Cascading problems through the Ramsar Convention
MetadataShow full item record
Cascades in which independent failures propagate until a tipping point is reached are common in densely connected networks but remain under researched in environmental governance on Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA). Through the use of classical decision making theory an analytical framework was devised, that used conditions for decision errors as the independent failures that propagated until a combination of decision error was reached, to tip the system into a cascade. Decision errors occur through the MEA decision making stages of think, act and observe and included the error of solving the wrong problem (Type III), the error of not acting when action was required (Type V), the error of acting when you should not (Type VI) and falsely claiming a relationship that does not exists (Type I). It was theorised that three types of cascade occur: Cascade 1 (Type III + Type V), Cascade 2 (Type III + Type VI) and Cascade 3 (Type I and Type VI). To illustrate the functioning of the framework, it was then applied to an identified cascade case study. The cascade started after afforestation was advocated by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification to prevent the problem of soil erosion. However this action that was seen in the Loess Plateau, China reduced the sediment run off and lowered the sediment load of the Yellow River. This contributed to the eroding of the Shandong Yellow River delta which is a designated site under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance Especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar). This shifted the problem onto Ramsar. However, the problem again shifted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Ramsar was the central MEA that connected these problems together, creating a cascade and so this research looked to understand How do environmental problems cascade through multilateral environmental agreements? This research found that through states agreeing minimal obligations and then failing to abide by them, the Ramsar Convention was limited in its ability to identify relationships that caused problem shifts. Furthermore conflicting perspectives of contracting parties weakened language in resolutions. This meant that action to designate, protect and fund wetlands based on their ability to sequester carbon was denied and then delayed by contracting parties. The results demonstrated the consequences of silo mentality as a problem fell between Ramsar and UNFCCC and meant that mechanisms were not in place to allow an intervention of the Cascade 1.