|by James L. Morrison
[Note: This is a re-formatted manuscript that was originally published in
On the Horizon, 1992, 1(4), 10-11. It is posted here with permission
from Jossey Bass
Throughout most of the 20th
century, diplomats have concentrated on questions of political and economic relations
among nation-states. As the century closes, a third set of international problems, those
relating to the health of the planet, is coming to the fore. The threatened depletion of
Earth's ozone layer is a prime example of such challenges (other items on the new agenda
include global warming, deforestation, species extinction, desertification and soil
erosion, and pollution of common resources). Ambassador Benedick, the chief US negotiator
of the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, later revised in
1990, describes the negotiations and the protocol as "the forerunner of an evolving
global diplomacy, through which nations accept common responsibility for stewardship of
the planet." Some lessons for this new diplomacy are:
- Scientists must play an unaccustomed but major role in international environmental
- Governments may have to act while there is still scientific uncertainty, balancing the
risks and costs of acting or not acting.
- Educating and mobilizing public opinion are essential to generate pressure on hesitant
governments and private companies.
- Strong leadership by a major country can be a significant force for developing
- It may be desirable for a leading country or group of countries to take preemptive
protection measures in advance of a global agreement.
- Economic and structural inequalities among countries must be adequately reflected in any
international regulatory regime. In the long run, the huge and growing populations of Less
Developed Countries (LDCs) could undermine efforts to protect the global environment.
- The effectiveness of an agreement is enhanced when it employs market incentives to
stimulate technological innovation.
[Benedick, R.E. (1991). Ozone diplomacy: New directions in safeguarding the planet.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard U Press. Adapted from Future Survey Annual, 1992]
More than 2.2 million tons of toxic
garbage cross borders each year, with no end in sight. Like drugs and arms, trafficking in
hazardous waste has become big business for a new breed of "waste lords."
Blocked by increasing regulation and local opposition to disposal sites, the stream of
waste constantly searches for new outlets, usually poor communities and countries. Within
the US, waste migrates to the rural South; in the UK, from England to Wales. The US is by
far the greatest producer, generating 10 times as much hazardous waste as all of Western
Europe, more than one ton of waste a year for each American. The US shipped 100,00 tons of
hazardous waste abroad in 1987, with the figure rising by 40% by 1989. Recent reports
suggest the problem is out of control, and that the EPA does not know how much waste is
There is virtually no international
mechanism to monitor the waste trade, much less police it for violations. The Basel
Convention of 1989, a treaty on the export of toxic waste, called for exporters to notify
and receive permission from importers before any shipment may proceed. But LDCs have no
mechanism to enforce provisions, and remain at the mercy of the First World. [Center for
Investigative Reporting & Moyers, B. (1990). Global dumping ground: The
international traffic in hazardous waste. Washington: Seven Locks Press. Adapted from Future
Survey Annual, 1992.]