Freshwater Action Network
– grassroots influencing on water and sanitation

Global environmental governance - what if we actually wanted it to work?

Every day I find new articles on relevant policies that I really should read. Two things usually happen. 

I print it and shove it in my bag for reading during the commute reasoning that now that precious paper has been used I wouldn't dare not actually read it. 

Or …

I read the first few pages, sighing heavily as I become bored by jargon, status quo thinking or organizational self promotion or through no fault of the author's I get tired of schlepping the battered pages around and guiltily add it to the stack of things at home that I would read if I was a better activist. 

Every once and awhile something different happens. Today, after carrying around the short essay 'Embarking on global environmental governance: Thoughts on the inclusion of local governments and other stakeholders in safeguarding the global environment' by Konrad Otto-Zimmerman[i] I actually had a look and was so inspired by the simplicity of the big ideas that I had to share it.

Though I recommend reading it yourself, in brief what Otto-Zimmerman recommends is the tying of local government, sub-national governments and business into a global framework of policy setting, implementation and accountability, linked to the multilateral environmental governance that national governments are part of.

Why?

Otto-Zimmerman gives the example of cities like Mumbai, Tokyo and Sao Paolo which all have populations larger than 150 of the smaller UN states, and he notes that ‘at a time when the world’s elite no longer believes that national governments alone will save the world’s climate, the same elites should be acknowledging the role and contributions of local governments, sub-national governments, business and civil society.’

Sensible. 

Very little that has come out of the climate change talks has given us any reason to believe that nation-states are ready to rise meaningfully to the challenges of climate change (just convincing them to think about water is a struggle!) or that they are prepared to make decisions that will actually lead to keeping the global temperature increase below the 2 degree C threshold. Yet, experience tells us that a series of coordinated ‘small’ decisions and locally relevant solutions feeding into a framework could not only have a big impact, in many ways it may be the only thing we really have any real control over.

Local governments 'responded to the adoption of the [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] only eight months after the Rio summit,' Otto-Zimmerman notes, ‘while it took the United Nations 13 years before the Kyoto Protocol entered into force. And this is still not working as intended.’

 

 

 

 

 

 



[i] Secretary General of 'International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives' (ICLEI) -- Local Governments for Sustainability 

 

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