Climate Change as a Segregating Tool?

Climate change does not seem to be a subject which easy connects with segregation. Here we enter a grey area in terminology of segregation and its consequences. Global warming and climate change seem to be inevitable and are hot topics nowadays (aside from the financial crisis). Is it possible to take action in one area of the world and so favourably change the entire climate? Or should the whole world work together and tackle this problem?

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol (entered into force 2005) aimed at making the world work together instead of trying to tackle this problem on an individual basis. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change states that:

The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The major feature of the Kyoto Protocol is that it sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These amount to an average of five per cent against 1990 levels over the five-year period 2008-2012. (UNFCCC)

As the map below shows, not all countries participate in the Kyoto Protocol, preventing climate change to be tackled effectively. Moreover, this keeps a global segregation in place. A segregation between countries wanting to change the world in an idealistic and ‘green’ way, while others rather take another position and tackle this problem in their own time and on their own terms.

The map above shows how most of us would see the world: neatly shaped and with clear borders between countries. Or borders between race, class, gender and so on. However, when it comes to climate change segregation is not possible at all. Global environmental problems do not stay within constructed borders, as Bulkeley argues: “[the] impacts stretch over state boundaries, and ‘leaky’ local issues such as biodiversity, which while grounded in particular places spill over their boundaries, requires the formation of international institutions” (Bulkeley 6). Such an international institution is the Kyoto Protocol. But as argued earlier, not every country participates, keeping a segregation in place between countries wanting to act and countries who do not.

The EU recently formulated the new growth strategy for the EU, which is called the ‘Europe 2020 Strategy’. Economic growth has to be sustainable, therefore the 20/20/20-aims were put in place. these aims are even more ambitious than those stated in the Kyoto protocol:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions have to be 20% lower than in 1990, or 30% when conditions are right;
  • 20% of energy has to be renewable;
  • 20% increase in energy efficiency. (European Commission)

These targets are ambitious and have to be achieved by the EU member states. However, these targets are only applicable within the borders of the EU. Just as the Kyoto protocol only applied to the countries which ratified the protocol.

Now the question remains: how can we stop segregation in an approach to fight climate change? Is it necessary for everyone to see eye to eye on this issue? Or should every country decide what its individual approach to this problem is? Can we even consider these protocols, ratifications of guidelines and actions to fight climate change to be segregation measures? Do you know any examples which illustrate your argument?

  1. European Commission, ‘Europe 2020’,, consulted 14-05-2012.
  2. H. Bulkeley, ‘Reconfiguring environmental governance: towards a politics of scales and networks’, Political Geography, vol.24 (8), p.6.
  3. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, ‘Kyoto Protocol’, consulted 03-12-2012.

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