The “global villages” which are the linkage between environmental aspects and international trade policies are gaining widespread concern among the international communities. The increasing concern is closely attributed to a number of factors. They are called ‘global commons’ as they have no national boundary limits as they affect the whole world. These issues include an increased consumption and utilization of natural and environmental resources, lack of property, poor defined property rights governing the use of the commons, lack of well-structured international enforcement mechanisms competent enough to handle common environmental challenges, the dominance and pressure exerted by the superior countries on the marginalized nations with regard to environmental policies and standards, and the multinational trade in commodities with great environmental implications.
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The global commons
Though there is no clear definition of ‘global commons’, it is agreeable that resources that are globally used constitute the ‘global commons’. Examples of such common resources include oceans, ozone layer, atmosphere, big rivers, and shared natural resources. Such resources form part of the ‘global commons’ because their implications are multinational. The ‘global commons’, like other economic resources, play a critical role in determining economic prospects of a country. These resources are perceived fundamental in development of the tax structure of the beneficiaries. They are, therefore, the source of economic rent and revenue to the sharing nations through capital inflow and transfers (Scott, 2008, p. 619).
Like in the case of free and public goods with no direct ownership or control, the regulations and property rights governing the ‘global common’ are insufficient resulting in the problem of free riders. This happens because there is no direct responsibility and enforcement since no one is liable for his/her action and its possible impacts. This is a common problem in regard to the common resources which has no defined regulatory mechanisms in place. As a result, ‘global commons’ are overexploited; such a situation leads to environmental depletion.
According to Scott (2008), the global commons cause sizeable problems internationally, and difficulties emerge within the borders of the countries affected. The first challenge commonly witnessed by these states is in the constitution of ‘national commons’. The leading differences are observed in the content of the ‘global commons’. Secondly, different nations have divergent view on the costs, demands, value of the commons and protection measure to be taken. Besides, even if such variations in costs and value were met and properly addressed, the challenge would still lie on who should be responsible for the results and bear the cost of protecting these global commons.
The controversy surrounding these shared resources has a great environmental effect and lies in the development and enactment of fundamental right of the nature protection, conversion, and utilization of the wastes. All the parties benefiting from the global commons desire those natural sources to serve only their personal interests at the expense of the environmental degradation posed to the rest of the users. Besides, leading countries with higher bargaining power in allocation and consumption of environmental commons take advantage of their positions to reap maximum benefit from the resources at zero marginal cost. Different consumers of these commons place varied values on the environmental implications of their choices, depending on income elasticity of demand for the commons, bargaining power parity, and some other factors. Moreover, the opportunity costs incurred in consuming these products vary across the national boundaries (Scott, 2008, p. 608).
In finding the long-term solution to these environmental challenges, all the consuming nations should assign or delegate government instrumentalists (agents) or the private actors to monitor and control the process. The enforcement and legislation enactment exercise can either be formalized through regular legal statutes of every interested side or through formal international environmental committees. International spillovers, and state actions which are unilateral can be incorporated through cooperation by means of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs) which should be accompanied by enforcement and jurisdictional issues of each member state. For instance, unilateral actions may entail sanctions and threats imposed on countries which fail to observe the MEAs (Scott, 2008, p. 612). Under such agreements and jurisdictions, polluters are often endorsed for a principle of liability, hence, expected to cover the cost of the damage caused. This is achievable by imposing polluter tax structure.
Scott, SV 2008, ‘Securitizing Climate Change: International Legal Implications & Obstacles‘, Cambridge Review of International Affairs, vol 21, no. 4, pp. 603-619. Web.