Global treaties – are they destined to fail?
Dialogue forum on 20 January 2015
Mankind is pushing the planet to its limits. Our means of subsistence are at threat, many parts of the world are being ravaged by war and poverty. These global challenges make internationally binding agreements necessary.
Multinational conferences and agreements have been in existence for decades. However, negotiations often make only halting progress. How can processes be speeded up and what are the chances of nations coming to an agreement? On the first evening of the Dialogue Forums in 2015 addressing the topic of "Climate, poverty, catastrophes – save the world!", Undersecretary Dr. Heike Kuhn, environmental psychologist Prof. Ellen Matthies, and environmental activist and biologist Christine von Weizsäcker came together to discuss this issue.
2015 will be the year of international agreements: the Millennium Development Goals will end and are to be replaced by a new agenda. The United Nations will be fighting for a new global framework on disaster risk reduction in Sendai in March 2015, and the next World Summit in Paris must set the course for future climate protection. A great deal is at stake: "It's perfectly clear: unless a certain degree of resource and environmental justice can be secured for all people, the chance of maintaining peace is very low," fears Christine von Weizsäcker. At the same time she warned against hastily playing down the past achievements of international negotiations. The point is not like a high-wire artist to complete a distance as quickly as possible, but rather to "weave a hammock" in which all people can find adequate space. "Tying these countless knots in the widest diversity of agreements is more of a cultural achievement than a negotiating achievement," stated the environmental activist, who herself has participated in numerous conferences. This requires a cultural change that will take a certain length of time.
Staying power needed
Although the members of the global opportunity and risk community argue about the right way to do things, at least they do not make war on each other any more. The best results, says Kuhn, are always achieved when as many players as possible are involved in the negotiations. In other words, not only government officials but also the affected parties themselves. "Just think about where we would be today, if we did not talk so much to each other at international level," she bid the audience consider.
The Scientific Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) has developed recommendations for how negotiations can be most effectively conducted at the next climate summit in Paris. The bar has been set high in Paris: to ensure that the global temperature rises no more than two degrees above pre-industrial times, mankind must from 2070 at the latest abstain entirely from the use of fossil fuels such as oil, gas or coal. "Climate change is a matter of justice," stated Ellen Matthies, who has been a member of the WBGU since 2013.
Golden paths and other approaches
However, given the complexity of the material, many citizens resign, which is what some players in the economy actually want. "There are companies that deliberately manipulate public perception," lamented von Weizsäcker. Their goal is to create confusion among the population and unsettle the citizens with a flood of conflicting opinions. In addition to this, there are stallers at all negotiations who first want all aspects explored to the very last detail before embarking on any attempts to find a resolution.
Mere declarations of intent are not enough
It was already set down in the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development in 1992 that the population must be informed and involved in decision-making processes - even to the extent of being granted affordable access to jurisdiction. "These are three elements that today could be a good engine for negotiations that are dragging along," von Weizsäcker stated clearly. However, as these principles have to date been dispensed with in many instances, it should come as no surprise when negotiations move forward with the brakes applied.
After all, many international negotiations have now gained momentum and there is hope that humanity will opt for viable solutions. Each and every person is encouraged to get involved, even if the outcome is uncertain. "We do not have the choice between guaranteed success and guaranteed failure, but rather between guaranteed failure and possible success," was the conclusion reached by the panel.
The next dialogue forum will take place on February 24, 2015, on the topic of "Climate change - will Paris rescue the 2°C climate target?"