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- 8 Really Bad Climate Change Facts And What We Can Do About Them Today
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- The Symptoms of Complicated Global Governance – And How We Can Fix Them
At any given time, governments must balance the needs of their citizens and address social issues within their borders. However, there are larger global trends that exist and need attention, too. These include population growth, disease burdens, and climate change, to name a few. The European Environment Agency outlined these global trends in their outlook report.
We’ve been taking a close look at these global megatrends in a series of 11 articles for our own Innovolo blog, with a special interest in what the trends mean for innovation, business, and technology. You can read more about it all here.
For this final post, we’ll look at the immense challenge that governments around the world face to respond to global trends and secure a future for the livelihood of all people.
That’s no small feat when you consider the increasingly complex and diversified ideologies and governance models employed around the world.
What’s the deal with global governance?
The world, consciously or not, has adopted a governance model largely based on commerce and market-based efforts. State political systems have followed suit, relying on economies for national performance and to increase authority.
An unintended consequence of this has been that markets have become integrated at a global scale. Resources and products that are used in one region impact others, even regions that are far away.
Integrated global markets can complicate things from an environmental and economic perspective, but that interconnectivity also brings together diverse political systems.
Some systems or regimes don’t coexist well with one another. When states are forced to butt heads, international relations are strained and conflicts are at risk of escalating. We saw this earlier in our megatrends series as we looked at how competition for resources is increasing at alarming rates.
Not only that, but an increasingly accessible world also means that governments don’t fully understand or appreciate the direct impacts that their domestic behaviours have around the world.
One of the best, if unfortunate, examples of this is how greenhouse gas emissions affect the world at an atmospheric level. Every country’s industrial activity plays a role in atmospheric emissions. Therefore, climate change mitigation requires a coordinated effort and the combined action of governments worldwide.
Modern political institutions are often short-sighted in nature. They can make decisions that are within the boundaries of their state authority but still have repercussions on a worldwide scale.
For instance, tropical rainforests can be interpreted as global public goods since they provide benefits like storing carbon, cleaning the air, and safeguarding valuable biodiversity. However, that doesn’t stop local governments from deforestation efforts based on short-term financial gains. Sometimes, the draw of promoting new land uses such as urban developments, agriculture, or resource extraction is too great.
Short-sightedness is further compounded by political cycles. It’s difficult for political parties, who are concerned with short-term problems like jobs or national defense to make decisions that positively react to trends that will shape our future, such as the availability of natural resources, population growth or pandemics.
Often, setting up national policy responses to modern issues like climate change are arduous affairs. Research and policy decisions are slow processes as government institutions tend to be unable to react efficiently to new problems. To make matters worse, negotiations between political parties and domestic citizens may take years to enact any real change.
The issues faced with making fast and responsive policy decisions are only made worse when brought to the international level. Trade or environmental agreements between nations may take years to negotiate as many interests need representation.
Negotiations often extend beyond the political cycles of some countries, often with the adverse consequence of requiring to restart some aspects of the negotiation if a new political authority were to take over the discussions.
Improvements to global governance
Despite the complicated and diverse nature of global governance, there are ways that things can be improved:
- New technologies enable better communication and involvement. From a science perspective, new data accessibility and the decreasing cost of digital storage only facilitates cooperation and research between nations and agencies.
- The values of citizens are shifting. Over the last few decades, media coverage on environmental and social issues has grown and citizens demand more transparency from governments and corporations.
- Improvements can be made to international agreements. It’s important to insert enforcement mechanisms into international agreements to monitor their effectiveness.
- Long-term targets can improve accountability. An encouraging trend has been that many countries are adopting emission targets reaching as far as 2050. Stretch targets are good because they create accountability in domestic and international governance, often irrespective of the political parties in power.
- Pooling sovereignty to encourage collective action. It’s difficult for a state to give up control or authority, but when done collectively with other states it can be a powerful tool. It’s been used in the EU to establish governance and monitor environmental standards. The practices have paid off, too – the EU member state governments have delivered on reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
- Adding non-state actors to the mix. Today, there are ten times as many international non-governmental agencies (NGOs) as there were in 1985. New NGOs tend to have a greater interest in setting standards and monitoring progress than they do in lobbying governments. That’s a good thing because for complex international governance, watchdogs are an important part of reducing adverse trends like climate change.
That wraps up our series on global megatrends. If you want to see the complete picture about how trends are changing the world around you, be sure to look up the following posts on the Innovolo blog:
- Global population
- Urban population growth
- Disease burdens and pandemics
- Technological change
- Economic growth
- A multipolar world
- Global competition for resources
- Pressures on ecosystems
- The consequences of climate change
- Environmental pollution
- Approaches to governance
For more content on modern innovations and impressive new technologies that are shaping our future, check out the Innovolo blog.