Global Environmental Policies: Institutions and Procedures
Edited by Ho-Won Jeong. Houndmills: Palgrave (2001).
Review by Klaus Töpfer
In the last few decades, sustainable development and environmental protection have become one of the most important domains of international politics and public policy. This trend is paralleled by the growing importance of the issue of environmental governance. Clearly, the rapid pace of global change has put pressure on the environmental policy capacity of governments. Policy issues that governments face include the increasingly transboundary nature of environmental problems, interlinkages between various environmental problems, implementation of the increasing number of multilateral environmental agreements, growing urbanization, the increasing role of the civil society in influencing public policies and the transition towards a knowledge based information society. Understandably, governments worldwide find that they do not have adequate knowledge to respond to the environmental challenges posed by rapid technological advances and the forces of globalization.
One aspect of effective environmental governance needs to be made clear. The regulation of global economic activities is strongly shifting towards being organized at the global level. International governance is being increasingly dedicated to income growth through free movement of goods and services, capital and labour. It is therefore important that effective environmental governance is construed as sharing authority between environmental and economic institutions at all levels.
Good environmental governance demands public participation to ensure that environmental, political, social and economic priorities are based on a broad societal consensus, and that the poorest and most vulnerable populations can influence political decision-making, particularly with respect to the allocation of natural resources.
The role of the private sector in sustainable development cannot be ignored since it is the primary source of opportunities for productivity, employment, income-generation, public investment, enterprise development, and economic growth. Sustainable development is also impossible without the participation of the civil society. Civil society organizations facilitate public participation through social mobilization. The capacity of governments to engage civil society is critical to a nation’s capability to sustain political and economic opportunities and social cohesion.
It is importation to recognize that although it is the scientific and technical challenges of sustainable development and environmental conservation that will occupy the attention of most people, it is the institutional and behavioural challenges that will prove to be more formidable over time. Facing the environmental challenges of the 21st century will, ultimately, be a matter of good policies, effective leadership, creative and adaptable agencies, concerned and involved citizens, good information and rational decision making.
Ho-Won Jeong’s book is a valuable addition to the growing discipline of international environmental policymaking. The contributions to this volume show that we cannot pretend that any one perspective can solve environmental problems, but that a range of complementary perspectives can help policymakers and advisors in their continuing efforts to understand environmental problems and to address them more effectively. The contributions to this book show that to improve the performance of environmental policies the backward look must be complemented by an ability to look forward at the long-term consequences of present actors.