Evaluate the role and effectiveness of international conferences and institutions in achieving environmental protection. In your answer, make reference to barriers to achieving an international response to global environmental protection. (25 marks)
In relation to the global environment, international institutions and conferences are generally effective in its role of protection. In establishing soft law guidelines and holding conferences, international institutions such as the United Nations (1945) and the International Court of Justice (1945) provide nation states with a framework or recommendations to abide by if ratified. The 1972 Stockholm conference marked the first international conference on the environment regarding the transboundary responsibilities of countries and principles such as intergenerational equity. This saw the increased involvement of the UN and ICJ and eventually further international conferences such as the Vienna Convention (1985), the Montreal Conference (1989), Rio de Janerio Earth Summit (1992) and the Kyoto conference (1997) regarding global threats such as climate change and ozone depletion. However, the existence of state sovereignty as well as the political and economic interests of countries remains barriers for cooperation between nations. Thus, highlighting the ineffectiveness of international law in its role of achieving global environmental protection.
The growing awareness of global threats such as ozone depletion led to international calls for the reduction of ozone depletion pollutants, CFC's and nitrate oxides. The Vienna Conference of 1985 attempted to raise global awareness of the dire impacts of ozone depletion including increased rates of skin cancer/UV exposure and damage to agriculture. The recognition of these negative impacts by nation states led to the establishment of soft law guidelines and recommendations and four years later, introduction of hard-law targets. Under the Montreal Protocol (1989), signatory nations were required to introduce national emission standards/pollution control measures. Within 12 months, 74 states and the European Union (EU) had become party to the protocol (representing 95% of nations who consumed polluting substances). In 1989, Australia ratified Montreal and created domestic legislation known as the Ozone Depletion Act 1989 (Cth). This saw national phasing out of use of CFC's and nitrogen oxide emissions and reduction of lead-based fuel in cars. Sanctions and penalties were also introduced for non-complying corporations. The introduction of these domestic responses in individual nation states highlights the effectiveness of international conferences in promoting the increase of global environmental protection.
Following increased industrialisation as well as technological and economic development, the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janerio (June 1992), aimed to renew global attention about growing environmental issues including ozone depletion, over-population and urban development. This UN conference saw strong political agreement across many nations (178 member states and over 15,000 NGO personnel present) in promoting intergenerational equity and establishing the beginning of stronger regional programs. Discussion also saw the introduction of the 'precautionary principle', a concept based on sustainability for future generations. Soft law guidelines were introduced under various documents such as the Rio Declaration and The Convention of Biological Diversity. However, attempts made to establish an international response were unsuccessful due to a lack of consensus and money pledged by developed nations. Thereby depicting some of the ongoing problems with international law.
In response to the Rio Conference, domestic law has been introduced in Australia to protect the environment. Although there is no direct inclusion of environmental matters under the Constitution, the Australian government has ratified aspects...
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