Why is cooperation on climate policy so difficult to achieve?

Sep 8, 2020

Environmental concerns may seem like a modern subject worldwide; it can also be extensive and have different challenges, goals, and outlooks. I would like to begin addressing this seemly “trendy and recent” topic with its origin – the late 1800’s in Europe when people started an environmental movement that grew strongly in Great Britain as a retort to their Industrial Revolution. During this time to the non-existent ecologic regulations allowed factories to pollute air and water, these rapidly expanded out into farmland. It did not take long for the inhabitants of these communities to react and demand the factories and authorities to protect natural spaces. These efforts led to organizations of people demanding protection and an awareness communication plan. Some pioneer groups, like “The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds,” founded in 1889 and the “National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty” established in 1894, began to appear all over England (1).


Conservation efforts in America and the rest of the world began to catch up during the early 20th century; environmental regulations and government agencies began to be present all over the world but mainly in Germany, where the main focus was to protect their forests. The ecological consciousness continued to grow slowly in the 1950s and ’60s, but it is during the ’70s when we see the efforts becoming more tangible and acquiring structure. It is during this decade that we see significant achievements like the formation of Greenpeace, the first Earth Day, and the UN’s first environmental conference.


As the following decades went by, the topic obtained more attention. Governments, schools, and civilians were as well better informed about global warming and its possible consequences. Sadly, after the peek came the fall. The environmental movements’ strength deteriorated somewhat since the late 2000s after it hit a high with the anger following the great recession and globalization at its most. The challenges became then evident, conflict of interests, vast cultural differences, competition between economies, infrastructure discrepancies, lack of information, outsourcing, among others.


Another important reason why there is no significant international cooperation is the lack of a formal protocol to allocate liability. Europe leads the efforts to impose strategies and accountability, but the impact has been low. In addition to relying on its general political, cultural and economic weight, the leading countries of the European Union have generally exercised based on small power resources, which means “lead by example,” diplomacy, research, persuasion, and argumentation. This strategy may be subject to both necessity and choice. On the one hand, the European Union does not possess the political and economic power to force others to fight climate change. On the other, this approach correlates well with the notion of the EU as a civilian power in the quest for coalition governance in keeping with its normative preference for soft actions. This friendly system of coordination and representation has brought some achievements gradually since the early 1990s, a remarkable degree of coherence as an actor in international climate policy. (2) they have also included preparatory work on establishing strong positions and assigning negotiating authority to lead representatives and the Presidency. The EU has also been able to streamline coordination at international institutions and come to negotiations to help gain capacity for outreach to other countries.

In my opinion, these efforts were at their best capacity and observable during the 2015 Paris Agreement, when a global initiative was finally achieved. Later,  some of the more developed countries worked on taking the lead in mobilizing resources and channels to support the one more challenging. India is an example; at the beginning of the convention were in a firm position that they wouldn’t be part of the “deal” due to their needs as an emerging economy country. It was after days that they worked on solutions and agreed that developing countries would receive financial, technological, and capacity-building support to meet the target.

After one year of this great achievement of recognition and an agreement between almost two-hundred countries to work together to prevent massive changes, many social, economic, ethical, and political challenges arrived.

New leaders, new political agendas, new interests, new strategies, and new priorities. This antagonist’s policies continue to “act against the momentum which the Paris Agreement on climate change hoped to generate,” (3)   showed by a report from the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA).

After the decision to withdraw from the Agreement, moral and political justifications for others followed. Russia and Turkey are an example; they have signed the Agreement but have not endorsed it thus far. More shockingly, countries known for being the leaders of eco-friendliness like Australia adopted these policies debating that if the United States wasn’t committed to the Paris Agreement, why should they bring forth legislation they alleged would be damaging to the Australian economy?

Overall many leaders have adopted a hostile view to the whole climate topic, from its financing, execution, measurement, and so forth, which has brought a more significant gap between developed and developing countries, damaging the collaboration needed at international negotiations. It will be tough for diplomats to build the machinery that will make more profound agreements possible in the future. We are also very much concentrated on the eleven pages agreement itself instead of the detailed decisions, outlines, and policies that will be adopted along the way what countries should do individually to give the front to this rapidly-growing matter.

It is crucial to mention, or question, the ethics behind these decisions. How many lives are important but “less important” than a certain amount of profit, dollars. Are all men equal, but some are less equal? International Institutions have also played a biased roll on this topic, attributing more value to specific populations and leaders.

A large number of developing countries experience the consequences of global warming and extreme weather changes, and it is forecasted to continue to face disproportionately from its effects in the future. Furthermore, developing countries often have limited social safety nets, widespread poverty, fragile health care systems, and weak governmental institutions, making it harder for them to adapt or respond to climate change and not to forget that many developing countries have the highest birth rates.

People in developing countries also live day by day severe air and water pollution, thus leading to infections, diseases carried by insects or contaminated food, and from possible displacement, migration, and violence triggered by climate change. States should organize to temper the threat to the future generations in these countries designing and funding policies to protect the most vulnerable nations from the harm. Such policies might include developing new technologies, improving access to clean water, increasing foreign aid, and offering more assistance to help developing countries expand their safety through networks.

In theory, international institutions play central roles in global governance and interaction, states and international organizations rely on them to monitor international agreements; governments use them to understand potential imbalances in multilateral relationships, but history shows us they tend to be more responsive to narrow-interest groups who are expected to succumb to protectionist demands.

The extensive list of tasks of International organizations to provide equality and solutions on a wide range of issues, but state leaders and the informed publics have become increasingly skeptical about their policies and actions. Most of the sources of bias are produced in western nations by western leaders.” International relations theory is skewed westward, which impairs its ability to explain and to provide a social good.
Much of this western bias is due to the historical political and military dominance of the west; the victors write history, and political philosophy seems to be too.” (4)

The aim should be to make policies inclusive, and more global-friendlier by will involving pluralism and finding the right represents in institutions and more critical in States.



Viridiana Otamendi



  • David W. Gibbons Jeremy D. Wilson  Rhys E. Green “Using conservation science to solve conservation problems.” First published: May 13, 2011- Journal of Applied Ecology © 2011 British Ecological Society


  • Martijn L.P. Groenleer Van Schaick “United We Stand?” First published: November 12, 2007 – Journal of Common Market Studies


  • The Paris Climate Agreement versus the Trump Effect: Countervailing Forces for Decarbonization

by Joseph Curtin, Institute of International and European Affairs https://www.iiea.com/publication/the-paris-climate-agreement-versus-the-trump-effect-countervailing-forces-for-decarbonisation/

  • Alex Young “Western Bias in International Theory” September 10, 2014-Harvard International Review