2009 volume 41(10) pages 2305 – 2323

Cite as:
Gareau B J, DuPuis E M, 2009, "From public to private global environmental governance: lessons from the Montreal Protocol’s stalled methyl bromide phase-out" Environment and Planning A 41(10) 2305 – 2323

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From public to private global environmental governance: lessons from the Montreal Protocol’s stalled methyl bromide phase-out

Brian J Gareau, E Melanie DuPuis

Received 17 July 2008; in revised form 19 November 2008; published online 6 August 2009

Abstract. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, a multilateral environmental agreement, has successfully eliminated the use of most ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons. As a result, a number of observers have pointed to the possibility of transferring successes—and even linking regulations—between the Montreal Protocol and Kyoto Protocol, the international but stalled climate-change agreement. We argue that there is need for caution on this issue. The Montreal and Kyoto protocols are the outcomes of vastly different political contexts, from public civil society approaches to what we call ‘the private turn’: the current loss of faith in state sovereignty, the rejection of multilateralism, and an embrace of private knowledge about economic damage over public knowledge about the protection of citizens and natural resources. From this broader perspective we show that the differences between the Montreal and Kyoto protocols are therefore more than ‘command-and-control’ versus ‘market-based’ solutions. These differences also reflect an even deeper divide over what ‘counts’ as knowledge in political decision-making processes. We illustrate these points through a case study of the current knowledge controversies around the phase-out of methyl bromide under the Montreal Protocol. We explain how the methyl bromide phase-out has stalled because the phase-out approach is incompatible with the current political regime, thus supporting the argument that neoliberal forms of governance cannot solve global environmental problems. This case, therefore, shows us that the challenges we face are more than atmospheric: to save the Earth we must create new ways to govern ourselves.

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