|Eco-restructuring: Implications for sustainable development (UNU, 1998, 417 pages)|
|Part II: Restructuring sectors and the sectoral balance of the economy|
|12 National and international policy instruments and institutions for eco-restructuring|
The search for a viable path to a sustainable future must be hinged upon a wide array of complex problem sets, including not only the technological issues related to global climate, preservation of biodiversity, and other natural/ecological constraints to the cohabitation of billions of world citizens, but also the very art of cohabitation in an ever-shifting hierarchy of political, economic, and social issues. The notion of eco-restructuring goes a few steps further than the UN Conference on Environment and Development's Rio Declaration and Agenda 21. It necessarily includes an element of "futurology," leading us into a wide range of possibilistic explorations. Experience shows, however, that, apart from a listing of possible technological breakthroughs, the futurology has been notoriously incompetent at dovetailing social breakthrough scenarios into a feasible policy package with concrete instruments and institutional devices. What difference would it make then, if, instead of a wholly original new World Order, we look for just a plausibly reconstituted version of the existing order?
We have had some way to come to back away from the carefree altar of "limitless economic growth." With the advent of an "eco-topian" challenge there is a still further distance to establish a satisfactory methodology to win the hearts and minds of accountants and bankers. As a paradigm of sustainable resource management has begun to emerge as something technically manageable in the vein of pragmatic gradualism, the hill has already got slippery enough. This technical paradigm is loaded with such buzzwords as impact assessment, risk management, energy efficiency, renewable resource/ conservation strategies, population stabilization, a Global Commons law for oceans, atmosphere, climate, and biodiversity, etc. Some visionaries, such as Sagasti and Colby (1993), see a paradigm of eco-development looming in the further distance, however. It seeks not only to integrate society and the environment in accordance with longer-term economic and ecological goals, but also to restructure international society to the principles of equity and popular participation.
Given the prolonged world recession, coupled with a complex reordering of international security arrangements in the post-Cold War world, the process of following up on the UNCED agreements has seemed already to enjoy a much lower priority than was originally hoped. And yet it has been just visible enough to augur the beginning of a new process of international "learning by doing."
The discussion in this chapter purports, rather modestly, to build on the lessons being gained from past experience in taking up the challenge of sustainable development. A systematic assessment of all the relevant component instruments and related law-making processes would have been a much larger undertaking than was possible in the context of this book. In the following I attempt only selectively to highlight certain controversial aspects of the subject at hand.
I start, first, with an issue related to international environmental institutions. Features of the historical process of international environmental treaty-making will be examined, particularly with regard to changing practices of national sovereignty in the collective management of global common-pool resources. One important, rather hard-learned, lesson will be that the best strategy should be to start with, and build on, "small agreements," rather than to aim for a quantum-jump solution.
I then turn to the issues related to the designing and packaging of policy instruments for tackling environmental problems. I look into the recent trend towards the market-based approach in national environmental policy in OECD countries, the evolving knowledge base for the carbon tax, and then the art of policy packaging for neutralizing the power of special interest groups (particularly transnational corporations) tending to impede the negotiation process for new environmental agreements. Whereas the economists' typical advice is to "get the prices right," political scientists are concerned with how to "get institutional incentives right."
This is followed by an assessment of the North-South income redistributional implications of joint implementation, or North-South partnerships, towards eco-development. The distributive bargaining over the twin issue of the transfer of financial and technological resources has long served as a natural common front for the South ever since the 1950s, but it is in conjunction with global environmental agendas such as climate change and biodiversity that Southerners have gained enormous bargaining power just by a threat of inaction or free-riding. Reference will be made to international incentive schemes such as the Global Environmental Facility and the trade related aspects of international environmental regimes.
Then I try to step onto the scene within the developing world, particularly to see how an "environmental enlightenment" of developing society has taken place in conjunction with international development cooperation. The process has coincided with a spate of decentralization, mass participation, democratization, and "technology blending" at the grass-roots level. The latter trend may well be taken as a precondition for social breakthroughs toward eco-restructuring in the context of many developing societies.
The bottom-up approach is essential but is unlikely to be a sufficient condition for global eco-restructuring. So I dwell upon certain critical issues of science and technology for development. After examining briefly the question of technology transfer in the North South context, I move on to shed light on a bias built into the world's science and technology community in that ever since the era of the Industrial Revolution the profession has succumbed to market mechanisms by responding sooner to the lucrative opportunities of urban mass markets than to the basic human needs of the people in disadvantaged regions. Attention will be drawn to some of the bolder propositions, contained in this book, that hint at possibilities for global engineering projects that would contribute to redressing the basic infrastructural conditions of currently energy-deficient and water-deficient regions.
Finally, I revert to the question of international institutions, searching for the image of a "third-generation world organization" or a United Nations renaissance. With the advent of a rapidly expanding universe of non-governmental organizations omnipresent in many aspects of international relations, and with an ever more muddled hierarchy of issues and organizations, we still need some sort of global focal point with a "switchboard" role for stimulating interactive thinking and planning among diverse actors, and thus enhancing humankind's capacity for collective learning.