How to Manage Interlinkages: Two Protocols, One Atmosphere

By
Rajendra Shende, Chief
Energy and OzonAction Unit
UNEP DTIE, Paris

Atmospheric science is complex and multidisciplinary in character. Its complexity comes from an already vast array of natural interconnectivity and is further aggravated by the extent of human interventions on natural atmospheric processes. To address the adverse impacts of human interventions, we seem to be solving this puzzle by untying each interconnected “knot” as we come across one. However, as we learn more about atmospheric processes, we increasingly recognise that such intricacies require a more active and careful strategy to resolve this issue rather than a “cross  that bridge when it comes” approach.

Interconnectivity: Dimension of the issue
Interconnectivity between environmental issues is predicted to be one of the most formidable challenges to be faced by human society in the new millennium. Almost 200 Multilateral Environment Agreements (MEAs) already exist and more are under various stages of negotiations. Yet, only about a dozen of these have emerged as being sufficiently global in nature. The MEA process, including design, assessment, negotiations and implementation, has until now largely remained compartmentalised and divorced from one another. Separate institutions have been created to address each environmental issue and dialogue between such institutions has not yet reached the level required to address the complexity of the issues they attempt to solve. Consequently, the single-focussed MEA can turn out to be a method of solving one knot only to further tangle others.

Montreal and Kyoto Protocols: Interlinked Siblings
For very different reasons, two MEAs currently dealing with atmospheric issues are being widely discussed. First: The Vienna Convention on Protection of the Ozone Layer (VC) and The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (MP). Co-ordinated through UNEP, this agreement, which came into being in 1987, is generally hailed as a distinguished example of successful international cooperation. The second: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and The Kyoto Protocol to UNFCCC. Initially born from the 1992 Rio summit, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol has not yet entered into force and is presently the subject of intense political discussion.

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