most hegemonic and efficient framework to act at the pace required to amend growing environmental travesties. However, such endeavours would require rigorous and drastic political and subsequent economic adjustments, which would go against the very fabric of economies across the globe, including permanent members of the UNSC who hold veto power. Such reforms would drastically alter the principles of both the Washington and Beijing consensuses respectively, and therefore lacks feasibility considering The USA, UK and China are on the UNSC. We have seen all UNSC nations, predominantly the USA, Russia and China, protect their national interests over humanitarian pursuits. Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour (2018), identified that “one party cannot continue to monopolise the peace process, especially not one that acts with bias in favour of the occupying power at the expense of the low and the rights of the occupy people”. Ultimately, further environmental legislation instigated by a specialised agency within the UN and subsequently reinforced by legally binding norms, treaties and international laws would endorse the triple bottom line, requiring us to reform international organisations, and enable us to protect public goods. However, whilst this veto power exists, the feasibility of such endeavours appears non-viable.