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Governance with Multilateral Environmental Agreements: A Healthy or Ill-Equipped Fragmentation?

Kanie, Norichika. 2007. Governance with Multilateral Environmental Agreements: A Healthy or Ill-Equipped Fragmentation?. Global Environmental Governance: Perspectives on the Current Debate, edited by Walter Hoffmann and Lydia Swart, 67-86. New York: Center for UN Reform Education


This chapter focuses on multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). Unlike other international policy fields such as trade, labor or health, where international institutions are streamlined, environmental problem solving is cantered around a multiple number of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) and their institutions (secretariat and conference of the parties). Although existing environmental institutions such as MEAs and UNEP have achieved a great deal and reduced the speed with which environmental degradation is proceeding, there still are a number of pressing environmental problems prevailing throughout the world, including air and water pollution, the loss of biological diversity, desertification and climate change. Furthermore, accelerated globalization has caused cross border environmental problems to increase. Challenges of environmental governance are huge and still growing. What is necessary to improve the system and make it more effective? Could we head for a more effective environmental governance system based on MEAs on the road ahead, or do we need to change direction towards a more streamlined problem solving system?

Questions in the following three areas are considered below:

1. The first set of questions is about the MEA system itself. What is the MEA system? How and why did it come about? Why are there so many independent multilateral agreements in the field of environment and what are the related problems?

2. The second deals with the performance of the MEA system. What are its strengths and weaknesses? Although evaluating the performance of institutions involves many methodological issues which could lead to an interesting academic debate, this chapter will not delve into this.

3. What reforms are required, what are the options? How large is the gap between needed reform and the current political will? What could narrow this gap?

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