Home Political science Sustainability of Agro-Food and Natural Resource Systems in the Mediterranean Basin
For climate change activists, an expanded understanding of the resource curse's negative impacts on governance can help illuminate some of the significant obstacles preventing national governments from taking action. Domestically, citizens in oil-dependent states often have a severely limited capacity to influence government decisions. Internationally, despite their critical role in the world economy, energy exporters often hesitate to engage in issues of global governance. Although these challenges were once considered only in respect to governments in the developing world, expanding energy interests in industrialized, democratic countries have contributed to reversals in positions on international climate governance and to the rolling back of progressive domestic measures, even in the face of increased public pressure for governmental climate action.
Unfortunately, the international community's reliance on national governments to solve the climate crisis runs head on into these problems, contributing to the challenge of negotiations already fraught with contention. The examples discussed here suggest that both developing and industrialized countries with strong resource extraction industries—even those that have managed largely to avoid the economic consequences of the resource curse—will continue to face severe governance challenges. They will likely remain either unwilling or unable to challenge powerful fossil fuel interests to the degree required to address climate change, even if public support for climate mitigation increases.
This should prompt climate activists and all those in search of effective levers to influence climate policy to search for new tactics. Although public movements to pressure political leaders must play an essential role, they likely will not be sufficient. To drive real change, governments and the public must find ways to actively engage private industry. This can and should take multiple forms, including efforts to both confront these actors and constructively engage them. The recent grassroots movement advocating for divestment from fossil fuel interests has spread to cities, religious institutions, and hundreds of colleges and universities across the United States, hinting at new and potentially effective strategies to shift pressure directly onto industrial actors. Other strategies, including those aimed at shifting consumer behavior, may also be powerful tools for climate activists.
In addition to these more confrontational approaches, there are more collaborative ways of engaging with corporate actors, and some of this is already taking place in various UN processes. (See Chapter 15.) In order to be effective, the climate movement must continue to search for innovative ways to engage directly with fossil fuel energy interests, using a combination of both consumer-driven pressure and a willingness to expand traditional governing structures beyond the realm of national governments. The failure of governments to solve the climate crisis alone—combined with the important role that energy corporations play in the evolving global economy—necessitates that these private actors have a seat at the table. While this certainly does not guarantee success, it could be a significant step forward in building a governance framework that is best equipped to address the fundamental nature of climate change.
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