In December 1997, after nights of bargaining that culminated two years of hard negotiations, representatives of 160 governments wearily agreed in Kyoto, Japan, on a protocol to supplement the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It was hoped that the Kyoto Protocol would represent a major step forward by the international community to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases that could alter future climate. Before long, however, doubts emerged on whether the treaty was implementable, and even whether enough governments would ratify it to allow its coming into force as international law. Now, over three years later,
1 Dr. Benedick, formerly Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and chief U.S. negotiator of the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Protect the Ozone Layer, is author of Ozone Diplomacy—New Directions in Safcgunrtling the planet (Harvard University Press, rev. ed. 1998). Currently, he is Deputy Director, Environmental and Health Sciences Division, Battelle Washington Operations; Visiting Fellow, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin; and President, National Council for Science and the Knvironment.
only about 30, mainly small, nations have ratified. Among them, only Mexico is a significant emitter of carbon dioxide.
Only a decade earlier, just 24 countries had signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer. This treaty, however, was soon ratified by all of the significant producer and consumer nations. It came into force within only 15 months, has now been ratified by nearly 170 countries, and has entered into the annals of diplomacy as a landmark in the history of international cooperation. The heads of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) described the 1987 Montreal Protocol as "one of the great international achievements of the century" (Bojkov, 1995).
Much has been written about the pathbreaking nature of the ozone accord. Its unexpected success was viewed as an encouraging sign that the world would now be able to cooperate in addressing such other long-term environmental threats as climate change and diminishing biological diversity. The Montreal Protocol was mined for pertinent lessons for the future (Lang, 1996; French, 1997; Benedick, 1998a).
However, the negotiations over climate change, from their very inception in Chantilly, Virginia, in February 1991, have been marked by persistent disarray among the negotiating parties on the necessity and feasibility of strong, early measures to remodel the world's energy structure. Proponents of decisive action became increasingly frustrated by continuing hesitancy on the diplomatic global biogeoch emigal cycles in the climate system
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front— a lack of zeal that was manifested, ironically, by many of the same nations that have been traditional leaders on ozone, air and water quality, wildlife and other environmental issues, notably Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.
Environmental advocates attributed the negotiating problems not to flaws in the international approach to climate, but rather to short-sighted politics, selfish pecuniary interests, and unenlightened lifestyles of a few rich countries. The arguments on all sides became increasingly shrill, the rhetoric more inflammatory. Irritation over the climate stalemate led some revisionists to label the Montreal Protocol as an easy victory that has no relevance for the more complex subject of climate change. Ozone layer and climate change? It seemed like comparing apples with oranges.
The scientific and socioeconomic variables associated with global climate are indeed more complicated than those that faced the negotiators of the Montreal Protocol. However, this alone is not a satisfactory explanation for the continuing disputes over restricting anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Far from being disqualified, the ozone experience offers lessons that are fundamental to understanding why climate negotiations have been so emotional and unproductive.
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