Various reports suggest that 2016 is set to be the warmest year ever recorded and we have been constantly hearing this news for past few years now. Global warming has been recognised as the Earth’s enemy for long but what are we doing about it? Instead of taking preventive measures to counteract these activities, we have been pumping even more into the atmosphere. A lot of developing countries including India have seen an uproar growth in the number of industries without proper pollution control leading to an exponential rise in pollution. China and India are officially leading the charts and that’s nothing to be astonished at.
Meanwhile, the largest UN climate change summit which kicked off in Paris has been ruling the trends for some days now. Previous meetings have exposed a bewildering spectrum of issues, concerns, vested interests and general political dysfunction and we are expecting this to be highly successful too. But despite all these successful summits.
Why haven’t we been able to reduce or limit carbon emissions?
One of the strongest reasons is the fact that Earth’s atmosphere is a public good just like the street lights or playgrounds. By public good, I mean that my use of it doesn’t restrict you from using it as well. So, you see, we all are equally open to use our earth and it’s atmosphere. But sadly, this is where the problem starts. A stable climate is a global public good as it is something all of humanity enjoys but an unstable environment due to some selfish sources affects us even worse. If a large number of people start acting selfishly, things will start to change for worse and then the Earth’s sinks for carbon emissions will be swamped and which in turn cause a major climate catastrophe.
So, Can we avoid any climate tragedy?
In 2009, US political scientist Elinor Ostrom received the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for her work on the management of public goods and common-pool resources.Ostrom established the fact that though it may sound like an uphill task, there are many examples of effectively managed public goods which include Nepalese forests, American lobster fisheries, community irrigation schemes in Spain and many other systems are looked after sustainably through following a combination of eight principles. These 8 principles are:
1. Define clear group boundaries.
2. Match rules governing the use of common goods to local needs and conditions.
3. Ensure that those affected by the rules can participate in modifying the rules.
4. Make sure the rule-making rights of community members are respected by outside authorities.
5. Develop a system, carried out by community members, for monitoring members’ behavior.
6. Use graduated sanctions for rule violators.
7. Provide accessibly, low-cost means for dispute resolution.
8. Build responsibility for governing the common resource in nested tiers from the lowest level up to the entire interconnected system.
As we can see, it’s not completely necessary to have a central degree of control, small groups of common interest can self organise too and work better in that regard. Bigger the hierarchy becomes, the difficult it becomes to exercise control and hence this seems like a viable option.
A local action solves the global concern!
It might seem like a surprise to you, but agreements like this are now popping all over the place. More than 80 major cities across the globe are currently coordinating climate action. There are now a number of carbon trading communities that encompass a range of states in North America. European member nations have agreed binding reductions while earlier this year the two largest emitters of carbon dioxide, the US and China, established important bilateral commitments to control carbon emissions in their respective countries.
These are some example of polycentric governance which allows flexibility and effective solutions to the obstacles that large central governance cannot provide.
These may not be sufficient to fix climate change, but it can work much better than the central governance scheme which has its own demerits. These regional initiatives show that local communities can act independently of international agreements by making a global public good a local concern.