Conclusion

To conclude, it is crucial to clearly differentiate between what this book claims and what it does not. First, I do not claim that eventually solving climate change and other global environmental problems can be accomplished with less than universal participation. Obviously, both ozone depletion and climate change are problems with global extent that emerge from diverse and numerous activities. Solving climate change, especially, will likely require participation at multiple levels (international, regional, transnational, national, and local) and perhaps it will require profound changes in economic, cultural, and political systems.

Second, I do not claim that it would have been better if universal participation did not come to define ozone depletion and climate change. It would have been different. Without an initial understanding of universal participation, the climate change negotiations would have been less equitable and sensitive to development concerns. On the other hand, perhaps the negotiations would have been easier in their initial stages and avoided some of the contestation that arose after the FCCC. It is impossible to say if a less than universal participation requirement would have made the governance outcomes for climate change better. There would have been different strategies and different negotiating structures. Personally, I am in favor of universal negotiations, aware that they have drawbacks, and hopeful (yet doubtful) that they will be part of the solution for the climate change problem.

Regardless of whether or not universal participation was a good or bad development, I do claim that universal participation was not inevitable. Notions of what is required to respond to global problems are not determined by the inherent characteristics of the problems, rather, such notions are socially constructed. There are numerous problems that might actually need universal participation to solve them—poverty, arms control, terrorism—but are not defined as requiring universal participation. In addition, some of the characteristics of climate change made it plausible to start with smaller negotiations, as happened in the ozone depletion negotiations. The existence of a small number of large contributors, the complexity of the problem, the long time scales involved, and the uncertainty surrounding the problem all make initial, less than universal negotiations plausible.

Ironically, however, I also claim that universal participation was inevitable, at least for climate change. Possible and impossible understandings of the climate change problem are bounded by social structures. Climate change was defined and intersubjectively understood to require universal participation from the very beginning. This understanding made it impossible to define climate change in any other way, and it influenced the very course and destiny of the international community's efforts to address climate change.

Finally, though universal participation was socially constructed to be obvious, that obviousness can be transient. Obvious understandings are socially constructed and social construction is a continuous process. Obvious understandings change. We need to understand how obvious understandings emerge and change in order to understand how global problems will be dealt with and if we hope to solve them.

In the very end, I return to the notion of becoming. Global environmental politics is not unfolding in a mechanistic, linear fashion. Instead, global environmental politics is evolving as new understandings arise and erode, as accepted actions change over time, and as the international community gains experience addressing a multitude of problems that face humanity. Explaining and understanding the details and outcomes of global environmental governance requires a thorough understanding of the processes of social construction and adaptation. These processes have driven the course of global environmental politics in the past and will continue to drive it in the future. These processes will determine how global environmental governance unfolds in a complex, dynamic fashion.

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Negotiating Essentials

Negotiating Essentials

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