Might makes right
The Copenhagen discussions keep pitting the smallest states against the richest, and against the most populous. These small and poor states should not be able to hold up a deal that is in the interests of the vast majority of the people in the world. The people in China, India, Brazil and other industrialising nations want to be able continue fast economic growth so do not want to have to implement anything that will hurt this. The developed world do not want to have to pay more to the world's poorest countries, as at the moment even the developed world does not have the money. Why should these countries making up most of the world be held to ransom by a few insignificant states.
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The international system is anarchy
There is no hierarchy in the international system, the closest thing there is to a police force or governing body is the United Nations Security Council, which is itself a club of the most powerful. In almost every area of international affairs the richest countries hold all the cards and are not afraid to use them. The gap in power between countries is immense.The powerful only pay attention when the weak have a powerful backer themselves or the powerful are being generous, usually for selfish reasons, to show they are being generous. This means that the difference in influence wielded by countries is equally vast. War is no longer an option that is resorted to for countries to get their way but there are many other ways of playing power politics; finance, sanctions, trade agreements, citing human rights abuses, technology, energy etc.
There is increasingly global governance, the UN is just one facet of the architecture that encompasses the world in treaties that reduce the power of bigger states compared to the smaller ones. The WTO means that it is much harder to use economic policy as a weapon. The EU acts in the interests of all its members, not just the biggest or richest members. Regional groupings pool the power of the smaller nations. This does not mean that they are only bound at the international level. Most powerful countries are western democratic nations, such as the United States and the United Kingdom. In these democratic nations, the people have the most power. Politicians who are trying to get reelected for offices will try to do what people petitioned for. Protests and Court cases can mobilize the people to take action and change government policies. Key issues such as climate change can have a big impact through such movements that can persuade influential actors within a state, even increasingly internationally as well, such as corporations to lobby for change. Although the international systems is rather weak against the powerful countries it is the people, through grassroots movements, who can limit the actions of the powerful countries.
Furthermore, we mustn't confuse the lack of formal hierarchy with anarchy (the negation of all hierarchy). While the international system may not have a formal government, it absolutely does have a hierarchy, by virtue of the fact that some states have larger economic and/or military might than others. Also, increasingly the role of States is being superceded by that of large corporations, and the international investment community, who control the majority of capital.
The industrialising developing countries represent most of the world's population. India, China, the ASEAN states as well as Brazil and Russia between them have about half the world's population. They therefore represent the majority and are the states that are newly powerful. Why should these states give concessions to the smallest states if they believe it is in the interests of their citizens?
The size of population is not everything. Having a population may give a state more say but no one life is worth more than any other. Even worse if a country is not a democracy there is no way of knowing if that country is following a democratic path in representing the wishes of its people in the negotiations. The chinese negotiatiors and the Chinese Communist Party may well represent 1.3billion people but we do not know that they speak with the voice of the people. Big industrialising nations may represent half the worlds population but pursuing a policy that allows one country to industrialise helping to lift millions of the people of that state out of the poverty cant be considered to balance out the loss of lives in those states that would be adversely affected by climate change.
The cost is higher than the gain
Although there may be many more who gain from the increasing wealth of the industrialising countries each is much less affected by this gain than those living in those states that are going to be affected by the costs of climate change. How can a gain in wealth be compared to the loss of lives. Power has no impact on what is right and no matter how politicians dress it up the majority of them know that the right thing to do is to get an agreement that reduces the number of lives lost by being tough on emissions.
Everything depends on how you measure gain and how far in to the future the calculations are done, power might not influence what is right but it can help change what is percieved to be right. It is very important that developing countries reinforce their economies, this is so they can have the resources to provide for the population in need, also the need the resources and knowledge to reduce the impacts of climatic change. This could be just as effective as a deal in Copenhagen, the richer the developing world the better they are able to stand up on their own against climate change so reducing the cost from climate change as well as gaining from development. So is it right that industrialising countries should give up this opportunity to in the future reduce emissions on their own backs.
International agreements have to suit all parties
There is no point in going to all the effort of involving every country to create a deal if that deal is finally decided by only a few countries. In order for a deal to take place all parties need to be happy, only the very smallest can be safely ignored, there are many states even in the G77 and AoSIS that cant be ignored. For example the U.S. cant ignore Pakistan or Afghanistan due to their ongoing involvement in the war on terror. If either wanted they could link cooperation there with a deal on climate change. As the most powerful states regularly use such linkage this would not be out of the question if their backs were up against the wall.
International agreements only have to suit those parties that bring something to the table. Many of these states have nothing to bargain with and even if they link in other issues have very little compared to the bigger countries. So if an agreement does not suit these countries what can they do?
What do you think?