Parliaments and Pacts

In the absence of a global Leviathan, stronger domestic legislatures are the key to resolving the world’s collective environmental problems. The less accountable a government is to its people, the less it will do for the world.

JOHANNESBURG – The United Nations’ recent 17th Conference of the Parties (COP-17) in Durban, South Africa succeeded in renewing the Kyoto Protocol, which aims to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions. But the meeting also highlighted the two major problems that plague international environmental negotiations. The first, unscientific skepticism, has an impact on the second, collective-action failure. Ultimately, only legislative bodies have the power to overcome this failure.

Skepticism regarding the need for environmental action arises from the relationship between environmental degradation and per capita income. According to the environmental Kuznets curve (EKC), degradation and pollution increase enormously at the early stages of economic growth. But, above a certain per capita income threshold, that trend reverses itself: at high income levels, economic growth correlates with environmental improvement, leading to the dubious conclusion that it might be possible to achieve sustainable growth without deviating from “business as usual” (maintaining current emissions levels).

This theory informs some countries’ reluctance to commit to the Kyoto Protocol’s second term. But it is clearly wrong. The United States continues to have the world’s highest per capita emissions levels, at 19 tons of CO2 per person annually, even though average US annual income, at $42,385 per capita, is also among the highest in the world. Clearly, wealth in itself is no guarantee of reduced CO2 emissions.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/S8sYimV;
  1. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

    Angela Merkel’s Endgame?

    The collapse of coalition negotiations has left German Chancellor Angela Merkel facing a stark choice between forming a minority government or calling for a new election. But would a minority government necessarily be as bad as Germans have traditionally thought?

  2. Trump Trade speech Bill Pugliano/Getty Images .

    Preparing for the Trump Trade Wars

    In the first 11 months of his presidency, Donald Trump has failed to back up his words – or tweets – with action on a variety of fronts. But the rest of the world's governments, and particularly those in Asia and Europe, would be mistaken to assume that he won't follow through on his promised "America First" trade agenda.

  3. A GrabBike rider uses his mobile phone Bay Ismoyo/Getty Images

    The Platform Economy

    While developed countries in Europe, North America, and Asia are rapidly aging, emerging economies are predominantly youthful. Nigerian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese young people will shape global work trends at an increasingly rapid pace, bringing to bear their experience in dynamic informal markets on a tech-enabled gig economy.

  4. Trump Mario Tama/Getty Images

    Profiles in Discouragement

    One day, the United States will turn the page on Donald Trump. But, as Americans prepare to observe their Thanksgiving holiday, they should reflect that their country's culture and global standing will never recover fully from the wounds that his presidency is inflicting on them.

  5. Mugabe kisses Grace JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images

    How Women Shape Coups

    In Zimbabwe, as in all coups, much behind-the-scenes plotting continues to take place in the aftermath of the military's overthrow of President Robert Mugabe. But who the eventual winners and losers are may depend, among other things, on the gender of the plotters.

  6. Oil barrels Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Getty Images

    The Abnormality of Oil

    At the 2017 Abu Dhabi Petroleum Exhibition and Conference, the consensus among industry executives was that oil prices will still be around $60 per barrel in November 2018. But there is evidence to suggest that the uptick in global growth and developments in Saudi Arabia will push the price as high as $80 in the meantime.

  7. Israeli soldier Menahem Kahana/Getty Images

    The Saudi Prince’s Dangerous War Games

    Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is working hard to consolidate power and establish his country as the Middle East’s only hegemon. But his efforts – which include an attempt to trigger a war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon – increasingly look like the work of an immature gambler.