01.04.2013 0

Do International Environmental Policies Ever Achieve Anything?

Environmental issues are high on the agenda for most governments around the world, at least those that aren’t trying to incite war or killing their own people.

However, despite it being a definite focus, it is often difficult to see any real progress in terms of initiatives. This is true both at the local level, with governments and their own countries, as well as on the wider global front.

This begs the question for many; do global environmental initiatives and policies ever actually achieve anything, or are the interested parties just guilty of allowing us, as a global population, to sleepwalk into a disaster?

What Policies?

The question of whether environmental policies ever achieve anything needs casting aside for a second. Part of the problem with climate issues today is that no one can ever agree on what is the best way forward.

No doubt, there are many who wish Al Gore actually did become President of the United States, and the general indecisiveness that has gripped global leaders for the last 15 years would likely be washed away.

This is the general pattern than modern day environmental talks follow.

  • · Global leaders meet to discuss the agenda
  • · Said leaders put their own points of view forward
  • · Leaders then make counterpoints and argue with each other
  • · They all agree to disagree, and defer a decision until the next time they meet
  • · Nothing is done for a couple of years until they meet again
  • · And repeat

When you work like that, it is difficult to get anything done. However, it has to be said that the process we’ve just outlined is more of an effect than a cause. Why do environmental talks go down that route?

Differing Needs

The trouble with global talks is that all countries are at different stages in their development. This is why you never hear anything controversial coming out of G8 meetings, for example; they are all in the same boat and generally have the same ideas.

Global talks run aground because you have the powerful countries who want their ideas to be heard, but what is best for them is not necessarily what is best for developing nations in South America, Africa, or Asia. Add in the countries that are still suffering the effects of the global financial crisis who are putting the economy above everything else, and you have a recipe for stalemate.


The issues covered so far don’t even begin to comprehend what happens when the thorny issue of technology is approached. Some countries will sit in meetings and tell everyone that they have a great piece of equipment or a technology that will help their environmental initiatives.

They can all use it, as long as they agree to pay a fee that would blow a hole in their own financial affairs. Again, the wheels fall off talks.

The Balance

Getting what you want while masquerading as being interested in the ‘greater good’ is a hard game to play, and it is ultimately for that reason why global environmental talks never go anywhere.

Even when there are policies, such as Kyoto, they are treated as afterthoughts, something to achieve if you can, but nothing to be given much priority, too.

The sad irony is that the high-level politicians responsible will find solutions quickly when it’s too late.

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