Global Environmental Issues
Transboundary Environmental Problems vs Local Environmental
Environmental issues are not restricted to local and national boundaries alone. Transboundary environmental problems are those problems that migrate beyond the jurisdiction with the power to control that problem. Local environmental issues usually have static cost-benefit analysis so the imposition of taxes or charges becomes easier. But with environmental issues of a global nature, issues of time assume significance because today’s generation will bear the monetary costs and the benefits will be enjoyed by future generations. Further Transboundary pollution is difficult to control because the damages from the pollution occurs in a locality that has no authority over the generator of the pollution. Greenhouse gas emissions are a classic example of Transboundary pollution. Greenhouse gases emitted in India contribute to climate change worldwide .Another example is that of acid rain, pollution from emissions from power plants in India that may be blown across the Bay of Bengal to Malaysia and Singapore. In both the above examples of transboundary pollution there needs to be international cooperation to address and solve these problems.
Possible Solutions to Control Transboundary Pollution
As mentioned earlier Transboundary Pollution is difficult to control because the damage from the pollution occurs in a locality that has no authority over the generator of the pollution. There are three ways of controlling this problem. One involves the victim country levying tariffs on imports from the country generating the pollution. Another approach involves linking international agreements between the two countries on totally unrelated issues to controlling the pollution problem and a third and most common approach is to forge international agreements on pollution control, such as the Montreal Protocol on control of ozone depleting substances. The problem with international agreements is that participation is voluntary, but at the same time sanctions for violating the terms of the agreement must be biting. It is not always possible to forge an effective environmental agreement to control transboundary pollution.
The ozone layer protects the Earth from the ultraviolet rays sent down by the sun. If the ozone layer is depleted by human action, the effects on the planet could be catastrophic. Ozone is present in the stratosphere. The stratosphere reaches 30 miles above the Earth, and at the very top it contains ozone. The suns rays are absorbed by the ozone in the stratosphere and thus do not reach the Earth. Ozone is a bluish gas that is formed by three atoms of oxygen. The form of oxygen that humans breathe in consists of two oxygen atoms, O2. When found on the surface of the planet, ozone is considered a dangerous pollutant and is one substance responsible for producing the greenhouse effect. The highest regions of the stratosphere contain about 90% of all ozone. In recent years, the ozone layer has been the subject of much discussion. And rightly so, because the ozone layer protects both plant and animal life on the planet. The fact that the ozone layer was being depleted was discovered in the mid-1980s. The main cause of this is the release of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Antarctica was an early victim of ozone destruction. A massive hole in the ozone layer right above Antarctica now threatens not only that continent, but also many others that could be the victims of Antarctica's melting icecaps. In the future, the ozone problem will have to be solved so that the protective layer can be conserved.
Only a few factors combine to create the problem of ozone layer depletion. The production and emission of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), is by far the leading cause. Many countries have called for the end of CFC production because only a few produce the chemical. However, those industries that do use CFCs do not want to discontinue usage of this highly valuable industrial chemical. CFCs are used in industry in a variety of ways and have been amazingly useful in many products. Discovered in the 1930s by American chemist Thomas Midgley, CFCs came to be used in refrigerators, home insulation, plastic foam, and throw-away food containers. Only later did people realize the disaster CFCs caused in the stratosphere. In 1974, Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina followed the path of CFCs. Their research proved that CFCs were entering the atmosphere, and they concluded that 99% of all CFC molecules would end up in the stratosphere. Even if CFCs were banned, problems would remain. There would still be no way to remove the CFCs that are now present in the environment. Clearly though, something must be done to limit this international problem in the future.
Even minor problems of ozone depletion can have major effects. Every time even a small amount of the ozone layer is lost, more ultraviolet light from the sun can reach the Earth. Every time 1% of the ozone layer is depleted, 2% more UV-B is able to reach the surface of the planet. UV-B increase is one of the most harmful consequences of ozone depletion because it can cause skin cancer. The increased cancer levels caused by exposure to this ultraviolet light could be enormous. The EPA estimates that 60 million Americans born by the year 2075 will get skin cancer because of ozone depletion. About one million of these people will die. In addition to cancer, some research shows that a decreased ozone layer will increase rates of malaria and other infectious diseases. According to the EPA, 17 million more cases of cataracts can also be expected. The environment will also be negatively affected by ozone depletion. The life cycles of plants will change, disrupting the food chain. Effects on animals will also be severe, and are very difficult to foresee. Oceans will be hit hard as well. The most basic microscopic organisms such as plankton may not be able to survive. If that happened, it would mean that all of the other animals that are above plankton in the food chain would also die out. Other ecosystems such as forests and deserts will also be harmed. The planet's climate could also be affected by depletion of the ozone layer. Wind patterns could change, resulting in climatic changes throughout the world.
The discovery of the ozone depletion problem came as a great surprise. Action must be taken to ensure that the ozone layer is not destroyed. Because CFCs are so widespread and used in such a great variety of products, limiting their use is hard. Also, since many products already contain components that use CFCs, it would be difficult if not impossible to eliminate those CFCs already in existence. The CFC problem may be hard to solve because there are already great quantities of CFCs in the environment. CFCs would remain in the stratosphere for another 100 years even if none were ever produced again. Despite the difficulties, international action has been taken to limit CFCs. In the Montreal Protocol, 30 nations worldwide agreed to reduce usage of CFCs and encouraged other countries to do so as well. However, many environmentalists felt the treaty did "too little, too late", as the Natural Resources Defense Council put it. The treaty asked for CFC makers to only eliminate half of their CFC production, making some people feel it was inadequate. By the year 2000, the US and twelve nations in Europe have agreed to ban all use and production of CFCs. This will be highly significant, because these countries produce three quarters of the CFCs in the world. Many other countries have signed treaties and written laws restricting the use of CFCs. Companies are finding substitutes for CFCs, and people in general are becoming more aware of the dangers of ozone depletion.
The Montreal Protocol and Ozone Depletion
After a series of rigorous meetings and negotiations, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was finally agreed upon on 16 September 1987 at the Headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization in Montreal, and proved to be far tougher than anyone had thought possible only a few months before.
The delicacy of the negotiations is reflected in the final agreement, which contains clauses to cover the special circumstances of several groups of countries, especially developing countries with low consumption rates that do not want the Protocol to hinder their development. But the Protocol is constructively flexible: it can be tightened or "adjusted" as the scientific evidence strengthens, without having to be completely renegotiated. Indeed, it sets the "elimination" of ozone-depleting substances as its "final objective." The Protocol came into force, on time, on January 1st, 1989, by when 29 countries and the EEC representing approximately 82 percent of world consumption had ratified it. Since then several other countries have joined.
The Protocol was only a first step, as was realized at the time. But once it was agreed, events developed with astonishing speed. New scientific evidence showed that very much tighter and controls would be needed, and Governments and industry moved further, and faster, than anyone would have believed possible.
The term acid rain refers to what scientists call acid deposition. It is caused by airborne acidic pollutants and has highly destructive results. Scientists first discovered acid rain in 1852, when the English chemist Robert Agnus invented the term. From then until now, acid rain has been an issue of intense debate among scientists and policy makers. Acid rain, one of the most important environmental problems of all, cannot be seen. The invisible gases that cause acid rain usually come from automobiles or coal-burning power plants. Acid rain moves easily, affecting locations far beyond those that let out the pollution. As a result, this global pollution issue causes great debates between countries that fight over polluting each other's environments.
For years, science studied the true causes of acid rain. Some scientists concluded that human production was primarily responsible, while others cited natural causes as well. Recently, more intensive research has been done so that countries have the information they need to prevent acid rain and its dangerous effects. The levels of acid rain vary from region to region. In Third World nations without pollution restrictions, acid rain tends to be very high. In Eastern Europe, China, and the Soviet Union, acid rain levels have also risen greatly. However, because acid rain can move about so easily, the problem is definitely a global one. For many years, there was considerable debate and disagreement over what caused acid rain. Recent scientific work, however, has helped to clarify this. The primary causes of acid rain are sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Certain industrial processes release these chemicals, and as a result, the more industrialized nations of Europe as well as the US suffer severely from acid rain. Most sulfur dioxide comes from power plants that use coal as their fuel. These plants emit 100 million tons of sulfur dioxide, 70% of that in the world. Automobiles produce about half of the world's nitrogen oxide. As the number of automobiles in uses increases, so does the amount of acid rain. Power plants that burn fossil fuels also contribute significantly to nitrogen oxide emission. Though human causes are primarily responsible for acid rain, natural causes exist as well. Fires, volcanic eruptions, bacterial decomposition, and lightening also greatly increase the amount of nitrogen oxide on the planet. However, even the gigantic explosion of Mt. St. Helens released only about what one coal power plant emits in a year. Once the tiny pollutant molecules have entered the atmosphere, they can travel for thousands of miles. Eventually, the particles will combine with other compounds to produce new, often harmful, chemicals. Acid rain comes down to the earth in the form of rain, snow, hail, fog, frost, or dew. Once it reaches the ground, the acidity in the substance can harm and even destroy both Acid rain is having harmful effects both on people and on the natural ecosystems of the world. Scientists today are convinced that acid rain is severe in many areas, and that it is having an adverse effect on the environments of those locations. The problem of acid rain is rapidly spreading. Because it is mainly caused by industrial processes, automobiles, and power plants, those countries that are developed have the most severe acid rain problems. However, as the undeveloped nations begin to industrialize, acid rain will increase greatly. Determining just how much the planet is being hurt by acid rain is very difficult because the ecosystems that it affects are so diverse and complex.
Many ecosystems are affected by acid rain. Bodies of water, such as lakes and rivers, see many of their inhabitants die off due to rising acidity levels. Modern science has proven that acid rain is a dangerous and highly destructive problem. As a result, various ways to limit acid rain have been invented, and some are now being used. Debate over acid rain and ways of preventing it have raged between environmentalists and corporations. Businesses such as power companies and car makers oppose controlling acid rain because they fear the effects on their profits. But in some cases, industries have attempted to curb acid rain production. The Northern States Power Company began working to reduce acid rain in the 1980s, and has invested over a billion dollars to that end. There are many ways that power plant companies like Northern States can reduce acid rain creation. They can use coal with low sulfur content, they can remove the sulfur from smoke their plants release, and they can limit processes known to generate high levels of acid rain.
Policy makers and environmental experts are now looking into the best methods to limit acid rain. Environmentalists advocate the installation of sulfur cleaning scrubbers in factories, washing sulfur out of coal, and finding new methods of burning coal. Power plant operators are looking for less expensive solutions to the problem. Individuals can help by conserving energy or driving their cars less. Governments can pass laws restricting pollution levels, or can use a variety of methods such as tradable emission permits to reduce acid rain. Whatever way it is done, acid rain will certainly have to be limited in the future.
Rain Forest Destruction
Industrial society has tended to see forests as free sources of valuable materials or as needless woods, occupying land and getting 'in the way' of development. As a result of these pressures, every second the planet loses another two football fields of its precious rainforest cloak. Old growth forests are cleared for 'development,' agriculture, cattle grazing and plantations among other reasons. They are targeted by logging companies for timber and pulp and by oil companies for drilling. In many countries still struggling to escape the legacy of colonialism, rainforests come under pressure from people suffering grinding poverty and desperate for any land not under the control of local elite. More than 50 percent of all types of living things—as many as five million species of plants, animals, and insects—live in tropical rainforests. Rainforest destruction, currently estimated at more than thirty million acres per year, poses a threat to each and every one of these species. It is estimated that 100 species become extinct every day due to tropical deforestation. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of tropical forest species will become extinct each decade during the next half-century. Current rates of species extinction are comparable to the five greatest mass extinctions in world history.
All of the Earth's species are part of a complex, interdependent web of life. The extinction of just one species can affect an entire ecosystem. Humans are a part of this web of life, and thus we too are dependent on other species for our survival. For example, twenty-five percent of the world's pharmaceutical products are derived from tropical pants. The National Cancer Institute has identified three thousand plants as having anti-cancer properties, of these, 70 percent hail from the rainforest. Thousands of food products we rely o from oranges and bananas to coffee and tea also come either directly or indirectly from the rainforests. In addition to the many products we derive from rainforests, the rainforest and its species provide many 'natural services' for which there is simply no substitute. For example, rainforests cover less than 7 percent of the Earth's surface, yet they receive almost half of all the rain that falls on land. Rainforests serve a vital function by absorbing this rain and then slowly releasing it into rivers and streams. As long as rainforests remain intact, rivers run clear and flow throughout the year. When rainforests are destroyed, rivers swell and fill with muddy sediment after rainfalls, and then shrink during dry spells. This results in soil erosion, floods, and droughts, often with devastating consequences.
Rainforests also absorb and store vast amounts of carbon—an invaluable service since human activity releases nearly seven billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. Rainforests destruction not only releases additional carbon into the atmosphere, but also deprives the Earth of one of its primary means of absorbing and storing excess carbon. High atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are already altering the Earth's climate, with potentially far ranging effects, including rising seas, disruption of agriculture, species extinction, and an increase in the frequency and severity of storms.
In addition, the rainforests are home to an estimated fifty million indigenous peoples globally. These forest peoples' traditional ways of life are based on an interdependent relationship with the forest; therefore rainforest destruction poses a direct threat to the survival of indigenous peoples and their unique cultures. Around the world, indigenous peoples are struggling to defend their rights and protect their rainforest homelands, often in the face of massive corporate or government-led industrial projects. Over the last century, more indigenous cultures have disappeared than ever before; today, entire peoples and their unique cultures continue to disappear.
Biodiversity, or biological diversity, is the variety of life on Earth and the processes and interactions that sustain it. There are three kinds of biodiversity: ecosystem diversity, genetic diversity, and species diversity. Ecosystem or habitat diversity refers to the variety of places where life exists—from rainforests to oceans, from deserts to wetlands. Genetic diversity refers to the variation of genes within species. When most people refer to biodiversity, however, they are talking about species diversity, or the vast complex of species that make up the living world. Scientists have yet to determine just how many species there are on Earth. The best current estimate of global species diversity is somewhere near 10 million species, with new species still being discovered. In a 1980 study of just 19 trees in Panama, for example, fully 80 percent of the 1,200 beetle species discovered were previously unknown to science.
Tropical rainforest are the richest regions on Earth in terms of biological diversity. More than 50 percent of all species live in tropical rainforests. According to a report by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a typical four-square-mile patch of rainforest contains up to 1,500 species of flowering plants, as many as 750 tree species, 125 mammal species, 400 bird species, 100 reptile species, 60 amphibian species, and 150 butterfly species. Biodiversity plays an essential role in our existence. The vast array of species on Earth provides humanity with food, fiber, medicine, and many other products we depend on. Biodiversity also provides 'natural services' for which there is simply no substitute. Forests, for example, help regulate the global climate by absorbing carbon dioxide. The loss of biodiversity, or species extinction, affects us all directly, no matter where or how we live. Biodiversity is a necessity, not a luxury. In recent years, the loss of entire species and natural areas, caused almost entirely by human activity, has been occurring at unprecedented rates. The extinction of each additional species brings the irreversible loss of unique genetic codes, which are often linked to development of medicines, foods, and jobs.
The importance of biodiversity to a healthy environment has become increasingly clear. We have learned that the future well being of all humanity depends on our stewardship of the Earth. When we overexploit living resources, we threaten our own survival.
Biodiversity is important to the global economy
The economic value of biodiversity is a well-established fact. Modern agriculture, which depends on new genetic stock from natural ecological systems, is now a $3 trillion global business; nature tourism generates some $12 billion worldwide in annual revenues. In the United States, the economic benefits from wild plants and animals comprise approximately 4.5% of the Gross Domestic Product.
In 1988, worldwide commercial trade in wild plants (excluding timber) and animals was valued at $5 billion. That same year, the 20 best-selling drugs in the U.S., with combined revenues of about $6 billion worldwide, all relied on plants, microbes, and animals for their development. Each wild plant that provides the chemical basis for developing new drugs is projected to generate at least $290 million annually.
Biodiversity is essential for ensuring food security
All of the world's major food crops, including corn, wheat, and soyabeans, depend on new genetic material from the wild to remain productive and healthy. Breeders and farmers rely on the genetic diversity of crops and livestock to increase yields and to respond to changes in environmental conditions. Plant breeding, using wild genetic stock and other sources, was responsible for half the gains in agricultural yields in the United States from 1930 to 1980.
Biodiversity safeguards human health
Of the top-selling 150 prescription drugs in the United States, 79% have their origins in nature. Many synthetic drugs, including aspirin, were first discovered in wild plants and animals. Roughly 119 pure chemical substances extracted from some 90 species of higher plants are used in pharmaceuticals around the world. Traditional medicine, which relies on species of wild and cultivated plants, forms the basis of primary health care for about 80% of all people living in developing countries. In the United States, traditional medicine and other alternative health systems are gaining in acceptance. Each year, the U.S. imports more than $20 million of rain forest plants valued for their medicinal properties.
Biodiversity provides recreational opportunities
In addition to protecting our future food supply, health, and environment, biodiversity provides an array of recreational opportunities and aesthetic value. In 1991, recreation associated with wild birds alone generated nearly $20 million in economic activity and 250,000 jobs in the United States, exceeding many Fortune 500 companies. Saltwater recreational fishing in the U.S. generates more than $15 billion annually in economic activity and provides over 200,000 full-time jobs. U.S. parks brought in $3.2 billion from visitors in 1986.That same year, tourism in Kenya amounted to $400 million. In that country, the economic value of viewing elephants alone totaled $25 million in 1989. These large economic revenues reflect the high value people place on recreation involving biodiversity.
Biodiversity and the issues that affect it cross all national borders
Air and water pollution do not respect national borders. Acid rain, which results when air pollutants mix with falling rain, is a good example. In North America, industrial emissions from U.S. factories have caused acid rain to damage sugar maples in Canada, threatening future maple syrup production. Perhaps the most serious threat to life on Earth is global climate change. In December 1995, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, composed of scientists and policymakers from 120 nations, agreed in writing that human activities are affecting the global climate. Carbon released from such human-induced activities as the burning of fossil fuels, forests, and other natural habitats is a major contributor to climate change. Tropical forest burning outside the U.S. has accounted for about 25% of all carbon released into the atmosphere over the past decade. Rapid build-up of carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere, combined inextricably with ozone depletion, is causing our climate to change. The consequences for many species of wildlife and ecosystems, as well as for human populations, may be catastrophic. In the United States, warmer temperatures could result in the shifting of agricultural lands hundreds of miles north and cause severe coastal flooding. Species would be forced to migrate to keep up with optimum conditions, but the rate of change would be too fast for many to adapt. On a global scale, loss of biodiversity can even threaten national security. There are many national and international conflicts over water, land, and other natural resources. Such environmental conflicts often lead to mass migrations of people that strain national budgets, public infrastructure, and international relations.
The Convention on Biological Diversity
The Convention on Biological Diversity, commonly referred to as the Biodiversity Treaty, was one of two major treaties opened for signature at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992. The Biodiversity Convention was finally negotiated in haste at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and since then has been ratified by 135 countries. The Convention breaks new ground in international agreements by recognizing the value of biodiversity at genetic, species and ecosystem levels. It attempts to link natural resources and human activities by connecting conservation, sustainable use and the sharing of benefits arising from the exploitation of biodiversity.
The Biodiversity Convention tries to solve this conflict of interest between North and South by recognizing national sovereignty over resources while promoting open access within a framework of conservation and sustainable use. Any access takes place with the provision that all financial and technical benefits arising from the exploitation of resources by outside interests are shared. As a result of the Convention, genetic resources are no longer the common property of humanity. However as long as the benefits are secured on a national level, they can still become the property of big business, should a state make an appropriate agreement. The result is that indigenous peoples from both North and South are caught between states negotiating their resources for the insatiable appetite of multinational corporations and other economic interests.
To facilitate exploitation, the capacity of indigenous peoples to protect biodiversity is threatened. States have a responsibility according to the aims of the convention to enhance local and indigenous communities. Unfortunately, there is an emphasis on state control of resources throughout the Convention. Rather than seeing property rights over resources as pertaining to indigenous people, states treat all resources within their boundaries as their exclusive right to exploit and control.
Dramatic weather patterns in the past few years are convincing even determined skeptics that something is happening to global climates . The chief Greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These gases act like the glass covering a greenhouse, letting sunlight in but blocking some of the infrared radiation from the earth's surface that carries heat back into space. The gases act like a blanket wherever their concentration increases. Local concentrations increase local heat and increased differences between hotter and colder regions drives weather events into more extreme ranges. Over many years, the total amount of these gases accumulates and the average temperature of the whole planet is increasing. The planet's thermostat had been set at a pleasant average temperature of 59 degrees (F) for the last 10 thousand years or so and is now poised to undergo a rapid change. Global warming means that the earth retains more of the sun's heat over time. Heat drives weather and increased heat means increased turbulence in the atmosphere. What the consequences might be have to do with the distribution of this extra heat and its effect on ocean and air circulation patterns. We can accept paradoxical weather results as the extra heat makes systems unstable.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 1990 report and a series of subsequent reports, has gave the basic outlines of what to expect:
The Kyoto Protocol and climate change
Extremes of weather (more and stronger storms; longer and drier droughts; heavier rains and increased numbers of larger, more costly floods). Altered patterns of climate and weather-less rainfall in the interior of continents, less snowfall.
We should also expect the seas to rise a few inches, first because sea water will expand as it gets warmer, and secondly because ice will flow off the land and melt.
The reduction in forest biomass and reduction of ocean plankton from exposure to increased UV radiation are also concerns. Ocean phytoplankton supplies 70% of the oxygen we breathe and is a major consumer of carbon dioxide. The attempt to understand complex systems has taken a quantum leap in recent years. We have gone beyond naïve linear models and now appreciate that if complex systems such as the atmosphere, the oceans, and land ecosystems change, they may become unstable and unfriendlier. Extra heat will cause more turbulence, and weather patterns will change in unpredictable ways. Unfortunately nature changes in abrupt ways and catastrophes are natural phenomena -storms, earthquakes, avalanches all represent a basic pattern of nature. We have to understand that our actions can and do lead to catastrophes - the issues looms large when you consider climate change as a consequence of the damage we have done to the plant in the past 100 years.
There is broad consensus in the scientific community that climate change is happening faster and to a extent than previously expected, confirmed by the Third Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was the outcome of a process involving 2000 international scientific experts. Due to the projected growth of emissions of greenhouse gases, the world's climate could warm up by up to 5.8°C by the end of this century.
Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to which 186 countries are Parties including the EC and the US, Parties are to stabilize their greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by the year 2000. The Kyoto Protocol to that Convention requires industrialized countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels by an average of 5% over the period 2008-2012.
The EU is committed under the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8% from 1990 levels by 2008-2012. According to European Commission figures, the total compliance costs of meeting the Kyoto Protocol targets can be as low as 0.06% of EU projected GDP in 2010, if the EU adopts the most efficient policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.. The European Commission has already proposed measures including an EC-wide emissions trading system, a strategy to increase the use of alternative road fuels and improvements in the energy efficiency of buildings and will come forward with a range of additional measures in the next two years. These include measures on energy efficiency, promotion of combined heat and power, fluorinated gases and shifting the balance towards less polluting modes of transport. A Directive to promote electricity generation from renewable and agreements with car manufacturers on vehicle fuel efficiency are examples of measures that have already been adopted by the EU.
The EU's and Member States greenhouse gas reduction targets were agreed in legally binding form at the 4th March 2002 EU Council of Environment Ministers. The individual reduction targets are those agreed politically in June 1998 under the so-called "Burden Sharing Agreement. The greenhouse gas reduction targets are:
In today's decision, the European Community and its Member States have also agreed to deposit their instruments of ratification with the United Nations simultaneously before 1 June. All Member States are on track to complete their internal ratifications in accordance with this timetable, and several have already done so including France, Denmark, Portugal and Luxembourg.
For the Kyoto Protocol to enter into force by the World Summit on Sustainable Development, it must be ratified 55 nations and by the nations responsible for 55% of industrialized countries' emissions in 1990. 47 nations have ratified so far, and every indication is that the Accession Countries, the EEA and EFTA countries, Russia, Japan and New Zealand will ratify enabling the 55% of emissions threshold to be reached in time for the Summit.
Trade and Environment
International trade is regarded an engine of economic growth. Free trade provides an opportunity to each country to specialize in those activities where it has a comparative advantage. Many developing countries possess comparative advantage in exports of primary commodities and certain Labour-intensive manufactured goods. It is contented that as primary products are natural resources intensive and as production of some manufactured goods generates negative externalities. It is argued that because of sub-optimal prices of natural resources and low environmental standards, these countries may gain competitive advantage for their products in world markets and also would be able to attract foreign capital in dirty activities. Environmental quality is a normal good, hence citizens of poorer countries would demand lower levels of environmental quality, and this leads to specialization in pollution-intensive manufacture. In short these countries become Pollution Havens.
However concerns have been raised about the environmental consequences of promoting freer flow of capital and products across the international border. Prominent among these fears is the “pollution haven” hypothesis. According to the hypothesis, stricter environmental regulations in one country either encourages domestic production facilities to move to countries with less stringent environmental regulation or encourages imports from those countries. It thus provides a reason for local areas to accept lower environmental standards as a means of protecting jobs that would be lost if production moved to countries with less stringent regulations.
Policy responses to overcome these trade-related environmental issues by developed countries are: (a) ban on the imports (b) Imposition of anti¬dumping duties on the products and (c) Plea for harmonization of environmental standards and multilateral agreements on investments.
International Trade Agreements and Institutions
Trade agreements, as the primary mechanism governing international economic relations, are emerging as significant policy tools in the struggle to repair and protect the global environment. While the rules of international trade are determined by each country, they are often set within the parameters of international agreements. Currently, the international trading system is governed by a patchwork of multilateral, regional, and bilateral trade agreements. Additionally, a number of international institutions have important roles in coordinating trade policies among groups of nations. These protocols recognize the common but differentiated responsibilities of countries.
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)
GATT is the major multilateral agreement on trade rules, providing a framework for international trade policy and a forum for trade disputes. GATT primarily seeks to encourage lower tariffs on raw materials and manufactured goods. Since the agreement was first struck in 1948, contracting parties have negotiated the average tariff down from 40 to 5 percent. However, a large amount of world trade is exempted from GATT’s provisions. For example, agricultural commodities and services like banking and insurance are excluded. The current round of GATT negotiations, known as the Uruguay Round, has focused on expanding GATT to cover more goods, as well as services, and to tackle more non-tariff barriers to trade.
Organization For Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
The OECD is a forum for industrialized countries to coordinate monetary, trade, and economic development policies for themselves and the rest of the world. Formed in 1960, OECD has twenty-four member countries, including most of Western Europe, the United States, Japan, Australia, Canada, Turkey, and Iceland. OECD establishes joint economic policies that the world’s most powerful trading nations bring to the table in GATT negotiations. Finance ministries attend OECD meetings, while trade representatives attend GATT meetings. In 1989 the OECD ministers stressed on the need to focus on environmental issues when formulating trade policies.
United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD)
mso-ansi-language:EN-US">The UNCTAD is an official body of United Nations (UN) that was formed in 1964 at the insistence of developing countries seeking an alternative to GATT. UNCTAD became a permanent organ of the UN in 1974, but lost much of its impetus when GATT subsequently embraced special provisions for developing countries. UNCTAD has no formal power over trade. Rather, UNCTAD convenes a conference every four years to exchange views on trade between countries that have different levels of development or different economic systems. In keeping with its developing country orientation, UNCTAD focuses on policies providing trade preferences for developing countries and on commodity agreements.
European Community (EC)
The EC is the largest and most advanced regional trade zone in the world. The EC is made up of twelve countries: France, Germany, England, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, Greece, and Denmark. The economic integration of the EC is based on free trade in many goods and services and may eventually lead to a common currency. A number of government functions have also been integrated and some policy areas are closely coordinated by the members.
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)
The pressure other countries to renegotiate GATT, and in response to the challenge posed by an economically integrated EC, the US administration decided to pursue free trade agreements with Canada and Mexico. A free trade agreement with Canada, known as the U.S-Canada Free Trade Agreement, went into effect in 1989. In 1990 the United States and Mexico began talks on a similar agreement. In 1991 these talks metamorphosed into a three-way negotiation among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. NAFTA does not aim for the level of political and economic integration found in the EC. Rather, NAFTA would be limited to a free exchange of products, commodities, services, and investments –along the lines of the proposals the United States has made to expand world trade through a more powerful GATT.
Other Regional Agreements
Throughout the world these regional agreements that serve as fora for cooperation, but fall short of the integration envisioned by either the EC or NAFTA. In all, there are nearly sixty regional trade zones, common custom unions, or regional trade pacts. Examples include the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), forum for the emerging economies of South Asia, and the MERCOSUR, a pact among Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
Environmental Economics and Ecological Economics are they the same!
The two fields of Environmental economics and Ecological economics take different perspectives though ultimately they are concerned with making social decisions about environmental problems. There are both simple and major distinctions.
A simple distinction between the two fields arises from the fact that Environmental economics involves economist who have extended their discipline and paradigm to consider the environment, whereas ecological economics tends to involve ecologists who have extended their discipline and paradigm to consider humans and the economy. One major distinction is associated with value and thus the way in which social decisions are made that depend on measures of value of the environment. Economists believe that society value is derived from the individual values held by human members of society. Ecological economists on the other hand take a more biophysical view of value. For instance ecological economist measure value in terms of embodied energy content. Environmental economist believe the value of a good stems from its embodied content of multiple scarce factors (including energy) as well as how much value individual people place on the final good. In other words, value cannot be reduced to a simple physical metric.
Environmental Economics and Resource Economics do they overlap?
Since both the fields of Environmental Economics and Resource Economics are concerned with the natural world there is always an overlapping of the two. The distinction arises from the fact that Environmental economics involves questions of excessive production of pollution by the market or insufficient protection of the natural world, due to market failure, on the other hand Resource economics is concerned with the production and use of both renewable and exhaustible natural resources. Typically, environmental economics is concerned with static questions of resource allocation, for instance time is not really an issue in deciding on the right amount of air pollution. Resource economics on the other hand is concerned with dynamics, time is what makes the economics of renewable and exhaustible resources interesting.
There are overlaps also, for instance Climate Change is an example of a pollution problem with a very long time frame. There are other overlaps, primarily in the preservation of natural environments. These issues involve time so they could be related to resource economics. Natural Resource economics is subdivided into Mineral economics, Forest economics, Marine economics, land economics, Energy economics, Water economics and Agricultural economics.
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