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?