End National Veto on Climate Change Talks?

Reuters is reporting on a Nature article that argues for “majority voting” in UN climate change negotiations, effectively ending the national veto.

In a paper co-authored by researchers from the University of East Anglia, the University of Colorado, and accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (now there’s a grouping that inspires confidence!) it is argued that the current UN system of “consensus” is “highly inequitable” and “obstruct[s] progress towards international climate policy cooperation”.

The authors of the paper propose ending the need for international consensus and moving instead to a system of majority voting, where a majority of countries in favour of a policy or regulation would be enough to ensure its ratification. Countries which didn’t vote for the proposal or consent to it, would still be required to comply with the new directive. As Heike Schroeder of the University of East Anglia, lead author of the paper argues:

“Majority voting would be a threat to some,” Schroeder said. “But our parliaments don’t work (with consensus), why not extend that to the realm of multilateral negotiations?”

One obvious question that arises is the extent to which dissenting countries could be compelled to fall in line with directives ordering them to take action. This is still something of a grey area in international law, but with the rise of environmental policy by lawsuit, it seems that substantial pressure could be applied to force compliance, especially against smaller countries.

Of course, it doesn’t take a PhD in international law or Political Science to see the flaw in the paper’s application of majority voting to international multilateral negotiations. If the system adopted is one country, one vote, what is to stop the nations of the world currently regarded by the UN as “developing” and therefore not required to curb their emissions or contribute to climate change funds from grouping together to hold those few “developed” nations to ransom? Remember, it’s not just nations like Ethopia or Bhutan we’re talking about, China and India are both classed as “developing” by the UN for the purposes of climate change negotiations.

What could possibly go wrong?

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3 responses to “End National Veto on Climate Change Talks?

  1. A glance at the background of lead author Heike Schroeder reveals that she’s very much into this “global governance” or “earth system governance” thing:

    http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/people/schroederheike.php

    “At the core of her work lies a focus on how institutions – sets of rights, rules and decision-making procedures – matter in causing and addressing problems arising from human/environment interactions and how traditional government practices are often ill-equipped to meet the challenges from large-scale environmental change. It requires a system of governance that transcends national boundaries, links different levels of governance and enables traditional and non-traditional policy actors to play their parts. This new earth system governance approach emphasises the interrelated and increasingly integrated system of formal and informal rules, rule-making systems and actor networks at all levels of governance that are set up to steer societies towards preventing, mitigating and adapting to global environmental change”.

    Drawing up systems of rules that “steer societies”, while bypassing democratic procedures? Who would make these rules? Who would implement them? What if people don’t want to be “steered”?

    “But our parliaments don’t work (with consensus), why not extend that to the realm of multilateral negotiations?” To paraphrase: because democracy has its flaws, we should promote those flaws to the world at large, so that we can exploit them.

    • Spot on. Thanks for the info on the lead author, Alex. Once you cut your way through all the BS verbiage it always seems to come down to a question of how to sidestep what the people want and instead tell them what’s in their best interests. Not democracy, is it.

  2. From “Urban climate governance”
    “It theorizes SMEs as agents of change in the multi-level governance of climate change”
    That sounds like Common Purpose raising it ugly head…

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