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A pale reflection of political reality: Integration of global climate, wetland, and biodiversity agreements

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Avoiding dangerous climate change, conserving biodiversity, and sustaining water resources are three of the greatest environmental challenges facing humanity: their expression and management are inextricably linked. National governments have adopted multilateral environmental agreements to respond to these issues by providing mandates for action, setting higher environmental standards, mobilizing resources, and sharing knowledge. This article examines whether three relevant, global conventions—the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands—are being implemented as effectively and efficiently as possible by managing conflicts and enhancing positive synergies among them through integrative mechanisms. Systematic analysis of the conventions identifies many conflicts between measures adopted under the UNFCCC and the two biodiversity-related conventions, as well as unrealized positive synergies. Detailed assessment of integrative mechanisms reveals isolated examples of good practice. More commonly, integrative measures were not being used, particularly by the UNFCCC. After more than a decade of attempts to expand interconvention collaboration and harmonization, I conclude that voluntary efforts need to be replaced by financial incentives or governance reforms if perverse impacts are to be avoided and these agreements are to be better implemented.


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