Sustainability hinges on local policies, not global goals
In the run-up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil, much has been written about the kinds of goals and targets that might be adopted and how these might relate to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
These are important debates, but what matters more is the politics of development and the environment at a national and local level. In a recent article on SciDev.Net, IDS Climate Change Team Leader Matthew Lockwood warns that sustainable development targets will work only if they engage with the realities of national politics.
Why politics matter
Why are national politics so important? Because looking back over the past 20 years, most progress on issues such as poverty and climate change has been driven by national-level concerns, not by multilateral goals or agendas.
For example, Asia's economic growth has come from deliberate strategies by national elites, not because of a UN agenda on poverty reduction. Conversely, many Sub-Saharan African countries are off-target on the MDGs because their political elites have concentrated on staying in power rather than committing to policies that yield genuine development.
The picture is similar in the environmental sphere. The Kyoto Protocol had plenty of targets, but no effective mechanisms to ensure countries' participation or enforcement of those targets (Canada simply walked away from it last year).
But at the same time, the two largest clean energy markets in the world are in two countries that have no obligations under the Kyoto Protocol — the United States (which didn't ratify it) and China (which has no emission reduction targets).
What can we learn from this? Multilateral targets are much less important than often thought, and domestic politics much more important.
Related Content - News & Blogs
Related Content - Events
The Search for Stability through Stabilisation: Case Studies from Afghanistan and Nepal
28 May 2013 13:00 to 14:30
Room 221, Institute of Development Studies
India’s dream run, 2003-2008
29 May 2013 13:00 to 14:30
Room 221, IDS
Will the BRICS Bank change development and shift the global balance of power?
11 June 2013 18:00 to 19:30
Committee Room 16, House of Commons