Business culture

COP 21: The importance of being reasonable

2016-08-05 295 Views

The effects of climate change recently came under scrutiny at the Paris Summit. At last reasonable attitudes are starting to prevail when it comes to tackling the issue, the result of which will be much-needed rational behavior. 

Temperatures during December of 2015 in Spain served to raise further concern about climate change and the terrible effects it may have. If, on an individual basis, we see clear indications that this change is really happening, it’s easy for our concerns to turn into fear when we hear statements like those issued recently by the leaders of the world’s major economies. If the agreement reached in Paris doesn’t work, will we have no protection against the catastrophes that in all likelihood lie ahead?

There are rational explanations for the difficulties involved in reaching an agreement. In light of subsequent statements, being rational would appear to carry more weight than being merely reasonable. But if the risk is as evident as scientists would have us believe, wouldn’t it be rational to make efforts that it is reasonable to expect given the circumstances?  

Rational behavior could be described as that which pursues one’s own interest in a coherent manner. It is what forms the base of the market system, assigning scarce resources in an efficient manner without the need for coordination among agents. All that is necessary is that all those involved act in their own interests. Nevertheless, when external factors come into play (one of them being the environment issue), markets don’t work and the regulator has to intervene.

In the case of the environment, sovereign borders don’t exist when it comes to offsetting imbalances, and given that no international regulator exists, it is necessary to seek agreements based on another incentive that while it may not be rational, must be at least reasonable.  

According to philosopher John Rawls, a society is expected to behave in a reasonable manner when there is a set of self-imposed restrictions aimed at attaining social cooperation in order to obtain benefits for all.  He also considered it essential that two demands be met – reciprocity of efforts and an even distribution of burdens. And this is why it was so difficult to ensure that countries were reasonable during the negotiations in Paris. The different countries are not able to see the fair distribution of burdens or efforts.

Joaquín Garralda. Professor. IE Business School,