The importance of multilateralism for environmental agreements

Climate change cannot be tackled alone. When global problems are the issue, countries join forces in multilateral projects
Wind energy on Global Wind Day

Like everything else that concerns our planet, mitigating climate change is not a matter for the few, it’s everyone’s responsibility. And this is something we have known for years. A country might be carbon neutral, but it is little good if its neighbor powers itself from fossil fuels. To avoid this, we have multilateralism, a way of tackling global problems by fostering international collaboration in issues that affect all of humanity.

What will I learn from this article?

What do multilateralism and multilateral projects consist of?

Following the destruction of the Second World War, 50 founder members signed the 1945 United Nations Charter. Their aim? That future generations would not be faced with the devastation of international conflicts. A global organization to build a better world. With this mission, multilateralism emerged.

Multilateral projects are those which involve many nations and international organizations in their design, funding and execution. These projects aim to tackle complex global and regional problems which require the cooperation of different parties to resolve them. People working on multilateral projects

Some global themes are everyone’s business. Climate change, geopolitical tensions, humanitarian and migratory crises are horizontal questions which, as a result, involve nations and require collective awareness and action.

Multilateralism, for its part, is something more than mere friendly relations between states. It is based on collaboration between several countries to achieve common objectives, involving continuous negotiation and dialog between member states of an international or regional organization with the aim of finding consensual solutions to global challenges.

In an increasingly interconnected world, multilateralism has become a key factor in dealing with transnational problems and guaranteeing global stability and sustainable development.

“Multilateralism finds consensual solutions to global challenges”

The role of multilateralism in the sustainability of the planet

Environmental protection has become an urgent global concern and needs a joint effort from all nations to achieve significant change. With the growing impact of climate change, multilateralism has never been more important.

It offers a platform not only for collective decision-making, but also for garnering cross-border investment with which to tackle this critical problem. This is what happened at COP27 recently with the approval of loss-and-damage financing, a fund which seeks to help the more vulnerable countries in their battle against rising temperatures.

Combining our knowledge and resources with that of other nations, we can create an innovative focus to face up to the environmental challenges in a more effective way. The current outlook makes it clear that countries cannot deal with the risks alone. We can only succeed if we work in unison.

Examples of environmental accords achieved through multilateralism

Multilateralism is not, therefore, optional. It is an effective tool for achieving a stable, peaceful world which progresses through sustainable development that leaves no one behind. This has been demonstrated by important agreements which function to mitigate climate change. From the Paris Agreement to the recent High Seas Treaty, these multilateral projects commit a large number of countries to promote global sustainability.

The Paris Agreement has had an essential role in establishing a multilateral framework for climate action at the global level. The pact focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions so to limit global warming to 2ºC (with the aim of restricting the rise to 1.5ºC) and avoid the worst effects of climate change.

We can also mention a much more recent example. At the end of July/beginning of August 2022, a large number of eminent specialists from civil society and the academic world met in Barbados to share their deep vision of the deficiencies of the international economic and political order and the serious existential challenges that the human race currently faces.hand placing flags

This meeting gave birth to the Bridgetown Initiative, an action plan whose aim is to reform the international financial system for the mitigation and adaptation of climate change. Its main concern is that money is used to fund specific projects, rather than go to governments, and this revision of the international financial system would directly affect the way in which multilateral agreements target their funds.


The multilateralism of large international organizations

There presently exists a large number of multilateral organizations. At the end of the day, these are institutions which group three or more countries associating to reach a common goal. To cite two examples:

  • The United Nations international organization: as we said at the start of this article, the UN was created in 1945 with the aim of keeping international peace and security. Now, among its objectives, it also promotes cooperation between countries and develops relations based on respect, human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is made up of 193 member states and supports programs aimed at eradicating poverty, protecting the environment and health of people, and ending armed conflicts.
  • The World Health Organization: the WHO constitution goes back to 1948 and was borne out of the aim to improve sanitary conditions and promote general well-being around the world. In an increasingly globalized world, where people are constantly moving from one place on the planet to another, this type of body helps prevent and manage pandemics like the one we experienced with COVID-19.

Although multilateralism has the potential to protect the planet and the people who live on it, all countries involved in the process need to negotiate fairly and reach agreements. Often this is difficult, but many people have worked to arrive at satisfactory environmental agreements over the years. Unity is strength. The strength and efficiency to be able to achieve an emission-neutral world, mitigate climate change and protect the environment.