International Environmental Issues

Climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation and air and water pollution are not confined by human-imposed boundaries as waterways, watersheds, oceans, biodiversity, ecosystems and the atmosphere tend to span countries, continents or the globe.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous international environmental issue is climate change. Climate change cooperation has been stalled by North-South contentions surrounding inequalities, the right to development, financial support, technology transfer and the ability of the world’s most vulnerable nations to adapt.

Moreover, in a highly globalized world, raw materials, finished goods and waste are transported across nations and continents. Often times resulting in environmental degradation and pollution throughout the entire life cycle of a product or process.

The demand for a good in one country can result in environmental degradation of another country. For example, the demand for timber or agricultural products in the United States can cause rampant deforestation in tropical regions. Also, the excessive consumption of electronic devices such as cell phones or laptops generates thousands of tons of electronic waste (e-waste), which contains heavy metals and other toxic materials. E-waste generated by developed nations is often exported to countries such as China, India or other places with lax environmental laws and enforcement.

The realization that environmental issues are more often than not of transboundary nature requires international collaboration and cooperation. As a result, numerous international agreements have entered into force in the hopes of fostering a concerted effort in addressing some of the most pressing problems. Some of the most widely known international environmental agreements include the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, the Kyoto Protocol, CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), and the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.

 

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