Friday, May 23, 2008

Increasing complexity in the climate change regime: Proposal for the creation of a World Carbon Authority

In a striking example of the increasing complexification of the global regulatory regime on climate change, the International Scientific and Business Congress on Protecting the Climate (a monitoring body of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change - UNFCC) has written (in April of the year) an open letter to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, proposing the establishment of a World Carbon Authority (WCA) under the auspices of the UNFCC. It suggests that this body should seek to implement and oversee a cap-and-trading scheme with regard to the carbon emissions related to international transportation, thus combining the roles currently undertaken by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in relation to aviation and shipping, repsectively.

The letter suggests that the role of the new Authority would be oversee the creation of international carbon markets and the setting of price of carbon that will be reliable for planning long-term investment in low-carbon technologies and products and sufficient to achieve decarbonisation of the global economy by 2050 or earlier.

There will be, however, significant resistance from industry actors to these proposals (a similar European scheme for an emissions trading system has met with strong criticism from the aviation industry), many of whom feel that the ICAO and IMO remain the best fora for developing policy and overseeing implementation of efforts to reduce carbon emissions. The key issue here is, of course, whether a voluntary, market-based scheme will most effectively produce the desired result (as industry actors (claim to) believe), or whether something with a little more binding bite will be required. (See this article on for more detailed analysis, and some quotes from both sides of the debate; hat tip to Global Governance Watch).

As noted at the outset, this proposal provides us with a good example of the increasing complexity and fragmentation of global administration - here, we have an oversight body recommending to one global administrative body (the IPCC) that another (the WCA) be established, with a remit that in part at least overlaps with that of two more (the ICAO and the IMO) - not to mention the role of the more general Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol. Clearly, the relations between these actors, and their respective "jurisdictions", will need to be set out in detail. Another subtext here also concerns the participation of private actors in these various bodies: it seems evident, for example, that one reason that the aviation industry is so keen to keep this issue in the ICAO is thanks to the influence that it has within that Organization through the robust participation rights provided to the International Air Transport Association (IATA - for a detailed account of the role of IATA within the ICAO, see this paper by Tiago Fidalgo de Freitas).

These issues, of complex inter-institutional relations, and of the (not always complementary) relation between private participation and the legitimacy and efficacy of global administrative action, will of course be of central importance to any mature "field" of global administrative law. Whether this proposal, however, would contribute to greater unity, or rather greater fragmentation, within this field remains, however, for the moment an open question.


amr shabana said...

Well, it seems that the need of protecting environment goes on in "supporting" GAl, providing excellent examples! Anyway, if this new global administration is created, it will be quite intersting deepen its structure!

The Speeker said...

The dizzying array of committees and authorities that comprise the emerging global governance structure is expanding so rapidly, and different actors are becoming so inter-linked, that even an expert must have a hard time at this point to understand how the world's decisions are made.

If people hope that this global structure will be democratic, it seems like the complexity is a serious obstacle. Perhaps we need decision makers to include the rest of us more deeply in decision-making? Or at least the discussions about decisionmaking? Or for decision-making processes to be simplified?

Euan MacDonald said...

Thanks for your comments. It is indeed becoming harder and harder to account for the manner in which normative action is taken beyond the nation-state; although this, of course, is precisely what the idea of conceiving this action as "global administration", to which a global administrative law could attach, is directed.

My own view, however, is that casting this in terms of specifically democratic legitimacy may be a step too far; the chain of delegation remains extremely tenuous back even to those states that are themselves democratic, and there is as yet no real question of something like a genuinely global demos emerging. Perhaps a less demanding goal would be achieving administration that was responsive to the interests and wishes of those upon whom it most directly impacts. Global administrative law could certainly be of use in this regard.