Green Politics by Anil Agarwal, Sunita Narain and Anju Sharma is perhaps one of those few books which talks about the stance of developing countries when it comes to global environmental negotiations. The developing countries have always come across as skeptics when it comes to global environmental negotiations and their reasons can be fairly justified. This book highlights the southern perspective of such negotiations and clearly shows how these environmental negotiations which are supposed to be based on the principle of good governance—equality, justice and democracy have often turned out to be business transactions where the rich crush the interests of the poor.
The authors talk about ‘one world’ concept—where what one country does today, not just affects its own people but also its neighbors and the whole world in general. The concept of one world has never been more obvious as in the case of environment. And so it is the moral responsibility of every nation that their action and sometimes, inaction does not defy the fundamental principles of good governance, namely, equality, justice and democracy. The question that arises is has morality gone for a toss in a world which we claim to be is ‘free’ and ‘just’.
The argument of the West is that since the developing countries are following the western economic model, they are bound to pollute just as much as the developed countries did (or still do maybe?). The standard response of the southern governments is that since they are not the ones responsible for the problem, the industrialized countries must show a demonstrable proof that they are serious about this and want to change from business-as-usual to a more sustainable model. The industrialized countries have been quick to make commitments and equally quick to wriggle out of those commitments. This has disappointed the developing countries and so they are not willing to accept legally binding reduction targets.
The authors have analyzed not just the position of the developed countries, but also come to the conclusion that the developing countries need to more proactive; encouraging the southern governments to come up with political leadership that will articulate and develop a coherent vision of an equal world.
No brownie points for guessing that the authors are anthropocentrists and that they believe that any issue, be it saving forests or biodiversity, ozone depletion or climate change, all have to taken seriously because at the end of the day they are very important to human well-being and development.
One of the key argument that the author puts forward is the role of science when it comes to environmental negotiations. This is something that people often focus a lot on when it comes to environmental negotiations. When high importance is given to just the science, it could sometimes lead to problems during global environmental negotiations. Developing countries have lower capacity in terms of research in the sciences, especially environmental sciences and therefore cannot make assessments of their own and have to often settle for western research findings. These research findings in theory could be sometimes biased. Once such example is the WRI report in 1991 where heavy emphasis was placed on carbon dioxide production due to deforestation and methane production from the paddy fields as compared to the carbon dioxide emissions from use of fossil fuels. Since the developing countries are more responsible for the former, the heavy emphasis on deforestation and methane generation tends to overplay their contribution while underplaying the contribution of the developed countries. Since WRI’s report was being quoted widely, those figures were used to influence the climate negotiations. Is it fair to equate the ‘luxury emissions’ of the North to the ‘survival emissions’ of the South?
This book is a comprehensive guide to all those people who are trying to promote understanding between the North and the South. It is also one of the few books where you come across authors who are very candid and so sometimes come across as blunt while sharing their insights. Overall, it is a must-read for all who wish to understand the nature behind any global environmental negotiation.