GEF: Global action is needed
There is no doubt that science is increasingly expanding our knowledge of the problem of environmental degradation (including our role in it) and the extent to which it affects our ability to continually improve our living conditions.
Responses have varied in intensity and scope. They started as largely local and national responses dealing with specific environmental problems. Now our knowledge of how much of our environment (and hence its problems, causes, effects and solutions) functions as one complex system has increased. The international system has responded to deal with the global dimensions of environmental degradation. The recent coming together of the family of nations, in record number and pace, to adopt, sign and ratify the Paris Agreement is indeed encouraging. It helps to remind us why addressing environmental degradation requires global actions.
Global environmental actions are needed for a number of reasons. First, humanity uses certain vital resources in common. The ozone layer and the atmosphere are cases in point. In particular, the atmosphere – with its limited capacity to safely absorb greenhouse gases – is a resource that we use in common. Without global coordination and regulation, common resources risk degradation. Our climate is changing. Temperature is rising. Rainfall patterns are becoming erratic and unpredictable. Extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe.
We in Ethiopia are feeling the brunt of a changing climate. It is true that with climate change, we do not all lose at the same time. Some of us lose first. But this should not fool us into losing our grip of the problem. In the end, we all will lose. Ignorance may be bliss but it is not an excuse. It is prudent to err on the side of caution. There is no fundamental ignorance about climate change and other forms of environmental degradation. However, acquisition of knowledge is not certain to result in appropriate responses. There ought to be effective and fair global coordination and regulation mechanisms.
Second, with respect to environmental degradation that can be locally situated and felt, there are causes that lie beyond administrative and political borders. Globalization both exacerbates and alleviates environmental degradation. Global actions will be required for fair and effective tackling of such problems even if they have nothing to do with common resources. A related aspect is that many environmental actions, though taken locally, have transnational or global co-benefits, requiring global mechanisms for incentivizing them.