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IR Working Paper 1990/3
Stuart Harris, ‘The Environmental Challenge: The New International Agenda’, IR Working Paper 1990/3, Canberra: Department of International Relations, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, May 1990.
The growing concern with the problems of the atmospheric ozone layer and of global climate change has raised the profile internationally of environmental questions. Although this has led to frequent calls for action at the national or international level, less attention has so far been given to the problems and processes of developing international cooperation policies on these issues and the specific policies that are both needed and feasible.
This paper looks first at the characteristics of international environmental problems. It then examines briefly the past experience of developing international cooperation in dealing with such environmental problems as acid rain, water quality in the Rhine and the atmospheric release of chlorofluorocarbons. It uses the lessons from those experiences to illustrate the complexity of achieving international cooperation in controlling greenhouse gas emissions. International cooperation for that purpose is vital given the complexities and the continuing, if diminishing, uncertainties about global climate change; however, the case is strong for taking action now that reduces emissions without imposing significant costs on the community, notably by increasing the efficiency of energy use.