Created with Sketch.
Common Home Conversations Beyond UN75
38 minutes | 5 days ago
Frank Biermann, Professor of Global Sustainability Governance at Utrecht University and Founder of the Earth System Governance Project
Interview TranscriptTranscribed by Otter AIKimberly WhiteHello and welcome to Common Home Conversations. Today we are joined by Frank Biermann, Professor of Global Sustainability Governance at Utrecht University, Director of the ERC GlobalGoals Project, Founder of the Earth System Governance Project, and Editor of the Earth System Governance journal. Thank you for joining us today, Frank!Frank BiermannThank you so much, Kimberly. It's a pleasure being with you.Kimberly WhiteYou're a professor of global sustainability governance at Utrecht University and founder of the Earth System Governance Project. Can you tell us more about these experiences and the focus of your current research?Frank BiermannOh, thank you so much. But there are two different functions. Let me just explain both of them. The one is, of course, my normal professional function. I'm a professor of global sustainability governance at Utrecht University. That means essentially, I am a political scientist, I also have some background in international law. But essentially, my research, my interest in teaching also is political science, international relations. So I'm driven by trying to better understand how we can create institutions that can deal better with problems of global environmental change. We know that the earth system, the entire Earth system is today, transformed by human actions, climate change is accelerating, and we have to struggle very hard to keep global warming under 1.5 degrees. Species extinction, the worldwide spread of plastics in the oceans, ozone depletion, all these kinds of problems are essentially global problems. That means countries have to work together, governments need to agree on joint goals, they have to get together to share resources to share knowledge, governments have to adjust the policies, and we all have to change to adjust to these kinds of challenges. And for that, we need international institutions. We need international governance. And so far, these institutions are not effective; they're not really able to cope with these challenges. So, therefore, we need better institutions. We need better global governance. And this is what keeps me busy for the last 30 years, this is my field of research, this is the field of my teaching, and this is also where I'm personally extremely passionate about. I should also add that it's not necessarily just a picture of a win-win. It's not that we just need to have a better institutional design, and then everything will be resolved, and everything will be better. Instead, I'm very much concerned about conflicts of power and global inequalities and all kinds of conflicts that we have that countries are in a variety of relationships of inequality, dependence, post-colonialism, etc. So this is also part of the story of international institutions that we have to take into account, and we want to understand how we can try together to achieve an equitable and more sustainable future for all within the natural basis and the natural conditions of our planet. So this is my research, this is what I’m working on, and this is the key area of my Chair as a Professor of Global Sustainability Governance at Utrecht University as part of the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht.And Earth System Governance is a slightly different story. It is not only about research, certainly not about my own research; it is about the network. It's about global networking to jointly study these questions that I have just laid out. And here we are a bit building on models that have been developed in the natural sciences in terms of global research collaborations. And the earlier years, like in the 19th century, social science was very much an individual activity. People were just there, they read a book, and you write a book, and you read a couple of books, and then you continue the progress of scientific knowledge in the social sciences. And this is essentially the model of the 19th century and the 20th century in the social sciences. And I believe that we cannot continue like this any longer. So we have to work much more together. And the natural sciences have done this already since the 1950s. Working together in large communities and large networks, where you exchange data, you exchange scientific insights work according to large science plans for sometimes five or ten years, where hundreds of scientists work together and try to jointly really better understand the reality of what's going on. And this is a model that natural scientists have done for quite some time. I believe it's also very much important for the social sciences. And this is essentially what the Earth System Governance Project is about. It's a global network. It's a network where hundreds of scientists are coming together and jointly discuss findings, research methods, questions, and theories about this big challenge of governance and the transformation of the entire earth system. So we're not talking about air pollution; we talk about the transformation of the entire Earth system. We're not talking about the protection of individual species in our neighborhoods; we talk about the sixth mass extinction of species that are kind of being extinct on a huge scale, we're talking about sea-level rise, we are talking about land degradation, we are talking about ozone depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer. Half of the habitable land on earth we are using for agriculture, and we have totally transformed the planet. And I think this is a situation that requires a new perspective. And this is not the perspective of environmental policy. This is the perspective where we have to discuss these governance problems, the governance challenges, of the entire planetary system. And this is why we have developed this concept of earth system governance, which means institutions that are dealing with social-ecological systems at planetary scale. Kimberly WhiteDuring your time working in this field, have you seen any shift in environmental governance policy towards a more earth system-based approach?Frank BiermannNot on a systemic level. I think some of the key issues are not sufficiently addressed in the political space. Climate change certainly is. I mean, climate change certainly is a big issue also because of the youth movement that is associated with it, and I think it's a key issue in many countries. Not in all countries, but like in the Netherlands, where I'm based, it's certainly one of the key issues in political discourse. So there, I certainly see a change. I mean, when I started my career, it was a marginal issue; it was a fringe issue. And we went to international conferences on international relations; for example, the environmental committee was extremely small. And now the International Studies Association is one of the big institutions in science, in the study of international relations, Now, the environmental studies section there is one of the largest. This change is certainly there. I missed the change on a variety of other issues like food, for example. I am missing a strong focus on some of these big, big issues that we have to discuss, like the provision of food in times of climate change, and also many of the responses to climate change, where I believe that the provision of food is one of the big challenges in the future. And here, I'm missing strong political attention to these kinds of issues. And this is one of the issues that I'm working on to bring this forward. But generally, there is an increase of attention in the public debate and the political debate, but surely not enough. I mean, that's surely not enough. I think this sense of crisis is not very strong yet, in the political system, and ultimately, societies. I mean, if you look at the public debates, like the political needs, for example, climate change of decarbonizing our societies within one generation, it's a huge challenge, and you don't see it efficiently reflected in daily politics. So, therefore, it's better than in the 1990s. Change is there, but it's surely not sufficient yet, compared to the challenges that are ahead of us in this generation.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely, I know, with the recent NDC synthesis report, and we talked about this in a previous interview with Princess Esmeralda of Belgium. With the current NDC's, we're still not at that level of ambition needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals. And, that's problematic, but thankfully, I would say, one thing that has come out of the pandemic has been the discussions about the need for green recovery. So I'm hopeful that we'll start to see some real concrete action moving forward. Frank BiermannI fully agree. I mean, I fully agree. This kind of public knowledge that what has been committed to by governments so far, and also other societal actors, is absolutely not sufficient to achieve the decarbonization challenges that are ahead of us. And they have to be implemented; it's very clear that we have to drastically reduce our emissions within one generation. And we have to start now, and current policies are not sufficient. So I think this is one of the big, big challenges. As I said, corona is an important issue for one or two years now, but the big challenge ahead is climate change, but also some other issues of earth system transformation. So we are really observing massive changes in the planetary systems, and we have to take urgent action, and this is not happening so far. And this is important, for example, in climate change, I mean, there are debates driven by some people to use alternatives, which could be like geoengineering, or some people say that politically, we are not achieving the decarbonization challenges and targets, so, therefore, we should have totally different approaches, which I'm not supporting, to be very clear. These alternative futures of geoengineered climate, are well on the table and are very much discussed, and tomorrow we will have a new report by the National Academy of Science of the United States, which is discussing geoengineering, we have to see what the outcome of this report will be. But the decision that the current generation is taking is fundamental, and also make it very clear, I am very much objecting to the one frame, which is what I call the one humankind frame that it's all one humankind. I'm also tempted sometimes to speak on this more than I probably did already in the last couple of minutes about we the humans, we the people. And it's not like that, I mean, there are people who are consuming much above the global average, and these are the rich countries in the north. And other people have been much less responsible for the challenge, for the problems that we have now and are probably ought to be much more vulnerable to the impact of earth system transformation. So it's a huge inequality challenge also that we are facing. And this has to be made very, very clear in all of these debates about global sustainability, climate change, or earth system governance, etc.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely. And you know, here in the United States, we're the world's second-largest emitter, and we only have a fraction of the population of countries such as China and India. I think many of the G20 countries have this issue where we have consumed so much, and we always keep consuming. That ‘bigger is better’ mindset is what has gotten us into this trouble that we're in, and the countries such as the island communities who have such a minimal footprint are the ones on the frontlines, and they're the ones facing the consequences for our consumption patterns.Frank BiermannI fully agree. This is absolutely the case. And this is very, very important to always keep it in mind especially in those communities that are more in favor of one humankind discourse, as I said. This is the discourse of the Anthropocene, for example, which is a new term that has been proposed to describe the current epoch in planetary history as important is driven by the human species. That's where the name Anthropocene comes from. And normally, I also use the word, many of my publications have the word Anthropocene in the title. I think that is also a very important defining characteristic, but it is hiding or tends to hide inequalities. And, this is very important to bring this all the time onto the table, and also discuss it in all kinds of policy proposals, which includes also, and we can come back to this maybe later, my good friends from the common heritage of humankind idea that I'm very much supportive of but also here, it is very much important to look at global inequalities and to emphasize that the responsibility for the past causation of earth system transformations, particularly climate change, is very much with rich countries in the north, and also the responsibility to address these challenges. And finally, also, it's very much important in the governance structures that we are about to develop in dealing with earth system transformation to Earth System Governance, to develop this in a way that gives large voting power in whatever ways it is or takes into account global inequalities and also empowers the vulnerable people in all kinds of decision making that we're setting up. And this is very, very important. You see it in the role of science, for example, I mean, to the extent that we give a stronger role for scientists in decision making, implicitly or explicitly, then we have to acknowledge that the scientific community is essentially based in the global laws. So, therefore, giving more power to scientists, we have to understand to what extent they are affected or influenced by being citizens of OECD countries. Same as for civil society with a good colleague of mine, Carole-Anne Sénit, we're working on a book in which we are discussing imbalances in global civil society. I mean, those people who are in New York at the United Nations and are speaking there for global civil society, we try to understand to what extent are they really representing a global civil society and to what extent are they just representing what is seen as global civil society in the rich countries in the north. And it has to do a lot with money; it has to do with funding; it has to do with possibilities; it has to do with the discourse of power. And we did lots of interviews and studies of the procedures of how civil society works in New York. And it is very much so that the interest and the organization that is under one way or the other, based in or paid by, funded by the rich countries, are those that are most powerful. So, inequality is very much a problem also for Earth System Governance, and we have to address it very much in our research.Kimberly WhiteIn a previous interview with Ana Barreira of IIDMA, she relates that we have a well-developed international legal framework for the protection of the environment, but it's framed in a very siloed manner. There is no interconnectivity. How can an earth system approach better reconcile environmental law with growing social, environmental, and economic concerns?Frank BiermannWell, this is a very, very good question. Certainly, the assessment is absolutely true. I mean, the governance systems that we have are extremely fragmented; at the country level, in different ministries, where everybody does their own thing, but also at the global level, international organizations, UN agencies, etc. So there's not sufficient integration and coherence, and alignment of international and national institutions when it comes to global sustainability and earth system governance. The problem is absolutely well taken. The question is what to do about it. So at the national level, this is a long-standing debate on how you can try to improve national coherence when it comes to sustainability. It's an open question, but I think, therefore, we definitely need to have a stronger alliance of institutions at the national level. My work was very much at the global level, trying to understand how we can improve the integration and collaboration of international organizations to jointly achieve sustainability and to work together in a more meaningful way. In 2012, a group of us 33 authors published an article, which was called Navigating the Anthropocene: Strengthening Earth System Governance, in which we together proposed a United Nations Council on the sustainable development in the sense of, set up an integrative body in the UN system at the highest level, that would be able and empowered and mandated to integrate the policies and programs of different institutions and organizations in the UN system. This didn't go through. What we got instead is the high-level political forum, which is high-level welded terms in the terminology, but it's not a council; it is more like a forum. And to the extent how it is working, we have to see it, I mean, it was established some years ago, so it's not maybe too early to say whether it's success or failure in any way, but I have my doubts, it's certainly not what we had proposed originally. The alternative, what the United Nations also had agreed upon in 2015, is the Sustainable Development Goals. These are 17 large goals that the UN has come up with after a couple of years of negotiations. They have 169 targets, and they are supposed to steer national policies and international policies into the direction of sustainable development in a variety of areas in food and energy and biodiversity, climate as well as governance, and many other areas. And here, this is the idea is to break down silos. One of the underlying ideas is to break down the silos and to achieve integration of the social, environmental, and economic concerns. Whether it works is a big question, we surely need a stronger framework to really break down the silence in a more meaningful way. And what is very important, also, it's not only just integration and collaboration as such, I think it's very much about the economic organizations, which is the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and a couple of others, that are largely outside the standard sustainability policies of the United Nations. And I think here, this neoliberal capitalist approach that these organizations are still taking is one that is harmful for the earth system policies that are needed. And I think here it is very important to bring in more sustainability into these powerful economic organizations and to work towards a much more integrative approach. So I think there are strong arguments in favor of changing the policies in these organizations, meaning to bring much more concerns of social concerns and ecological concerns into these organizations. So that I think is very much important. And this is what the Earth System Governance Project is studying, among many other things. So we are really concerned about how all these organizations are collaborating and how key concerns of Earth System Governance can be best advanced and protected. For example, food I mentioned already, that the provision of food we have 800 million people who have not enough food today. And the pressures on land and on food are increasing tremendously, especially from the climate policy space, where we have an increasing pressure to increase the use of biofuels. And maybe also in the next 10 or 20 years, an increasing pressure to use land for the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is one thing that is openly discussed as part of the IPCC modeling approaches many of them. And I think here; it's very important to develop strong global policies that are dealing with the provision of food and the protection of food security for everybody, especially in the most vulnerable countries and their regions. But overall, I think the integration, I'm very much in agreement with the previous speaker that was on there, and I very much believe that it's important to strengthen the integration of global governance in these domains.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely, and, going back to the food aspect, it's really important; I think that we recognize that the solutions to our food security problems are not going to be one size fits all. They will vary by region and by scale, and it's important that we put more research into that as well and not continue with the path of agricultural production that is harmful to our environment, because again, everything is interconnected. The World Health Organization mentioned that 75 percent of new emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic in origin, and the leading causation of that is land clearing. And that's for deforestation and for land conversion for agriculture. Everything is interconnected, and we have to be mindful while we're coming up with these solutions.Frank BiermannAbsolutely, I fully agree. And one part of the story is the production of livestock, of course. I think it's, technically, from a system perspective, almost like a silver bullet. I mean, if you look at the data, I think we're kind of about 50 percent of the land that is usable on our planet is used for agriculture. So it's kind of everything that is not like a dune or rock or desert, or whatever or glacier. This is 50 percent of that land we're using; the rest is for forests, shrubs, settlements, freshwater areas, and others. And of this land, I mean, 70 percent, we are using for agriculture for livestock, which is meat and dairy. And so here, technically, I mean, this is a huge part of the terrestrial landscape that is used for a product that is not necessarily needed. So here, I think strong policies that are reducing the consumption, especially of meat, I mean, it's not a silver bullet as such for all kinds of problems, but it's certainly helpful. And this is one thing that is absolutely missing in the public debate sufficiently. I mean, my students are, quite a few of my students are vegetarians, of course, but as a political challenge, I think it's not. We talk about carbon taxes to reduce the amount of carbon that people use. But I would be very much supportive also of meat taxation and regulation to reduce the use of meat because this reduces the pressure as you laid out; it reduces substantially the pressure on land, in general. Of course, there are exceptions, it's a bit more nuanced, but I think this is one of the areas where I think policies could make a difference.Kimberly WhiteDefinitely, and industrial agriculture is a leading cause of the climate crisis. Animal agriculture specifically emits around seven gigatons of carbon dioxide annually, and the majority of those emissions come from beef and cattle. The process of creating just one kilogram of beef requires 25 kilograms of grain and 15,000 liters of water. That's just not sustainable for our growing population.Frank Biermann I mean, of course. I understand that. I mean, wasn't it like the United States, where one state has introduced a meat-free day, and the other has introduced a meat day. So it is a big societal challenge and debatable, but I'm absolutely fully in agreement with the data and your conclusion that you just laid out. I think this is one of the elements of change that we can accept and drive forward. It certainly is an uphill struggle. I mean, the point is, what's very important in these debates, I mean, kind of this is, among sustainability practitioners and scholars, I think there's a lot of agreement on this point. I think one point is, of course, very important for many of these measures, especially taxation. It has to be organized and designed in a way that the poor are protected. And I think it's very important. So if you have any taxation for environmental bad's, like carbon or meat, it has to be organized in a way that the poor benefit. That was a key issue, especially on carbon taxation. I think it's important to design these policies at whatever scale you want to do, national, statewide in America, or globally, that you do take the global inequalities, national inequalities into account, and whatever you want to design, I think that's very, very important. And also I think it's not only a kind of putting the blame on people individually, but it's also very much on structures. And it's also important to take into account that we should not have just an approach where we say people have to change, but certainly, they have to. But it's very much also a challenge to change the structures, economic structures, political structures to allow a more sustainable lifestyle. Kimberly WhiteHow can Earth System Governance help bring about the ambitious changes critical to addressing current and future generations' biggest problems?Frank BiermannSo, essentially, what we are talking about in the Earth System Governance Project is a transformation of governance systems at the local level, the national level, and the global level. I mean, this is interlinked; it's multi-level governance. So we have to change the way how politically, institutionally we are governing the local space, villages and cities, and regions and provinces. We have to change the national system. And also, this is my own personal research, is very much at the global level. So I'm very keen on understanding, especially how we can change the global governance system, which we have inherited from the 19th century. Which has changed a little bit in the 20th century, and we have to make it fit for the 21st century. And that means to me that we need to have stronger institutions that are able to deal with these challenges, climate change, biodiversity, but also food, water, energy, and providing also these resources to those who are needing them. We need to have a huge public movement, especially in the rich countries in the north, for massive decarbonization, for massive changes in the way we're dealing with land and water and many of these resources. Changes also to international relations, where the north is, in many ways, still exploiting countries in the south, and this needs to change. And I think this is very much, talking here on this podcast is very much a challenge for everybody to get involved and participate in working and fighting and struggling for a better world. And I think this is very much a challenge for the current generation. Because if you look carefully at the data, like climate change is the biggest example probably, again, I think that the current generation is probably the last generation that will not be most brutally affected by climate change. So it's a very, very important point of time, right now, these years and these years are so important. And in the American context, since you're based in the United States, of course, we have a window of opportunity because we had a change in the administration, which means that now these issues are at least higher on the agenda. So it's really the moment where we can really work towards much stronger efforts to keep the planet in some form or shape in the way how we have inherited the earth from our ancestors. Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely, and I think the Earth System Governance initiatives you're working on have been quite impressive and help move the needle. And again, we need to amp up our ambition, like our national commitments and what we're doing at the state and city level and the business level. We have to continue working toward climate action. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres has said that the war on nature that we're currently waging is suicidal. So we don't have time to wait anymore, we have to do this action now. Or else, you know, we're not going to have this future that we want for our kids and our grandkids.Frank BiermannI fully agree.Kimberly WhiteSo, in Planetary Justice: A Research Framework, you discuss how we have begun to see a justice turn in political discourse and the need for a "richer debate on the conceptual foundations of what justice research on global sustainability environmental change could mean," you also propose a new conceptual framework on planetary justice. Can you tell us more about this framework?Frank BiermannThank you so much. I mean, this is really one of my research projects that are really very dear to my heart. I'm very passionate about it. And just in basic terms, first justice. And justice, I mean, I mentioned already, I think, at the beginning of the podcast, we live in an extremely unequal world, I mean, as a human species. The wealth on our planet is absolutely unequally divided. I mean, the data is all well known, and for example, one percent of the richest people on our planet have as much wealth as more than half of humanity, and that's a huge imbalance. I think half of the world's population has less than 5 US dollars per day. And we have this tremendous accumulation of wealth increasingly, also with the billionaires, with the eight richest people in the world. So inequality is tremendous. And it has increased a lot over the last 10 or 20 years. And as I perceive this, it's a value judgment. I mean, it's not fair. So we have to work towards it. So it's a question of injustice, which is also driving in, in many ways, all kinds of sustainability issues. So, therefore, also, I mean, it's, I'm not the only person to say this as a new or increasing reference in the scientific literature also about questions of justice. Environmental justice has been discussed for many, many decades already; fantastic work has been done on the environmental justice community. And you'll find it in all kinds of other communities as well. So this is what we described as a justice turn in the sustainability debate and the earth system governance debate as well. The point is, and this is what we try to address in this paper, is that there's no common agreement of justice. I mean, so everybody uses the word, and everybody wants to have justice and less inequality. But what exactly is meant? This is quite often kind of left vague or not defined or is not further explicated. And this is a problem. So what we try to do on this particular paper that you're referring to is that we tried to create a framework, which is built on existing philosophies; it's not new. What we did, we just tried to organize as political scientists, not philosophers, not as this, but as political science, try to organize the entire debate of injustice of the last 2000 years, some in kind of in very rough ways on very simple questions, simple questions that we said. So you can just, it's almost like a questionnaire that can help people to identify what kind of theory of justice you are adhering to. What is your position when it comes to planetary justice? So this is what we developed. And we did this for a purpose that we hope that this framework can be used or could be used for research. For example, in integrated assessment models, these are kind of these computer models that are predicting, not predicting our future, but they provide scenarios they provide an idea about how the future could look like under certain conditions and certain assumptions. And here, we believe that these ethical positions that we developed, a series of justice frameworks that we develop, could be useful to shape this analysis in a way that is much more linked to real philosophical traditions and positions. We try to bring together, we try to bring a framework that can be used for modelers, but it's based on political theory in a much more concrete, much more meaningful way. And the same is also true for text, and just for any political position, for any book, for any article ever you do. We hope that our framework can help to analyze text, to analyze its causes, and to really make it much more explicit what kind of justice discourse is underlying this particular paper, underlying in this particular position, and try to make it more explicit, and therefore have a much more informed discussion about what justice actually means. And this is one part. And the other part is also that we, this is a start. I mean, it's also just one paper. So we still trying to build up a community of researchers and all to try to explore in more detail this idea about planetary justice, and we have environmental justice, but as I said, in the beginning, tried to explain. So environmentalism is a little bit like the 19th or 20th century. So now we are facing these issues of planetary transformation, intergenerational justice, interspecies justice, intragenerational justice, all these different problems that come up, and how can we understand justice between species, between generations in a meaningful way and be tried to bring this all forward. And we have, and this is a little announcement almost, we have a task force for that, we have the Planetary Justice Task Force, which is this small network of colleagues in the Earth System Governance Project that is discussing these issues. And we meet on a regular basis, and we exchange papers. We have a special issue in the Earth System Governance Journal in which we are discussing these issues. So it's a very, very exciting area of research, and if anybody has any views and comments, I'm very also eager to hear from the communities who have listened to this podcast, I'm always keen to hear what other people think about planetary justice.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely, and during this time, a lot of conversation, especially in I'd say, the past year or two, has been focused around the topic of climate justice. So I find the concept of planetary justice that you discuss, particularly very interesting. Can you share your thoughts on the proposal by the Common Home of Humanity?Frank BiermannOh, thank you. Very good question. Of course. Yeah. I'm extremely intrigued by this initiative. I think it's extremely important. It's important to bring together all these different scientific communities that the Common Home of Humanity idea tries to bring together. I'm very supportive of this idea about developing earth system law. So there are one or two issues, I think, for the next phase of this line of research, that I think are important to consider. One is the issue, I mean, if you look at the text of common heritage, it's a lot about humanity. And as I mentioned earlier, it has a little bit of following this One Humankind narrative, in the sense that we all together are all happy and everything is fine. But this is actually not the point. I mean, because humanity is not like that. I mean, so the term humanity and the term humankind are blurring any consideration of poverty, conflict, exploitation, colonialism, racism, misogynism, and many other issues. So it kind of tries to present a picture that is maybe more rosy than it is. And I think it would be great in the further development of the common heritage idea and this condominium idea, to bring in more the conflictual and inequality aspects of humanities. I think this would be, I think, important also for the effect on the impact of this fantastic idea. The same as a bit about they're relying a lot on the planetary boundaries concept, which also has been a major impact on the earth system science and the earth systems governance idea. But these boundaries are defined by the natural conditions. It's a natural science concept, essentially. So here, the question is, where are the social boundaries? I mean, where are the boundaries of our societies in terms of hunger and terms of exploitation, in terms of lack of shelter, lack of clean water, etc.? So these boundaries are equally important, and they're not necessarily part of this concept. And I think they could be stronger in the common heritage community as well. So I think it's a fantastic idea, but the social boundaries could be brought in, it's not necessarily the way the well-know doughnut is doing it, in a sense, by adding a layer of boundaries, I think it's much more a matter of integration, of integrating social-ecological boundaries and social-ecological systems. I think that's the key way forward. So I would kind of invite, also very happy to discuss it with the colleagues of the common heritage of humankind approach to developing the planetary boundaries concept more into a direction where the social aspects are much, much stronger. So just to put it simply, I think it's really a very, very important initiative. But I think it's important also to strengthen the focus on inequality, injustice, and colonialism, and many other ways on which humankind is actually not one humankind, but the divided humankind's, and to bring in a stronger focus on these social boundaries and social-ecological systems, and maybe also to discuss in more detail, but this is something we can maybe do in the years to come about the governance mechanisms that need to be in place to deal with the value conflicts that are inherent in the common home of humankind. Kimberly WhiteAlright, and there you have it. The big challenge facing humanity is climate change. Massive changes in the planetary systems have already been observed and it is imperative that we take action now. Our policies are insufficient. We need a paradigm shift that integrates social-ecological boundaries and social-ecological systems. We need to have stronger institutions that are equipped to address the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and land degradation while also supporting and empowering the most vulnerable societies in our global community. That is all for today, and thank you for joining us for this episode of Common Home Conversations Beyond UN75. Please subscribe, share, and be sure to tune in on April 21st to continue the conversation with our special guest, Maja Groff, international lawyer and Convenor of the Climate Governance Commission. And visit us at www.ThePlanetaryPress.com for more episodes and the latest news in sustainability, climate change, and the environment.
1 minutes | 6 days ago
Frank Biermann Interview Promo Clip
25 minutes | 19 days ago
Princess Esméralda of Belgium, journalist, documentary‐maker, environmental activist, and President of the King Leopold III Fund for Nature Exploration and Conservation
Interview TranscriptTranscribed by Otter AIKimberly WhiteHello and welcome to Common Home Conversations. Today we are joined by Princess Esméralda of Belgium, journalist, documentary‐maker, environmental activist, and President of the King Leopold III Fund for Nature Exploration and Conservation. Thank you so much for joining us today!Princess EsméraldaThank you for inviting me.Kimberly WhiteSo you’re the President of the King Leopold III Fund for Nature Exploration, and Conservation. Can you tell us more about the King Leopold Fund and what it aims to accomplish?Princess EsméraldaYeah, sure, it was created by my father in 1972. And I have to tell you that my father was a pioneer in the field of the environment because as a young, very young man in the 1930s, he was already very concerned about the state of nature and the way human beings were having an impact on biodiversity. And he made a speech in 1934, in London, saying that his generation had absolutely no excuse not to see all the damage that we were already doing on the natural world. So that’s pretty early in the time. And then, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, he traveled extensively, especially in Latin America, in the Amazon. He spent several months with Indigenous communities there. And he decided to create this fund, not only to scientifically explore nature but also to protect it, and to protect the Indigenous communities that he had seen were the best custodians of our biodiversity. So he created this fund, and after his death in 1983, I became President, and we are very active. Actually, we finance probably between 10 and 20 missions a year all over the world, both in the field of exploration and in the field of conservation.Kimberly WhiteThat’s very impressive. So can you tell us about some of the most recent missions you’re funding?Princess EsméraldaYeah, sure. So we have done a lot of missions in Africa lately, related to the big apes. So you might know that there is a very important park in Africa called Virunga, which is a jewel of biodiversity and has also the famous gorillas, which at one point were on the brink of extinction. And luckily, now really, their population has grown again. And it’s really a big success, although it’s a part of Africa, which is extremely volatile because there’s a lot of violence and armed conflict. And so there are many problems. But we work also closely with the park, and we have done some missions there to scientifically study those species, and that’s only one example. But then we have also a lot of missions in South America, also sometimes in North America. Whether it is to study some new species of insects, so it’s very diverse, we have really a lot of different missions.Kimberly WhiteThat’s amazing. And I love the work that you’re doing in Virunga, it’s great because with mountain gorillas and with all gorillas, really, they are critically endangered. And right now, the conservation efforts have been extremely helpful. And currently, I think they’re the only great ape in the world with an increasing population.Princess EsméraldaYes, it’s fantastic.Kimberly WhiteSo, you and your daughter climbed Kilimanjaro in 2019 to raise funds for an NGO in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Hero Women Rising. Can you tell us more about this experience and what led you to do this?Princess EsméraldaAh, it was my meeting with an extraordinary woman, and this woman is named Neema Namadamu, she’s from the DRC. She’s from Kivu, which is a province of the South, which is extremely dangerous for locals, but especially for women. The violence against women is terrible. And I met Neema, and she told me about her life. And let me just tell you in a few minutes about her life. She got polio when she was very young. I think she was two. And immediately, her father said, “If I have a daughter who has polio, she will never be able to marry,”- which is something very important in the community there. And so he left his wife. And Neema’s mother said, “I want to give a chance to my daughter to go to school.” And because they lived in a village, and there was no way they could find a way to get to school, which was quite far, far away. She decided, yes, she would take her daughter to school, and she took her on her back every day. I think it was about five or six kilometers every day to go to the school. Until Neema became an adolescent, it was difficult at that time for her mother to carry her. So she sent her in the valley down where she could easily go to school. And Neema said, “For the love of my mother, I have to continue to go to school.”She probably was the first of her community to go all the way to university, to graduate from university. All the time, because she said I have to do something for my mother who really sacrificed so much for me. And then Neema said, “I want to do the same for the girls of my community.” And a few years later, she decided to create a program for the girls to keep girls in school. Because what happens also in many regions of the world, and there particularly, is that when the girls have their first menstruation, they miss school for a few days because they don’t have all the necessary tools. And then the parents say, “Oh, their results are not so good, we should stop. Why do we pay for school if the girls have such bad marks?” So Neema decided to go to school to teach the girls to show them what you can do if you have an education. And she has been extremely successful with her program to keep girls at school. And I said, “Okay, she inspired me so much, because she, with so many handicaps, not only physical but also due to the violence and the situation in her country. And she managed to achieve so many things.” So I said, “Okay, I will do something which is not comparable, but it’s also an effort. I will climb Kilimanjaro with my daughter to raise funds for her organization.” And that’s what we did. It was a wonderful experience, first of all, because I was with my daughter, and because it’s a very beautiful place. So yes, it’s something very special for me, this memory.Kimberly WhiteHer story is inspiring. I know with advancing gender equality and empowering women, we can deliver those cross-sectoral long-term solutions to climate change. In fact, in 2019, Project Drawdown had listed in their solutions to climate change that educating girls is the sixth most important solution to mitigate the climate crisis. So the work she’s doing in the DRC is amazing.Princess EsméraldaYeah, absolutely. Because you educate girls as we just said, first of all, they continue being educated. So they don’t marry too early, they don’t have children too early, they learn about the environment, they become really interested, they have solutions on the ground, there are so many advantages to that.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely, and women are on the frontlines of the climate crisis. I think the latest statistic was 80 percent of those people who have been displaced by the major weather events caused by climate change are women and girls. So it’s imperative that we not only focus our solutions on them, but we need to include them in the decision-making process as well.Princess EsméraldaAbsolutely, because as you say, they are very much impacted. Because first of all, they are among the poorest in society in the developing countries. And also because they are the ones in charge of water collection, of food collection, for heating, and for cooking. So they are impacted by extreme weather events. But they are not only victims, as you rightly said; they are also agents of change and of solutions because they know so well the situation on the ground.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely. And another initiative that you’ve been an ardent supporter of has been the Stop Ecocide initiative. Now, ecocide is defined as the vast destruction of nature resulting from human activities. Can you elaborate on this, what the initiative hopes to accomplish, and what are some of the challenges of getting ecocide recognized as a crime?Princess EsméraldaWell, the idea that companies and institutions can damage the earth, Mother Earth, as they are doing right now, whether it is by oil spilling or by mining and poisoning the rivers, I mean, the fact that nobody is accountable for that is something terrible, because they are really killing our life support system. So it would be something really fantastic if it could be declared as a crime against peace, a crime against humanity, like genocide is. And actually, it is very often linked because when you have a major accident in the Amazon or burning forests because of timber exploitation, they often, or actually, every time the human rights of the local populations are threatened. So I think it would be a major, major step, and I hope it will be recognized by the international tribunals’ court. But of course, now, what they are trying to do, the campaign of Stop Ecocide, is to find the right formulation, the right description of the crime, and this will take probably a few months, and then hopefully we will have a chance to succeed. I should add that what it would do, it would make them accountable because you cannot make a company accountable in this kind of action. But you can make the CEO or the President of the company accountable. And that would have a major impact probably.Kimberly WhiteThat was actually one of the things I found interesting about the Stop Ecocide initiative. What they proposed is that by making ecocide a criminal offense, it goes beyond just a slap on the wrist, such as fines, which the companies often budget for. So it would actually bring forth real consequences for the offenders, which could include being arrested. That could cause some change.Princess EsméraldaYeah, really, it would be something important, and I think more and more countries are beginning to understand the value of that.Kimberly WhiteAnd I believe Belgium recently introduced a bill to make ecocide a crime. Is that correct?Princess EsméraldaYes, absolutely.Kimberly WhiteThat’s great. We really need to see more countries taking action on this.Princess EsméraldaAnd of course, there are some very famous supporters because Pope Francis has spoken already many times about the notion of ecocide.Kimberly WhiteGetting that high-level support is great. Ecocide should be recognized as a crime, so I think the work that they’re doing is fantastic and very much needed, especially as we’re dealing with the converging climate and biodiversity crises.Princess EsméraldaYes, absolutely.Kimberly WhiteSo we were touching on the Amazon just a few minutes ago. And I want to dive into that a little bit further. Last month, you took part in a very special event called Protect the Amazon, which sought to amplify Amazonian Indigenous voices. Could you share with us some of the key takeaways and calls to action from this event?Princess EsméraldaYes, we wanted to really amplify the voices of the Indigenous communities in the Amazon, which are suffering so much at the moment. First of all, with the pandemic, because they really have a second wave there, which is very frightening. And they don’t have access to vaccines. And they have been, really if we can say forgotten, whether it is voluntarily or not by the government. So we wanted to hear about that, but also about the crisis, the biodiversity loss, which is happening because the forest is burning, has been burning in 2019, in 2020, more and more, and most of those fires were, of course, criminal. And it is all the time increasing, because there are invasions of their lands by farmers, by miners, and loggers. And so we wanted to hear from them what is the message. And the message is, “We are the best custodians of the forest.”The Amazon, if it’s burning at the rate as it is now, may get to a tipping point where it becomes a savannah, which will be a disaster for the climate of the whole world actually, and for the cycle of water especially. And because those communities are the best guardians, they say, “Please help us. We need to have our lands demarcated. We need more lands demarcated. And you have to denounce all the products which are coming to Europe and to the US and to China, from illegal deforestation.” In a way, we are complicit when we consume all those products, whether it’s wood or meat. And that was their message, “Please, we are saving biodiversity for the whole of the world. Please help us. We cannot do that alone.”Kimberly WhiteYeah, and on the Amazon fires, we touched on this a little bit in an interview with Maria Antonia Tigre, with the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment, which was, the 2019 Amazon fires made global headlines, but the 2020 fire season set new records, and that didn’t receive as much coverage, probably due to everything going on with COVID. But it was an area equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom that burned across Brazil up until September.Princess EsméraldaYeah, exactly. And as you say, because there was the pandemic, everybody was a bit focused on that. And that was probably one of the reasons that all the illegal farmers and loggers had some more, you know, the possibility of doing so because the whole world was not watching.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely, and there were some instances where the authorities were kept from going out because fieldwork was deemed unsafe. So it gave the illegal loggers, the illegal miners, and ranchers this kind of free rein to do whatever they wanted. And it was detrimental.Princess EsméraldaYeah, exactly. Yeah. Besides, they were bringing also the disease with them very often because the communities were so vulnerable to those contacts, and they were the vector of the virus several times.Kimberly WhiteYeah, it’s been heartbreaking to see because it is something we need to talk about, and with COVID, a lot of these messages have, unfortunately, been lost in the midst of news coverage. It’s been tragic everywhere, but especially in those Indigenous communities who have been hit harder, not just in the Amazon, but everywhere. Indigenous communities in the United States were hit much harder than other communities.Princess EsméraldaYeah, you’re right to say that because also, we can talk about the second-largest rainforest in the world, which is in the middle of Africa. And the Congo Basin forest, which is also very much under threat from loggers and many big corporations there, and obviously doesn’t make as many headlines as the Amazon. So it’s a message really, which is global, the Indigenous communities all over the world, in all the countries, and the US, are threatened. Their rights are threatened, and their very livelihood also.Kimberly WhiteAnd for our listeners at home, is there a place that you recommend that they go to learn more from the event, such as a website, or is there an initiative that you would like to point them to?Princess EsméraldaWell, the program is now on-demand on EarthX TV. So it can be seen the two parts, we made it in four parts, and they are being added every week. So it’s possible to see. And, of course, it’s really nice to hear and informative to hear all what the Indigenous leaders had to say on the program.Kimberly WhiteGlobally, there has been a lot of concern regarding the destruction of the Amazon, especially in recent years, as we just discussed with the spike in fires. However, despite this growing concern, there are no incentives in place for the conservation or restoration of the Amazon. A key theme of last month’s special was highlighting our common future and responsibility to work with Indigenous peoples and to help preserve one of the natural world’s most vital resources, the Amazon. How can the legal recognition and protection of the earth system, as proposed by the Common Home of Humanity, help preserve this critical ecosystem?Princess EsméraldaI think it’s a very important concept. To just realize that we live on the same planet, we breathe the same air, we depend so much on nature, and on everything that it gives us, not only for our physical needs but for our mental needs. And we have to treat this planet, this environment, the way it deserves, and not continue to destroy it with impunity. We are already at a point which is catastrophic for biodiversity and for the climate. So we have to realize that it is our responsibility, of each one of us.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely. And to dive in a little bit further, do you think the common heritage concept for the earth system would better enable us to manage the climate and biodiversity crises?Princess EsméraldaYes, it would certainly bring a complete change of spirit, a change of mind.Kimberly WhiteMy next question is regarding the NDC Synthesis Report that came out in February. The UNFCCC recently released that report which measures the progress of National Climate Action Plans. However, despite current NDCs, we are falling far short of the level of action needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. So we’re really at a make-or-break moment with the climate emergency, and business as usual is not getting us there. In your opinion, where do we go from here? How can we raise our collective ambition and garner the political will necessary to address this existential threat?Princess EsméraldaI think it’s quite disheartening to see that we are in 2021, six years after the Paris Accord and that we have had so many fantastic words and speeches and promises, as you just mentioned, not much action. So I think we have very little time left. So the scientists tell us that this is the decade that we have to act, and we have to go much faster. So the politics don’t seem to be at the same pace as we need. So I really very much think that it is our responsibility, each of us, all the citizens, to put maximum pressure on our leaders for them to act now. And this is at every level, I mean, the local level, the national level, and the global level. It’s only if we, all the citizens, all the people who can vote, all the young people who are really afraid and shouting in the street. I mean, we have to support them, the young people. We have to support the Indigenous people. We have to make the biggest coalition. We can do something. This is our common future. And it’s not so much in the future, actually, because so many people are already suffering today. If you see all that happened in the US last year, the fires, the hurricanes, if you see what happened in the Amazon, if you see what’s happening in Africa, in Asia, it’s everywhere, people are already dying and suffering. And this is only going to get worse unless we all become activists in our own way. I don’t mean that everybody has to go in the street, no, but everybody has to do something for it. Whether it is to speak to our local politician or our banker, all of that is useful to put the maximum pressure on the people who decide.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely, and as individuals, we really do have that power to make a difference as well. And going back to what we were discussing about the Amazon, a lot of that is consumer-driven. So we can make those choices to support companies that are doing things responsibly, ethically, and sustainably, instead of supporting companies that are funding the deforestation happening in the Amazon or funding all of this environmental degradation. When it comes down to it, well, we vote with our dollars essentially.Princess EsméraldaYes, it’s, it’s something we can do every day. We can choose the products which are not coming from deforestation. Make a little bit of research about the companies and also do some research about the banks, because the financial institution, of course, is a big part in all that funding, sometimes projects which are really destroying the environment. So we can talk to the people in our bank and say that we don’t like when they finance this or that project, we have as a citizen, a lot of power.Kimberly WhiteAnd with the finance, we’ve been seeing this shift from several of the big banks where they’re starting to recognize to ensure their own survival, they’re going to have to get on board with climate action, whether they like it or not. We’ve seen several commitments to stop funding for oil exploration and drilling out in the Arctic as well, and that came from pressure from citizens. It came from people standing up and saying, “We’re not going to support you if you keep doing this.”Princess EsméraldaYes, it’s essential that the citizens take that in their hands and put pressure. And it’s, as you said, it’s the financial institutions, it’s also the universities. When students say to their university, “We don’t want you to have investments in fossil fuels or in industries that are polluting and destroying the environment.” Well, it has an effect, several universities have already, and several in the US and the UK, and elsewhere have already decided to divest. And that was the pressure from all the students.Kimberly WhiteThat’s fantastic. And it just continues to show that we are capable of doing this, we are capable of moving the needle and, you know, with our elected officials, we elect them, so we have to make sure that they’re standing up for the values that we believe in, protecting our planet and protecting our global community.Princess EsméraldaOf course, it’s not always easy because there are a lot of very powerful lobbies against us. But if we are many, many, many, we can make a difference.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely. Before we go, is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience?Princess EsméraldaI really want to give a message of hope because I know that it can make an enormous difference. If as many people as possible take a stand and really try to do something to save, I won’t say our planet because the planet can survive, but to save ourselves, our species, and so many other animal species around us, which are on the brink of extinction. So we really have to do something all together.Kimberly WhiteAlright, and there you have it. We all live on the same planet, and we breathe the same air. We depend on nature and everything that it gives us. When it comes to the existential threats that we are currently facing, whether it’s the climate crisis or biodiversity loss, it’s up to us to put pressure at every level of government and society to ensure our common future. That is all for today, and thank you for joining us for this episode of Common Home Conversations Beyond UN75. Please subscribe, share, and be sure to tune in on April 7th to continue the conversation with our special guest, Frank Biermann, Professor of Global Sustainability Governance at Utrecht University, Director of the ERC GlobalGoals project, Founder of the Earth System Governance Project, and Editor of the Earth System Governance journal. And visit us at www.ThePlanetaryPress.com for more episodes and the latest news in sustainability, climate change, and the environment.
1 minutes | 21 days ago
Princess Esméralda of Belgium Interview Promo Clip
43 minutes | a month ago
Louis Kotzé, Research Professor of Law at North-West University and Senior Professorial Fellow in Earth System Law at the University of Lincoln
Interview TranscriptTranscribed by Otter AIKimberly WhiteHello and welcome to Common Home Conversations. Today we are joined by Louis Kotzé, Research Professor at North-West University and Senior Professorial Fellow in Earth System Law at the University of Lincoln. Thank you for joining us today!Louis KotzéThank you for the invitation, Kimberly. I'm very excited to speak to you.Kimberly WhiteSo you're a Research Professor of Law at North-West University in South Africa, and you are a Senior Professional Fellow in Earth System Law at the University of Lincoln. Can you tell us what earth system law is?Louis KotzéOh, yes. So earth system law is a new legal paradigm that we've been working on for the last couple of years. And in developing this new legal paradigm, we realized, and we put great emphasis on the fact that as a human social system, law is an essential element of governance. And it certainly serves a very useful purpose as a vehicle for shaping behavior to achieve certain desired ends. That is the classical role of law after all, and law also plays a critically important role in environmental governance or the more broadly conceived idea of earth system governance, certainly, insofar as it seeks to shape or regulate or constrain, or more broadly would govern, how humans interact with other earth system constituents, aspects, and earth system processes. But we think that because law is caught up within, how can one put it, the stifling confines of its outdated Holocene orientated assumptions and orientation. It's not necessarily seen to be compatible anymore with and responsive to an earth system approach to governance which means that it cannot meaningfully address the full scope of all the legal aspects of earth system governance. So basically, in a nutshell, environmental law, which is the legal discipline most obviously concerned with environmental impacts, does not take a systems approach. And we need to consider this, I think, in the context of the Anthropocene trope, which is also a main part of my body of work. And the legal implications of the Anthropocene trope are becoming increasingly clear, no less, because of this new geological terminology because that's what it is; it's a geological term. It casts no judgment on the desirability or otherwise of this new state of affairs. But it does invite profound normative questions, as Tim Stephens, our friend from the University of Sydney, says. And I think that these questions will ask of us to consider how and by us I specifically mean lawyers, but also other scientists and people interested in governance. These questions will ask us to consider how, and the extent to which, the Anthropocene as epistemology or trope is changing our perceptions of law as a regulatory institution, including our perception of law's content, its purpose, its objectives, and certainly also its design. These questions will require us to reflect on human agency and the role of law in governing human actions in the Anthropocene, including certainly the impacts of these actions on the earth system and on the many other earth system processes and aspects and the links that these also have continued human existence on earth. So, to me, at least, the Anthropocene in this sense, allows for a sort of opening up, as it were of prohibitive epistemic closures in the law and of the legal discourse more generally, and perhaps even more importantly, of the world order that the law operatively seeks to maintain, to a range of other understandings of cognitive frameworks for global environmental change. So the Anthropocene reveals the contexts to contemplate possible ways to mediate this change through the law. And as a result, I think there is pretty much general agreement that the Anthropocene will ask of us to critically revisit the many traditional or trite assumptions that we have internalized over so many years, certainly since 1972 since the Stockholm conference. The idea of earth system law is that the development of such a new legal paradigm will require considerable creative, certainly, out-of-the-box thinking alongside the imagery of this earth system metaphor. And this will not be a straightforward or easy task, we think. And lawyers cannot go this alone. So we would need to embrace and rely on the expertise and the insights and the creative thinking of a whole range of other disciplines. I'm thinking of earth system scientists, geologists, geographers, ethicists, to name but a few. And I think we should be motivated by the idea that little is more difficult than learning to think differently. And we would need, certainly as lawyers speaking for myself as an environmental lawyer, to try and think differently. Now, are we willing, and will we ultimately be able to upset and criticize and rethink and reconfigure our traditions, our beliefs and attitudes, when it comes to thinking about a different type of law or legal paradigm that we want to have, and that's a better fit for the purpose of the Anthropocene? Personally, I believe that we are, and I want to invite people to join us in exploring the new legal paradigm of earth system law. And I see certainly a lot of potential for people involved in the Common Home of Humanity initiative, also to participate in this grander project, Kimberly, thanks.Kimberly WhiteThank you. I think that's great. We actually had professor Will Steffen on one of our first episodes, and he's one of the top earth system scientists. And we were able to learn about more of the science. So it's really great to learn more about the law side of the earth system. Louis KotzéAbsolutely. We certainly rely a lot on the work of Will Steffen. And also, certainly, his work on planetary boundaries with Johan Rockström. And in the next few weeks, a new research handbook on law, governance, and planetary boundaries will appear with Edward Elgar that was co-edited by myself and Duncan French, with contributions actually also from Johan Rockström, from Will Steffen, and several other people that are working in this area.Kimberly WhiteFantastic, looking forward to checking that out. And to go further into earth system law, you're actually one of the founders of the Earth System Law Task Force. Can you tell us more about this?Louis KotzéYes. So the task force is an extremely exciting endeavor, an opportunity to become involved with the work on earth system law. So it is part of the Earth System Governance Network that was founded by Professor Frank Biermann from Utrecht. The Earth System Governance Network is currently, it's a global research alliance, and it is the largest social science research network in the area of governance and global environmental change. Now, the Earth System Governance Research Alliance takes up the challenge of exploring political solutions, including also legal solutions, of course, because of the link between politics and law and social behavior, and model more effective governance mechanisms to cope with the current transitions in the biochemical systems of the planet or they more broadly see the earth system. So the Earth System Governance Project and its network set up the task force. There are other task forces as well dealing with other issues, and ours was created in 2017. And it focuses specifically on earth system law. The task force established an interdisciplinary community of scientists, mostly lawyers, but there are certainly also non-lawyers among us, thank heavens. There's a saying, keep the lawyers out, and that makes a lot of sense if you want to find real solutions to problems. And it is people working in the field of sustainability, law, and governance at all levels of social organization. And this is also an open and very warm invitation to everyone to come and join us. So Rakhyun Kim and I, as you said, are the scientific co-coordinators, and we would love for people to sign up to the work that we do. In 2019, the network's Earth System Governance Network launched its specialist journal with Elsevier, called Earth System Governance. And it includes a dedicated section for law, and I'm the associate editor for that section of law. And it was in this journal that Rakhyun and I published this first piece on earth system law. And I'm very happy to say that in the next few months, there will also be a special issue on earth system law later this year, where we've invited a range of specialists to reflect on this growing debate about what earth system law is. Perhaps if anyone is interested, you are more than welcome to simply search for Earth System Governance Network, and you'll be directed to the official website. And then, you will find all of the information that you need about the annual conference of this network, which this year will hopefully, COVID restrictions permitting, take place in Bratislava. There's a lot of online events as well. Common Home of Humanity is also very directly involved with the task force, to be sure, and its works, so there's a lot of connections. You'll also find a lot of information specifically on our task force and several other task forces. So please check it out. And if you are interested, get in touch either with the Earth System Governance Network or with me personally. My contact details are available on the internet or with Dr. Rakhyun Kim at Utrecht.Kimberly WhiteFantastic. I think that's going to be really interesting for everyone to check out. Now, I would like to dive in a little bit further into international environmental law. Currently, what do you see as the main limitations or challenges of international environmental law in the age of the Anthropocene?Louis KotzéOh, goodness, Kimberly, how much time do we have for this? This is obviously the big question. And it is an easy answer. But it's also a difficult answer. So I think much of my work the past years has been trying to look at what is wrong with international environmental law. And doing that, one kind of gets demotivated and pessimistic as well. That was also one of the reasons why we deliberately decided let's stop criticizing international environmental law and showing its gaps and let's try and look at the brightest side and what could be, and that is why we are trying to kind of think more optimistically about this evolving idea of earth system law. But what prompted us to look at it is exactly what you say is the limitations and the gaps in international environmental law. And there are many, but I think I could think of perhaps five, which we can have a brief discussion here about. So first, I think we all agree that international environmental law emerged in the years following the Great Acceleration, which is still basically the current post-Industrial Revolution era that we live in. And it's a period in earth's geological history that signals a global-level, synchronous step change in the human enterprise, and the simultaneous human-driven change in many features of earth subsystems structure and functioning. But despite its relative maturity, if one assumes that international environmental law already started developing in the early 1970s, at least formally, it remains a regulatory intervention that is still at the periphery of the social regulatory system. It is essentially, let's be honest, a collection of prohibitions with modest impacts on deeply intertwined social-ecological relationships. And in sum, I think it's fair to say that international environmental law, and environmental law more broadly, also on domestic and regional levels, have failed to keep humanity from crossing the critical planetary boundaries that exemplify the Anthropocene social-ecological crisis in concrete terms. So it's clear the earth system science, as Will Steffen would have told you as well, certainly in his podcast, is that the science is there, we are crossing planetary boundaries, we are disrupting the earth system. And of course, one cannot only expect of the law to be responsible for keeping us within the safe operating space of the planetary boundaries, and to keep the earth system intact, and to protect its integrity, and to ensure planetary justice, and all of this. Law alone is not up to the task, and it's unfair to expect that law alone should be responsible for this, but law will play a decidedly important role in doing this, along with other social regulatory interventions such as politics, economics, religion, literature, ethics, the whole collection of social and normative interventions that shape human behavior. So, law won't be solely, exclusively responsible for this, it would be unreasonable to expect it, but it would play a decidedly important role. And my point is the role that international environmental law has played to date has not been all that great, even though, of course, there are exceptions and some victories such as the ozone layer, where international law has actually managed to make a very positive contribution, but it can still do much more. So a second concern, I think, is international environmental law's very worrying lack of ambition. It's lack of normative ambition at a time when precisely such ambition is critically required. The state of our deteriorated earth system is such that deep structural change in global governance and global law is urgently required both inside and outside of the formal United Nations system. But environmental law, at best, only pursues incremental change in the form of the public sphere, which is insufficient to bring about social-ecological change at the level and with the speed needed to respond to meaningful earth system transformations. A third point, perhaps, is that the multilateral environmental law and governance domain remains predominantly state-centric, largely depending on the state as the central source of its legitimacy and authority. And this is so despite the emergence of non-state entities and civil society movements, as increasingly important actors in polycentric forms have a type of bottom-up global environmental governance. So, despite the emergence of these non-state actors, they still do not play any seriously meaningful role in the negotiation, enforcement, and revision of multilateral environmental agreements, which still seem to be the mainstay of international environmental law, and which is still seen as the only guiding or behavioral changing instruments of international environmental law. So, a purely state-centric legal paradigm obviously shuts out any meaningful involvement, incentivization, and promotion of non-state actors in earth system governance, again at a time when such involvement is, in fact, required more than ever before. A fourth aspect, certainly reflecting on its ontological orientation, and despite its rhetorical ambitions, the function of international environmental law in broad terms has been, let's be very honest, to promote a short-termist, utilitarian, and neoliberal economic human growth agenda by protecting environmental resources for the social, economic, and therefore unsustainable development of some privileged humans of the present generation. So, and this is a point that Klaus Bosselmann certainly has made many times over also in his podcast in this series and Prue Taylor as well, is that environmental law remains anthropocentric. And it is not predominantly concerned with advancing ecological sustainability well into the future, despite some encouraging, but ultimately, faltering normative attempts to do so during its early formative years. But the main point is that environmental law has failed to ensure any meaningful degree of sustainability with respect to humanity's continuing dependence on and interaction with ecological processes because it does not embrace an ecocentric orientation. And the final point here, with respect to what is wrong with international environmental law, if I can put it this way, is that the focus of environmental law remains decidedly narrow and sectoral while the discipline of environmental law has correspondingly not yet fully embraced, to the extent that it should I think, an interdisciplinary research agenda. Mostly, perhaps, as a result of its historical development trajectory, environmental law does not follow an all-encompassing, integrated, and reflexive systems approach. Environmental law and much of its scholarship instead continued to view issues such as water, air, soil pollution, nature conservation, waste management as isolated, discrete issues that can be regulated by technocratic interventions based in and operationalized by sectoral and issue-specific laws. So it remains bound to define places, spaces, habitats, ecosystems, species, and objects. And this, of course, runs the risk of resulting in regime deference, regime abdication, and problem shifting, as Harro van Asselt and Rakhyun Kim have shown in much of their work. And this is a classic problem of fit between the global environmental governance architecture, including the legal rules that belong to that architecture, and the dynamic, the complexly adaptive and erratic earth system, as Oran Young argues, and certainly the body of international environmental law, and its accompanying institutional maze, on the one hand, and the functioning of the earth system on the other are currently not aligned. And that is also one of the reasons that prompted us to start thinking about the concept of earth system law as a kind of a bridge between the sectoral, mono-disciplinary approach of environmental law to an approach that more fully embraces an earth systems perspective.Kimberly WhiteWe may have touched on this a few minutes ago, but I want to explore it a little bit more, and that's the roots of environmental injustice. How deep into our past do the roots of environmental injustice go?Louis KotzéMy goodness, that is yes. So again, one can write a book about this, and several books have been written about this. So, it goes back probably since pre-colonial times, but we specifically observe it in the colonial era where industrialized nations kind of exploited and used their powers of innovation, their economic power, and their might, to exploit an extremely vulnerable world. Certainly being African coming from South Africa, one can also still even see the scars that these historical activities left and are still patently evident in much of Africa. So, yes, these injustices reached back to many, many generations before us, but not only to the living human world. I think one should also try and see planetary injustice in a much broader context to include the more than human world, nonhuman living beings, and the extent to which humans have as, kind of in a predatory way, fed and are still feeding off the nonhuman world, which we see as resources. And the word resource is, to me, a terrible word that is often used in law and environmental protection policies and in international environmental law, and elsewhere. And that certainly is the type of language that we need to shift away from. We must also be attentive to, if you look at critical legal scholarship, the work with people such as Anna Grear, for example, is doing and Sam Adelman, looking at the type of language that law employs that other people in the poor global south, it is still very masculine. And international environmental law embraces very much, I think, this masculinist ontology of the empowered white, Northern European, powerful male, human subject, which is not the type of ontology that I think is still appropriate anymore. We would need to embrace alternative ontologies of care that are much more open to other multiple gendered voices, certainly, other Indigenous views. And ontologies that also recognize the vulnerability of the living order; everyone is vulnerable, but some are more vulnerable than others. And our laws need to respond to that and need to be cognizant of that. But environmental justice is historical, but it is also obviously ongoing, and we see patterns of injustice very clearly currently, for example, also in COVID-19, isn't it? Where people in the global south are very clearly having far, far worse access to health care, to vaccines, and so forth. And this really is a concern, so it highlights COVID regrettably, that a lot of these injustices are still very much part of our society. And it is also being perpetuated, I think, to a considerable extent, by corporations. And certainly by corporate exploitation, also in the form of neocolonialism, where some countries are engaging in neocolonialist projects in Africa. In Latin America, for example, palm oil production, when massive, massive areas of rainforests are being destroyed to plant palm oil, people are forced off their lands, Indigenous communities are even killed.We see this with the Shell Oil Company with the Indigenous people in Nigeria, for example, on the continent where I live. So we also need to be cognizant of and critical of ongoing corporate exploitation and these predatory practices that many governments, let's be honest, are underwriting and approving, and are even promoting.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely, and, you know, on the palm oil issue, it's interesting you say that. That was the subject of a paper I wrote not too long ago, where I discussed how much Borneo has lost from the palm oil plantations and just how destructive that industry has been, and not just environmentally, but socially, there's a lot of issues that come with that as well. There have been numerous allegations of human trafficking in the palm oil industry. Unfortunately, there have been a lot of times, especially in rural communities, where these companies will pay their workers barely anything, and if they fail to meet their quotas, harvesters are threatened with pay cuts. Some have even had their passports seized by the companies in an effort to keep them from running away. Essentially, it's become this almost form of modern slavery where they can't leave until they pay off their debts to the company, which can take years. Child labor is also an issue in the palm oil industry. Children will have to drop out of school and go to work at these plantations if a family member is unable to meet their quotas due to illness, age, etc. And I think people don't realize, you know, how much of a problem palm oil is, and that's why we need to look for those more sustainable alternatives. Or, at the very least, make sure the palm oil being sourced is both ethical and environmentally sustainable.Louis KotzéAbsolutely, I cannot agree with you any more. And that, to me, is also where the benefit of a systems approach lie because, let's be honest, palm oil is a solution that not only environmental law, but other parts, other areas of law, has created. It is a solution to the potential energy crisis or to the ongoing rather energy crisis and as a means to address carbon outputs and so forth. So this solution in brackets is now turning out to be a massive problem because the solution was developed with a very one-sided point of view. So when we developed the situation, had we taken a systems perspective and actually look at what the long-term consequences of this could be, what the interests of the local communities would be, what the impacts of this on the communities would be, and so forth as you say, we might have even discarded palm oil as a possible solution and looked at something altogether different or we would have gone about it in a very different way than we currently are. Solar radiation management is another such example where we don't know what the... it is a type of new technology, but we are not entirely certain what the medium and long-term impacts are going to be on the entire earth system and on earth system integrity. And again, I think the only way to at best try and evaluate this would be through such a systems approach which would enable you to look at multiple perspectives and interests.Kimberly WhiteDefinitely, and, you know, going back to the economic perspective, I recently watched the Protect the Amazon special on EarthX. And there was an interview with Dr. David Suzuki, and he talked about how our global economy was built on the idea of cancer, and he compared the economic system to cancer cells. And I think it was probably one of the best descriptions of the destructive nature of the business as usual mindset of our economy that I've actually heard. I found that particularly interesting.Louis KotzéAbsolutely, and I mean to this end, we also need to recognize the extreme destructive power of neoliberal economic development and neoliberalism as such. And it is on these core ideas that we have kind of created, which Ben Richardson from the University of Tasmania called these concepts such as sustainable development palliatives. They are these ideas that we create, that we tell ourselves, yes, we need to balance, which is the word that's always used, economic, social and environmental concerns for the best outcome. But what does that balancing mean? What does it entail? Evidence and experience, certainly to date, suggest that it certainly results in massive environmental destruction. And it increases the vulnerability of especially vulnerable sectors of society and of the nonhuman world as well. And what I am happy about at least is that there seems to be an increased recognition, as you also say, within the scholarly community and elsewhere, also in civil society, about the very danger of these neoliberal concepts. Kimberly WhiteNow, according to the recent NDC synthesis report, the new climate targets submitted by countries would reduce emissions levels by less than 1 percent by 2030. And the United Nations Secretary-General stated, "The science is clear, to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius we must cut global emissions by 45 percent by 2030 from 2010 levels." Now, current law seems unable to achieve deep structural reforms, and you mentioned that earlier. Do we need to rethink the legal concept of the planet, and what role can international environmental law play in helping us achieve this?Louis KotzéYes, absolutely. I think that the current international environmental law is certainly not sufficiently ambitious to, and therefore hence inappropriate for, tackling the climate crisis. And we see this also in the ongoing climate negotiations. We see this in the content of what is being negotiated. We see this in the Paris Agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, the UNFCCC, and the many decisions that are being taken is that countries simply for some other reason, now, we know what the reason is, it's because of economic development. But countries do not seem willing to take more drastic steps to commit themselves to be more ambitious. So, again, I think that we need to think hard about how we are going to achieve this. Law is not the only answer. Law will play a decidedly important role in this entire endeavor. Politics, of course, I think, is the main problem here. We would need to see better politics being made by better politicians that hopefully could also embrace more careful and caring epistemologies of care, such as those that we see emerging in Latin America, the rights of nature paradigm in Bolivia, Ecuador, and so forth. In South Africa, the concept of ubuntu, notions of degrowth, and so forth these all seem to be fairly radical, but they are only radical because they are in such stark contrast with the status quo. And I think once we start talking about these alternative, more normatively ambitious and radical concepts, and epistemologies of care and humility and vulnerability, would we be able to set the scene for perhaps even politicians and legislators and lawmakers everywhere to fully embrace these concepts when they make law and when they negotiate climate targets and so forth. And to this end, also civil societies playing a tremendously important role. The Fridays for Future movement, the international non-legal tribunals that are being held all over the world on human rights abuses, for example. These are all very powerful civil society energies that I think have considerable potential to getting us from here, where we currently are, to where we want to be. And this is a situation where we want to be, to me at least, a political, legal, economic order that would embrace the concerns of everyone equally. One that recognizes that everyone is vulnerable but that some are more vulnerable than others. So it is an order that should recognize, also differentiate the distributed vulnerability of people or humans and nonhumans equally.Kimberly WhiteNow, more and more people are calling on their governments to meet the challenges of climate change. However, it's easier for governments and industries to prioritize corporate profits and short-term gain over intergenerational responsibilities. In "International Environmental Law's Lack of Normative Ambition: An Opportunity for the Global Pact and its Gap Report?" you said, "If we agree about everything, nothing changes. It is when people become hostile that human rights are adopted," Can civil disobedience be the spark needed to enact real change?Louis KotzéYes, those were probably the harsh words coming from me, but I won't apologize for them, and I will repeat them as well. And I still maintain exactly that sentiment, and I still support it to its fullest extent. I think civil disobedience would be key in trying to achieve the type of structural changes that would be necessary. Unfortunately, from my point of view, is that the entire COVID pandemic has unfortunately managed to shift a bit of the attention away from these emerging subtle energies that we saw around Greta Thunberg, for example. There are many other examples as well, the Fridays for Future movement. And it has, unfortunately, I think, managed to dilute a bit of this energy that we've seen before the pandemic, and I hope that we get this back. And I hope also that the patterns of injustice, the planetary patterns of injustice that the pandemic is now again, revealing, certainly also, I hope would be an instigator and a motivator for future civil disobedience movements. So, in summary, it would be key in initiating and driving the types of structural changes that we would need to see. And it's not about only civil society being involved. It is also about scholars becoming involved, students becoming involved because, in a sense, we are also obviously part of civil society. And in the work that we do, we need to be vocal. In this podcast series that you have, which is a great initiative, it raises awareness; it spurs people on, hopefully, to become more critical not to accept that the status quo is necessarily the only or the correct way to go about things in the future. If we can only learn to start being critical and to question and not simply accept everything as being the truth, then I think we've already won a big part of the battle. And that will enable us further to capitalize and to reinforce the emerging movements that are busy with and are engaged with civil disobedience, which must certainly be spurred on as far as possible.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely, we can't be complacent anymore. Complacency is what got us into this mess in the first place.Louis KotzéAbsolutely, 100 percent. And again, it's by being critical, it is by asking the uncomfortable questions, let's be honest, and by doing uncomfortable things that would not necessarily be universally popular, that we would be pointing out what is wrong and what needs to change and then trying to motivate people and to get them on board to help us drive and move this change. I'm extremely excited about the collective global solidarity that is emerging and the collective energies that we see all over the world in many of these networks, the Common Home of Humanity initiative, the Earth System Governance Network. There are many other examples of people getting together and trying to point out and to illuminate, to reveal what is wrong and what needs to change. And as you say, try to think about innovative ways not to be complacent and to move things forward in a different direction.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely. Change does not come from complacency, it comes from being uncomfortable. As you said, we need to ask those uncomfortable questions and have those conversations because they drive change. Now, one more question I would like to ask is on the Common Home of Humanity. Could you share your thoughts on the proposal from the Common Home and Humanity? Right now, climate is viewed as a common concern of humankind, do you think the common heritage concept for the earth system would better enable us to manage this social-ecological crisis?Louis KotzéAbsolutely, because the common heritage concept to me is another example of an epistemology of humility, an epistemology of care, of one that recognizes and sees the vulnerability of the entire living order, and one that is more and better able, certainly, to more holistically as well address the shared, the common, the shared social-ecological crisis and deeply pervasive and increasingly critical forms of planetary injustice that we are all experiencing across the world. So this initiative is a very useful attempt, I think, to illuminate and to reveal also our shared vulnerability. And its focus on the common heritage, the common home, the common problems that we share, but also the need to search for common solutions, is extremely valuable. And to that end, I think it also fits in very well and very neatly with our idea of earth system law and the project of earth system governance, to the extent that it recognizes a need for a holistic, common approach to the social-ecological crisis. And it also recognizes that the solution won't necessarily only lie in law or a specific type of law or international environmental law, but it will come from different places from international environmental law, from climate law, from civil society, and so forth. So it is certainly to me an extremely worthwhile initiative and endeavor, and I'm very happy to be part of this. I'm very happy to support it. And I'm extremely proud also to see how it has grown and how it is growing and the influence that it evidently is exerting. And the interest that it is attracting from multiple stakeholders at multiple levels involved in the various aspects of earth system governance.Kimberly WhiteI couldn't agree with you more. Before we go, is there anything else you'd like to share with our audience?Louis KotzéWell, what I can say is that I'm extremely grateful for opportunities such as this to be able to talk to people and to share ideas. Because I think this is a good starting point is that we need to talk to one another. Not in the formal conference setting, but also in alternative ways where we share our concerns, where we can be open and honest and be critical. And try to look for collective solutions also to the shared problem that we are facing. And I really hope, and I would encourage everyone to become involved in this conversation, and to make contact with people who are working in this field, and to contribute to this collective endeavor of trying to sketch out an alternative future, different pathways leading to different, more accommodating planetary futures that are caring, and that recognizes the vulnerability of the entire living order.Kimberly WhiteThank you so much for joining us today, Louis! Louis KotzéThank you very much, Kimberly, for the opportunity to speak to you.Kimberly WhiteAlright, and there you have it. Currently, international environmental law is not equipped to handle the ongoing social-ecological crisis. Environmental law and governance remain predominantly state-centered, depending on the state as its central source of legitimacy and authority. Earth System Law recognizes the need for a holistic, common approach to the challenges facing our global community. The common heritage concept and the Common Home of Humanity initiative can be the new legal paradigm to keep the earth system intact, protect its integrity, and ensure planetary justice for our common future. That is all for today, and thank you for joining us for this episode of Common Home Conversations Beyond UN75. Please subscribe, share, and be sure to tune in on March 24th to continue the conversation with our special guest, Princess Esméralda of Belgium, journalist, documentary‐maker, environmental activist, and President of the King Leopold III Fund for Nature Exploration and Conservation. And visit us at www.ThePlanetaryPress.com for more episodes and the latest news in sustainability, climate change, and the environment.
1 minutes | a month ago
Louis Kotzé Interview Promo Clip
28 minutes | 2 months ago
Maria Antonia Tigre, Director of Latin America for the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment
Interview TranscriptTranscribed by Otter AIKimberly WhiteHello and welcome to Common Home Conversations. Today we're joined by Maria Antonia Tigre, Director of Latin America for the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment. Thank you for joining us today! Maria Antonia TigreThank you. Thank you for having me.Kimberly WhiteSo Maria, can you tell us about the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment and the work you do there? Maria Antonia TigreAbsolutely. So the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment, the GNHRE, is basically what it sounds like. It's a global network of academics, researchers, policymakers, lawyers and community activists that are particularly interested in this intersection of human rights in the environment. It started in 2018 as the brainchild of Anna Grear, who's an academic with the simple idea to bring people together who are working at this intersection. And the network recognizes the intersection of these two domains that human rights impact the environment and environmental quality impacts human rights. And so it nurtures a group of people who wanted to find more effective solutions than what had been done up until now. And because our core team has dedicated members divided by geographic regions, our growing network is particularly diverse. I'm the Director for Latin America and have as a result, the responsibility to engage with members who are based or focus their work on that particular region. This is done through webinars, through blog posts and an exchange of academic scholarship. We have a dedicated virtual research repository that contains over 2000 sources for research, which is by far the most extensive dedicated research portal on human rights and the environment available. And we are constantly updating it so it reflects the most recent scholarship on the team and particularly through research from those different regions of the world that are not always as focused in academia. So we also have a blog that provides commentaries on recent legal innovations, such as court decisions that have recognized the right to a healthy environment in some particular way. And since 2020 was the year of zoom meetings and webinars, we have developed a series of webinars focused on human rights-based climate litigation, which was our biggest programming initiative so far. We had an introductory webinar that provided a broad overview of human rights-based climate litigation, and then subsequent webinars that each focused on a specific region. The webinars had a very interesting mix of advocates, scholars, and lawyers, some of which were actually litigating the claims that we were talking about, which was a really interesting perspective to look from. And we had the privilege to hear from, in our webinar on focus on Latin America, we heard from Soledad García Muñoz who is the first Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. And we got from her the broad perspective on how to recognize climate change and develop climate litigation at the inter-American system. This broad network that we have has allowed us to get a worldwide conversation on climate litigation, it goes well beyond the discussions that we have seen so far, with the truly incredible quality of interventions of very thoughtful people trying to figure out how to protect human rights and environmental rights. We have several projects planned for 2021 that focus on advancing the development of this right and forge new conversations and relationships among our members.Kimberly WhiteThat's fantastic. I'm looking forward to checking all of that out, especially the research repository. I think that sounds very interesting. So 2020 was a challenging year, with the pandemic and lock-downs and everything that went along with that. What are some of the highlights for human rights and the environment that stood out to you recently that we should know about? Maria Antonia TigreI think so. I think there have been several cases in Latin America that have advanced climate litigation through a human rights-based approach and also focused on the pandemic, specifically. I think what's interesting about the COVID-19 pandemic is that it has truly sort of spread throughout all crevices of society. And, of course, it's primarily a health crisis with devastating consequences on the human right to life and the human right to health but the urgent and all encompassing nature of the pandemic’s effect has complicated other environmental and human rights challenges in unpredictable and unprecedented ways. And given the origin of the Coronavirus as a zoonotic disease, meaning that it was transmitted from animals to humans, the exploitation of wild species and deforestation becomes a central aspect in addressing the pandemic and preventing future ones. So I think the right to a healthy environment has really developed sort of, within that whole context is sort of a response to the pandemic as well. And in fact, I'm actually coordinating a working group at the Global Pandemic Network, which developed sort of as of response from a series of academics all over the world to the pandemic, with this idea of responding to what we're living and trying to understand it from a legal perspective and trying to find better responses to react to it and as we sort of move towards this next phase, but also preventing future ones. And this group that I'm coordinating focuses on how the right to a healthy environment and other sort of green rights have been infringed by the pandemic. And one of the aspects that we look at is precisely this increased and modified interface between people and wildlife, which leads to the spillover of diseases from wildlife to people. And from a legal perspective, we are asking how the right to a healthy environment as well as these other related rights, such as the right to water, the right to food, the rights of indigenous peoples, play a part in that discussion. So I think there's an increased call for this international recognition of the right to a healthy environment because of the pandemic.Kimberly WhiteYeah, unfortunately, it has been challenging, and you know, again, it is all interconnected. That brings me to my next question, and we can dive in a little bit further with COVID. So the climate crisis and the concurrent COVID-19 pandemic seemed to show us a connection between environmental degradation, health, and human rights. How would the Global Pact for the Environment bolster human rights while bringing about international accountability?Maria Antonia TigreSo I think a lot of the studies that we've seen from the pandemic and the underlying causes of it, they show that these causes are the same global environmental changes that drive biodiversity loss and climate change, including issues like land use change, agricultural expansion in wildlife trade and consumption. So the role of a deteriorating environment both as a cause and a consequence of the pandemic is very significant here because it raises, like I said, the demand for international recognition of a right to a healthy environment, and this recognition is crucial given the link between the rights of health and environmental protection, which was evidenced by the pandemic and the recognition at the international level would provide for increased accountability and ensure that environmental protection is observed as a human right throughout the world. And this is also important as we see backsliding in environmental regulation as a result of the pandemic or using the pandemic as an excuse as has been observed, for example, in Brazil and in the United States. And this is where the Global Pact for the Environment can be particularly useful because it provides a platform, an opportunity for the recognition of the right to a healthy environment at international level along with other environmental principles such as the principle of resilience and the principle of non regression, both of which would have been essential in avoiding this pandemic and future ones and also recovering from it. So despite COVID-19 having sort of stolen the debate at the international level, and sort of the attention that was supposed to have been focused on environmental issues. So for international discussions, I think there's an opportunity here to actually give a little more strength to some of the arguments that have been used for the Global Pact for the Environment to bolster these human rights and environmental rights.Kimberly WhiteSo the right to a healthy environment has been incorporated into more than 100 national constitutions. However, we have yet to see it realized in an internationally legally binding treaty. Why is this?Maria Antonia TigreSo I think that the right to a healthy environment is, as my colleague Erin Daly from GNHRE often says, it's a story that is still being told. When the main international treaties and human rights were adopted, the relevance of the natural environment to the enjoyment of human rights was not yet recognized. For this reason, the right to a healthy environment was not adopted in these main human rights documents. And as the environmental movements took over in the 1960s and ‘70s, it was already too late. And I say that, sort of, in quotes, to recognize the human rights to a healthy environment at the international level. And the rights then developed simultaneously throughout the world through constitutional recognition, like you mentioned, and in academic scholarship. And with this broad constitutional recognition, the growing movement to recognize the right at the international level increased, and there have been calls to do so in different ways throughout the last, like two decades or so. And several proposals have been presented at the United Nations and more recently, as well, and that includes the Global Pact for the Environment. But the issue I think is that during the international debate that arose from the proposed Global Pact at the United Nations, the discussions that underwent at UNEP’s headquarters, a lot of countries were for that recognition, but a few countries explicitly rejected this international recognition. And that includes the United States, which is one of the few countries that has not adopted a right at the national level. And, of course, the United States carries a lot of weight in those in those discussions, and we now have a different government coming in. So this scenario could likely change. But many of the countries that still oppose international recognition do so due to national self-interests and the avoidance of environmental responsibility at the international level. And while innovative approaches have been proposed to fill this gap in international environmental law, including, for example, the adoption of a children's rights to a healthy environment by the Human Rights Council last year, it is likely that this debate about environmental rights and duties will mark the next decades of deliberations at the United Nations. Hopefully, it won't be too long until we actually have an adoption. But there's a lot of friction between delegates on whether that should be adopted or not.Kimberly WhiteYeah, we see that with a lot of these treaties and agreements. There's always that one group that doesn't want to join on just yet. So hopefully, we'll see more action this year. And as we hit the decade of ambition, really get things moving. How could the legal framework proposed by the Common Home of Humanity address the existing legal gaps in international environmental law?Maria Antonia TigreI think what's interesting about the approach proposed by the Common Home of Humanity is this recognition that the earth system is interconnected and, as a result, its governance should address the unity and indivisibility from a legal standpoint. As a unity everyone shares the responsibility for the protection of the environment. And while this has been acknowledged from a theoretical perspective, we still lack the legal mechanisms to make it a reality. As a result, developing countries still rely a lot on their sovereignty and the historical responsibility of developed countries as an excuse to continue polluting the environment. Yet the widespread destruction of the environment shows how we must go beyond some of the core concepts of the international environmental legal regime and ensure that a shared responsibility actually exists. So if you take the Amazon rainforest, for example, everyone knows that Amazonia has a crucial role for the global climate. And when the 2019 fires happened, there was an unprecedented, and very much warranted global outrage from countries. But there's still a legal gap on how to care for the ecosystem services that Amazonia provides since it remains a free resource that is available at a global scale. And protecting that resource has a price for Amazon countries, which is what the leaders of those countries usually rely on to sort of avoid responsibility for caring for it a little better. There are very few economic mechanisms that give Amazonia a value that is more than rhetorical. And as a Brazilian, I feel emboldened to speak about the Amazon rainforest in a way that others can't. So while it is heartening to see the world outraged by the Brazilian policies and the policies from other countries that share Amazonia as well that have led to increased rates of deforestation, unless the world also provides a legal solution that affords Amazonia and Amazon countries as a consequence with a real value, that outrage is meaningless. So the Common Home of Humanity uses the discussion ignited by the Global Pact as an opportunity to bring a new approach that would address this legal gap in an innovative way. And as the Global Pact developed from an academic proposal, it brought a lot of backlash from delegates at the United Nations in the way that it was proposed, which brought this opportunity to rethink some of the core concepts and bring innovative ideas to better frame the foundational aspects of international environmental law. So I think the more people that we have actually thinking about this and proposing innovative solutions, the better.Kimberly WhiteAnd speaking of the Amazon, the 2019 Amazon fires made global headlines, but the 2020 fire season set new records. According to international NGOs, an area almost equivalent to the size of the United Kingdom burned across Brazil up until the end of September. Given your research and expertise, can you discuss the importance of regional cooperation among Amazonian countries to save this vital ecosystem?Maria Antonia TigreYeah, one of the unfortunate, unintended consequences of the global pandemic was the rise of forest fires and deforestation in the Amazon region. 2020 was supposed to be the year of the environment, and yet everyone got distracted by the chaos that overpowered all other debates. The pandemic gave leaders in the Amazon region a free pass to avoid enforcement of environmental law based on a couple of different arguments, but namely, that it was too risky for agents of environmental protection agencies to be in the field, and that the economy was suffering and increased deforestation and pollution was a way to boost the country's economy. So based on that, enforcement was completely reduced. As a result, deforestation and forest fires were increasing once again. It was also the case that the media did not pay as much attention to this issue as it did in 2019 as the news was so overwhelmed by the Coronavirus. And another aspect relates to the protection of indigenous groups, which was completely sidetracked during the pandemic as evidenced by the disproportionate numbers of virus transmissions and deaths in those communities. Several countries have ongoing litigation that calls on their national governments to provide a response that ensures environmental protection and their responsibility towards the global climate. Some specifically focused on the forest fires. But the forest fires, and more broadly, deforestation much like the pandemic involve elements of national, regional and international protective efforts as well as legal norms that expand across and beyond these categories. Amazonia represents one single unique ecosystem, which should be protected in its integrity rather than through different national approaches. And that still hasn't yet been done in an effective way. The global significance of the threats to Amazonia requires legal responses based on cooperation between and across countries. And given how Amazon countries were affected by the pandemic, it is essential that this cooperative response takes place in the region. At the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, which is the regional scheme that developed in the past four decades as a result of cooperative efforts between the nine Amazon countries has yet to develop an overarching protective scheme that works throughout the region and involves all countries in a practical effort. As a response to the 2019 forest fires, regional leaders adopted the Leticia Pact, which is basically a declaration of intent, with this goal of providing a regional response to emergencies, such as the forest fires, but that has also yet to take shape in any concrete ways. So despite the significance of regional cooperation and the existing regional frameworks in practice, this cooperation still doesn't really exist.Kimberly WhiteThat's really interesting, and I think with the fires, the media did not pay as much attention as it did in the past and likely, as you said, because of the pandemic that's going on. Now, in his recent state of the planet address, the UN Secretary-General said that the state of the planet is broken and humanity is waging a war on nature. Despite the intensifying adverse impacts of climate change, climate policies have not yet risen to the challenge. How would the Global Pact for the Environment better address the environmental crises facing our global community?Maria Antonia TigreOne of the main gaps in international environmental law, which was highlighted by the Secretary-General in 2018, is the fragmentation of this regime. So rather than having a framework treaty that provides the core legal principles like the Human Rights regime, for example, international environmental law, developed through a sectoral approach. We have a biodiversity regime, a climate regime, a forest regime, etc. So the pandemic showed us, if that wasn't clear already, that the environment is all connected, which warrants a connected approach. And this is exactly what the Global Pact for the Environment would provide. A Global Pact would postulate the basis for legal answers to existing and emerging environmental problems, as well as a baseline when the international community fails to agree on a joint response. As the climate discussions show, international diplomacy can be often slow to respond to emerging problems, as there are so many different aspects that should be considered when negotiating those. So the Global Pact would particularly fill this gap, providing general answers when more specific ones are still lacking. It would also provide for more accountability from states for example. As we can see from several climate litigation cases that have spread throughout the globe in the past few years, the right to a healthy environment and other environmental principles provide the basis for increased accountability from states, even when those fail to accept more stringent policies. Hopefully, the discussions arising from the call from the United Nations General Assembly for a new political declaration will be progressive enough to deliver some of the legal responses that we need right now.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely, and I think as we’re getting into 2021, we really need to amplify what we're doing, and we need to see those nations step up. Was there anything from the recent Climate Ambition Summit that stood out to you for human rights and the environment?Maria Antonia TigreSo I think, not specifically from the climate negotiations, but in general from the discussions that I've seen at the United Nations and specifically, this call from the new political declaration. What I think stood out to me is that COVID-19 even though is mentioned all the time and is obviously acknowledged by countries has yet to actually provide the boost in the discussion for environmental protection that I thought was warranted. So hopefully, we will see a little bit more of that as we see more reports and more sort of a push from different people around the world talking a little bit more about how the pandemic affects the environment. We can see a bigger push for this recognition of the human right to a healthy environment and how that relates to the pandemic as a whole and see a little bit more engagement from countries as a response to that because I think the pandemic has still been used mostly as an excuse to avoid more stringent commitments. But I think that's exactly where we shouldn't go. And the lessons that we need to learn from this are exactly the opposite, that we should be engaging more, and we should be accepting more responsibility. And we should be protecting the environment with more fervor in a way than we're doing so far. So hopefully, it will make countries engage a little bit more in the commitments that they're making.Kimberly WhiteI agree 100 percent. Are there any countries or national policies that have, you know, stood out to you as an example for the international community to follow?Maria Antonia TigreI think that European Union has been developing a green recovery that is a little more ambitious and considers how we should respond to this in a way that is environmentally safe and protective. So hopefully, we'll see a little bit more of that from other countries and, I think, as the United States, as there's a different government. Hopefully, we'll see more progressive responses as well from that and see a green recovery that is conscious of everything else that we are suffering.Kimberly WhiteDefinitely, with these calls for green recoveries, they need to be shifting toward the future rather than returning to business as usual. And as one of the world's largest emitters, I'm hopeful that we will see concrete plans moving forward from the United States. We've had a lot of rollbacks here over these past four years environmentally, so it will take a lot of work, but I am hopeful to see some climate action. And I think, you know, accountability is another thing we need to keep in mind. So what can we expect to see for the human rights and the environment movement in 2021? What should we be watching for?Maria Antonia TigreI think you mentioned it perfectly well, the environmental cases, I think that's the way that we see the right to a healthy environment being developed a lot throughout the world as a whole. I think using the right to a healthy environment as the basis for environmental claims is the way to go and is the way that we can see this right being developed in a faster way and more effective way, in a sense. I think it's interesting to see this movement from courts all over the world, that are trying to be progressive and filling this gap in their national governance system, in pushing governments to actually do more to protect the environment and climate, more specifically. We have seen many cases throughout Latin America. Brazil has a bunch of new innovative cases that have been proposed as for all 2020, that we're likely going to see results in 2021. And in several other countries as well, they obviously use Brazil a lot as an example because I'm from that region. And I've been researching a lot how human rights-based climate litigation has been developing in Latin America as a whole. And it's a region that has shown a lot of progress in that regard. The Inter-American Court on Human Rights has also developed the right to a healthy environment in recent cases, they had an advisory opinion in 2017 and 2020 showed the first contentious case that actually developed that right. So I think it's very likely that we'll see more of that as it develops. So I'm excited to see this development of a green jurisprudence in courts all over the world.Kimberly WhiteThat's fantastic. I'm looking forward to seeing that as well. Before we go, is there anything else you'd like to share with our audience?Maria Antonia TigreI think just to keep an eye out for more work from the Global Network for Human Rights and the Environment, I think we'll have some exciting things that we will announce in the coming weeks and also from the Global Pandemic Network. Like I mentioned before, we're developing this report on how environmental rights have been infringed by the pandemic with a lot of very specific examples from some different countries and proposals on how we could respond better to everything that has been going on. So there's a lot of exciting things that will come out of that work as well.Kimberly WhiteAll right, and there you have it. International environmental law has developed through a sectoral approach, leaving legal gaps. Widespread destruction of the environment shows we must go beyond some of the international environmental legal regime's core concepts. The pandemic shows us that all of the environment is connected, warranting a connected system. The Global Pact for the Environment would give us the opportunity to fill these legal gaps, ensuring that everyone shares the responsibility for the protection of the environment. That is all for today, and thank you for joining us for this episode of Common Home Conversations Beyond UN75. Please subscribe, share, and be sure to tune in on March 10th to continue the conversation with our special guest, Louis Kotzé, Research Professor of Law at North-West University. And visit us at www.ThePlanetaryPress.com for more episodes and the latest news in sustainability, climate change, and the environment.
1 minutes | 2 months ago
Maria Antonia Tigre Interview Promo Clip
26 minutes | 2 months ago
Katherine Richardson, Professor of Biological Oceanography and leader of the Sustainability Science Center at the University of Copenhagen
Interview TranscriptTranscribed by Otter AIKimberly WhiteHello and welcome to Common Home Conversations. Today we're joined by Katherine Richardson, Professor in Biological Oceanography and leader of the Sustainability Science Center at the University of Copenhagen, and one of the world's leading experts on climate change. Thank you so much for joining us today, Katherine.Katherine RichardsonWell, thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here.Kimberly WhiteSo you teach biological oceanography, and you're the leader of the Sustainability Science Center at the University of Copenhagen. You were also Chair of the Danish Commission on Climate Change Policy. Can you tell us more about these experiences and the focus of your current research?Katherine RichardsonYeah, well, first of all, you introduced me as being a biological oceanographer. And it's absolutely true. I got my PhD in biological oceanography, and universities are such that you then get professorships in whatever you have your PhD in. But although I still do research in biological oceanography, I really am much more, much more taken up with this idea of Earth System Science and have been contributing for the last 30 years or so to trying to understand the role of the ocean and the biological processes I look at in the ocean in a larger context than just the ocean. So I would say I'm more of an earth system expert on how do physics, biology, especially biology, chemistry, and people interact to make the conditions here on earth. So my experiences are very, I mean, I'm getting old, so I've had a lot of good experiences, and fortunately not very many bad experiences. The really rewarding experiences have been talking to people, either with different scientific backgrounds, or even with different kinds of policy backgrounds, and finding a common understanding and seeing where the interactions are between our fields, and our interests and how we can learn from looking at those interactions. So the focus of my current research is really understanding what causes differences in marine plankton ecosystems and how these differences may actually influence climate development on the planet as a whole. And I have a really, really exciting new project, which is what I really think is my first really truly Earth System Science project, in which we're taking sediment cores in the ocean sediments near Iceland and bringing them up and analyzing them for ancient DNA. So we can describe not just what fossilized organisms we find in the course, which people have been doing for years. But with the help of ancient DNA, we can describe whole ecosystems and what they looked like. We're then also doing it on land in lakes so we can describe the climate changes that happened that we can also see in our sediment cores. How the climate changes that happened were transported to land via the ocean? How did the nature change there, because of the climate change, and also because people were there? And then we have some social scientists involved as well, who are looking at how people responded to these changes in the nature around them, so the indirect effects of climate change on human populations. So I'm using a lot of time and energy and not to speak of money on this project, which I find very, very exciting.Kimberly WhiteThat is fascinating. I'm looking forward to learning more about that and following along with your research as it goes on. So human development has grown exponentially since the mid 20th century, and so much so that the state of the planet that can support contemporary human societies is now being destabilized. You are one of the renowned scientists that developed the planetary boundaries framework. Can you tell us more about this framework and how it can benefit sustainable development?Katherine RichardsonOh, yes, absolutely. We all know that in the Brundtland report in 1987, this was a great step forward because people began to think of sustainability as not only being economic sustainability but that there needed to be an environmental and a social component as well. Unfortunately, in 1987, they couldn't really define what the environmental component was all about. We can do that today. And interestingly enough, I think we pretty much had the seeds to do that even in ‘87 because, in 1972, we got a picture of the Earth from space. We've all seen that picture. I've been told it's the most downloaded picture from the net, and it shows the earth alone out in space, and it shows clearly that there's no umbilical cord. And what that means is that the earth's resources must be limited. And we use those resources; those resources are what makes us rich. And the fact that there's no umbilical cord tells us that, once we've used the resources that are here, we're simply not going to get any more. So when politicians say that we're not going to let human-caused global warming be more than two degrees in comparison to the pre-industrial time, then they have set a limit, they've said, okay, we this is the size of the garbage dump that we can use in the atmosphere. And you can take two degrees, and you can translate it to the size of how much can we put out. We know exactly who's used the first half of the garbage dump, and the whole political exercise is about who should get the rights to use the last half of that resource. But we all know, this isn't only about climate. It's also about biodiversity. It's also about an ozone hole. It's also about water use. It's also about the felling of forests and the use of land. It's about pollution, contaminants, it's about particles in the atmosphere. So what we try and do with planetary boundaries is to for all of these important processes in the earth system, like the biosphere, the living component, the climate, the water, and so on, try and examine, with scientific-based evidence, try and examine what would be the limit in terms of if we didn't want to push this biodiversity or water or whatever we did, we didn't want to push it so far globally, that we risk changing the overall conditions on Earth, what's the safe operating space? What's the limit for how far we can actually push these different processes in the earth system. I actually regret we call it planetary boundaries because people tend to equate it then with tipping points or thresholds. That's not what it's all about. It's more like blood pressure. If your blood pressure is over 120 over 80, that's no guarantee you're going to have a heart attack, but it does raise the risk. So we put it down. And that's what we're saying about the way that we're pushing some of these important processes in the earth system. In order to be able to and the importance for planetary boundaries in something like policy development and sustainable development is that it helps us recognize the biophysical constraints within which we have to get, for example, our food production or our energy production to fit. So we talk about transforming the global food system, for example, and planetary boundaries can tell us that we need to transform it in such a way that we produce nutrient-rich food for nine to 10 billion people without using any more land by reducing the amount of water that we put into it by reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus, and so on. So it tells us we need a green revolution on essentially the same land area that we have today. Fortunately, lots of scenarios are making it look like this will be possible if we push all of the buttons that we have available. But my point is that the value of the planetary boundaries framework or something like it is that it's absolutely essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and for defining the constraints within which we have to make critical human infrastructure and services fit.Kimberly WhiteSo, Earth System Science helps us understand that what we do anywhere and everywhere impacts our shared global commons. When we think of the ocean, it connects all of humanity, and ultimately, it operates as one interconnected system. Can you please explain some of the connections and interactions between the planetary boundaries, such as between the ocean and the earth system?Katherine RichardsonOh, yes. That's what I work on. That's what I love. Well, you know, the planetary boundaries identifies two core boundaries, and one is climate, which is only all about how much heat energy does the earth get from the sun? How much stays here? How does it move around? What is it get into contact with? So it's all about energy flux. The other that it identifies is the biosphere, that is to say, all living organ organisms, what we usually refer to is biodiversity. And we don't think about it very often, but what makes our planet special and different from every other planet that we know is that there is life. We don't know what life is, but we know what it does. And what it does is it transforms, and it transports elements and molecules. So at any point in time, in the earth system, the conditions that you have here are the product of the interaction between life and this energy that comes into the system. So why do we have oxygen in the atmosphere? Thank you very much, biology. Why do we have an ozone layer that protects us from UV radiation? Thank you very much, biology. So biology is incredibly important. And where did life start? Life started in the ocean, and those little organisms that made the oxygen that we got in our atmosphere, they came from the ocean. And in fact, the only place on this planet where you have enough free and active co2 to be able to explain the large differences that we're seeing in the concentration of co2 in the atmosphere between ice ages and non-ice ages that has to have come at least in large part from the ocean. And biology had a tremendous role in terms of moving carbon from, you know, land to ocean and from putting carbon from the ocean to the atmosphere. So the biosphere is incredibly important. Living organisms are incredibly important in terms of moving around co2. The ocean covers two-thirds of the planet over two-thirds of the planet, 71 percent, and life started in the ocean. Obviously, life in the ocean is incredibly important to the conditions that we have here on land.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely. And in our past interview with Will Steffen, we learned that crossing these boundaries increases the risk of generating large scale, possibly irreversible environmental changes and that we may have already crossed some of these boundaries. In your opinion, which planetary boundaries have been crossed? And what are some of the consequences we could face?Katherine RichardsonWell, I don't know that any of the boundaries have been crossed yet. But it is possible that some of them have been crossed. And the problem with tipping points is that you're not going to wake up one morning, and it'll be in the headline, okay, now, we crossed that tipping point, because very many of them will get to the point, for example, where it'll be so warm that you cannot stop the melting of ice on Greenland. But it'll take thousands of years before the ice is gone. So you don't really know for certain on the day when it actually happens that you crossed a tipping point. What we can say about tipping points is, we know for certain that they exist because we know there are elements, that can be the Amazon forest, it can be ice, Arctic sea ice, it can be ice on Greenland, it can be the West Antarctic ice sheet, it can be Alpine glaciers, it can be coral reefs, we know there are certain things on earth or components on earth that are either there or not there, depending on the temperature, depending on the climate conditions. So we know tipping elements exist. And we also know that it's temperature that gets them to go from one state to another. So we know tipping points exist. What we don't know is exactly at what temperature the tipping points become crossed. We can say, however, that when the IPCC, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, first began bringing tipping points to our attention in 2001. They said, well, we really expect that you'll have to have about a five-degree of centigrade increase before we need to worry about them. And by their next report in 2007, they said, well, maybe a three-degree increase would be enough. And by the time they got to 2013, they said, well, two degrees, and some of the reports that came out in 2019, said, Hmm, maybe in terms of the West Antarctic ice sheet, for example, we're already there. So we do also know for certain that the more we understand about the earth system and how it works, the greater the apparent risk is of us crossing tipping points at relatively low temperatures and temperatures that are very close to or maybe even where we are today. So I can't put my hand on my heart and say that we've crossed tipping points. But I can put my hand on my heart and say, for every incremental temperature increase, that happens, we come closer to crossing tipping points.Kimberly WhiteNow, how can we prevent crossing some of these tipping points? What are some things that governments can do, and what can be done at the university or the organizational level?Katherine RichardsonI think there are lots of things that can be done. The first thing, of course, is that we simply have to get our emissions down, and we have to get technologies to be able to take co2 out of the atmosphere. But the second is really a communication issue. I mean, we deal with the climate risk much differently than we do many other risks in our society. I don't remember having to have 100 percent agreement about the fact that everybody wanted to have airport security in order to ensure that terrorists don't find our most remote airports. And yet, society was unable to take the risk that a terrorist might find these very remote airports, and it's universal now that we have this security system. I'm not complaining about it. I'm just fascinated by the fact that society felt that it was necessary to react so aggressively to that kind of a threat, when the threat of climate change and the crossing of tipping points is so, so much, much more dangerous for society in the long run. So I think we need to have better communication in society, a discourse in society, about how we deal with risks. Fortunately, I do feel that this discussion is starting in lots of different circles, not least of which in the financial circles.Kimberly WhiteYeah, we've definitely seen an increase of the big banks starting to recognize that, to ensure their survival, they need to shift their investments. And that's been, I think, a positive change that's come out of the last couple of years.Katherine RichardsonBut it's not everywhere yet. There are if you look at, I just had a student who did a network analysis looking at impact investment and where it is that it's done, and for what purpose and it's primarily North America and Europe that do climate change impact investment, and really only in Europe, that you're seeing biodiversity impact assessment. So, so it's very interesting seeing where it evolves, and where it's evolving in Europe is where you have a very strong political discourse in those countries regarding biodiversity and climate, of course. So it's interesting, you know, we talk about the earth system, but you know, there we’re in a social system as well, where there are feedbacks between the government discourse and the societal discourse and the financial system and, and the science.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely. And I think, you know, with Europe, we've been seeing a lot of positive climate action come forward and a lot more discussion, which has been really encouraging to see. And I think that's something we need to have a lot more of everywhere. And I'm really interested to learn more about that biodiversity impact fund that you were speaking of because I think so often with climate finance, we talk about climate, but we don't really talk about biodiversity. And that's something that's so important because, in addition to a climate crisis, we are in the midst of a massive crisis with biodiversity loss.Katherine RichardsonWell, then you would be interested to know that in this very week that you know, the government of the United Kingdom in 2019 commissioned a report on the economics of biodiversity, and the report came this week. It's called the Dasgupta report. And it's very, very interesting, although depressing reading. And note as well that the report actually takes up the planetary boundaries and shows a figure of the planetary boundaries in it. So science gets into the economics reports as well.Kimberly WhiteI had seen something about it right before our interview. It needs to be there. We really need to have science at the forefront of everything we do. Especially if we're going to make it through these converging crises we have with climate, biodiversity, and even the coronavirus pandemic. Katherine RichardsonRight, which I think really shows a problem with resilience in our society that, you know, we knew perfectly well that there was going to come a pandemic at some point. And yet, we didn't really do anything to invest in making sure that our value chains were resilient, that we had enough layer capacity or storage capacity in our countries for critical medical equipment, and so on and so forth. Because it's too expensive to have facemasks lying around that you don't use. But maybe it's not that expensive after all.Kimberly WhiteExactly. And, you know, recent research has shown that more than 70 percent of the emerging infectious diseases that we see now are zoonotic in origin, which is all connected to, you know, our impact on the environment, our environmental degradation, human encroachment into these wild spaces. So it just continues to show how interconnected everything is and the impact that we can have, whether it be for the negative or the positive.Katherine RichardsonThe Lancet committee working on the COVID-19 epidemic reported to the last general assembly and, and on the very first page, it says, we simply need to protect biodiversity, we've got to stop cutting down forests. And that's a medical report. But the link to the way we treat the rest of the living biosphere and the zoonoses is pretty clear.Kimberly WhiteExactly at this point, it really should just be common sense for people to realize, you know, if we continue to destroy our natural resources, we're going to destroy ourselves. We're at this point where we really need to have this mindset shift. And I think we are starting to see it in a lot of places, but I think we need a continued momentous shift. And we can't just get distracted by the current pandemic going on. We need to make sure that to prevent future pandemics, we take into account the need to focus on all these other things that are, you know, coming down the line, which is with climate, with biodiversity, and with all of the impacts and cascading effects that those are going to have, which will compound what we're currently dealing with.Katherine RichardsonI couldn't agree with you more. And I was fortunate enough to be chosen by Ban Ki-moon, along with 14 other people in 2016, to be responsible for the preparation of the quadrennial global sustainable development report that came out in 2019. And in that, we went in and looked at how's it going with the goals in the Sustainable Development Goals, and some of them the ones that have to do with people, at least before the COVID crisis, we were doing pretty well on in terms of infant mortality and neonatal mortality, and getting food to people and all that sort of stuff, we were doing actually pretty well. But there is a group of goals where the trend is in the wrong direction. It's negative, and that means that we get farther away from achieving those goals for every day that goes. And what are those goals? Well, it's inequality between people. It's, it's malnutrition, not because people aren't getting enough to eat but because we have an obesity epidemic, which has just gone wild. It's our material footprint, our ecological footprint, its climate, and its biodiversity. And you can say, well you know, it's going okay for people, why should we worry if it's going in the wrong direction for those other things. And in fact, it's the other things; it's the climate and the biodiversity, the natural resources that actually pay for the party. And we all know that you can continue partying, even though the balance on your bank account is going down. You just can't do it forever. And that's the situation that we've gotten ourselves into.Kimberly WhiteI think that's a great analogy. So as an earth system scientist, can you explain why the earth system and its software are global, indivisible, and should be addressed as a single unit?Katherine RichardsonOh, yes, it's very easy. It's just like when you go to the doctor, and he or she is going to prescribe some medicine for your head, they will always make sure that it doesn't interact with something that's happening in your feet, or your stomach, or your reproductive system. So we recognize in our own bodies that it's the interaction between the different parts that make us what we are; it's just exactly the same way with the earth. The earth is also a system, and we won't understand it, by having a Department of Physics, Department of Chemistry, Department of Economics, Department of and everybody going in, and, and studying details in that box. And then we get all the details worked out, and we dump all of the details into a big pot and stir it up, we're not going to understand what the earth is or how the earth works. We have to be looking at the interactions between the different parts in order to be able to understand its function and our role in it.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely. And how can recognizing the earth system as an intangible global common without borders, as proposed by the Common Home of Humanity, help us to better address the issues facing our global community?Katherine RichardsonWell, the way I look at it, our ancestors, when they stopped their nomadic life and got a permanent address, they probably started out by dumping their waste products, wherever they were produced. And by taking whatever they thought they needed from nature, be it game to eat or trees to burn and get energy. And then they realized, hey, this isn't working, we're getting sick from polluted water, and we're running out of game, we have to make some rules, we have to manage our relationship with the local environment. And then we realized when we got to be even more people that it wasn't enough to do it locally. If we want clean air and water here in Denmark, where I live, we can't let the Poles and the Germans and you know, the Swedes throw all their rubbish in the air and water. So we made regional rules about how we manage our relationship to the world around us. What climate change and the biodiversity crisis, and even the corona crisis are showing us is we need to manage our relationship with the environment at the global level. Now we don't have a global government, which makes it a challenge, but it doesn't make it impossible. And we're in a phase now I think, where we are attempting different strategies for developing governance tools that can be used in order to be able to do this management or to set up guidelines with this management. Kimberly WhiteDefinitely, I think, you know, with the intangible global common without borders concept that's been proposed by the Common Home of Humanity. It goes to show, with climate change, for example, climate change does not recognize any borders. So it's really important that we recognize the earth system and the global commons as something that connects all of us. We're all part of it. Katherine RichardsonYeah, absolutely. And in order to be able to manage this, we're going to have to make changes all the way through our society. And that includes in our understanding of governance and how we deal with the global commons.Kimberly WhiteAll right, and there you have it. We need a green revolution. The earth's resources are limited and we need to change how we deal with our global commons. Climate change, the biodiversity crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic show us we need to manage our relationship with the environment at the global level. The planetary boundaries framework is essential in tackling some of our planet's greatest challenges and achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. That is all for today, and thank you for joining us for this episode of Common Home Conversations Beyond UN75. Please subscribe, share, and be sure to tune in on February 24th to continue the conversation with our special guest, Maria Antonia Tigre, Director of Latin America for the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment. And visit us at www.ThePlanetaryPress.com for more episodes and the latest news in sustainability, climate change, and the environment.
1 minutes | 2 months ago
Katherine Richardson Interview Promo Clip
46 minutes | 3 months ago
Viriato Soromenho-Marques, Professor of Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Nature, and European Ideas at the University of Lisbon
Interview TranscriptTranscribed by Otter AIKimberly WhiteHello and welcome to Common Home Conversations. Today we are joined by Viriato Soromenho-Marques, Professor of Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Nature, and European Ideas at the University of Lisbon. Thank you for joining us today! Viriato Soromenho-MarquesThank you, Kimberly, for having me on this podcast.Kimberly WhiteSo, you teach political philosophy, philosophy and nature, and European ideas at the University of Lisbon; you were also one of the authors of the Portuguese strategy for sustainable development. Can you tell us more about these experiences?Viriato Soromenho-MarquesWell, I think that probably the most important thing that I can tell you about my own experience is how I feel so overwhelmed looking back to the 70s, when I started to be deeply engaged with the environmental movement with NGOs, in Portugal, in Europe. I think that when I went back 40 years, almost 50 years, I am overwhelmed to see that we live now in a hotter, different planet. It's an amazing experience, and not in the positive sense, but it's overwhelming, as I said, because if we look to the state of our planet, not just in terms of climate change, but also in terms of biodiversity, and many other features of the environment, we understand that we are in a race, a race against time, a race between the problems that we are creating with our clumsy way of dwelling on this planet, and the severe difficulties that we are facing in order to solve the problems that we are creating. So what I have done until now, as a member of NGOs, as member of advisory bodies like the Portuguese Council on Environmental, the European Council on Environmental that reunites many organizations in different European countries, as a member of the high-level group on energy and climate change, on the way to COP 15. It was a group assembled around the President of the European Commission and also giving advice to some foundations like the Gulbenkian Foundation that recently awarded the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity to Greta Thunberg. What I'm trying to do with my activities, basically, is to give a contribution, to try to cope with the problems that we are doing as a collective as humanity, because I think that we need public policies. But we need to overcome a very narrow understanding of what is at stake with the environment and climate crisis. If we think that this problem is a problem to be solved, just by governments and states and big corporations, I think we are wrong. Because at the root of this problem, we have the need for a profound shift transformation in our set of values in our vision of the world. And in order to do that, to perform that, I think that we need the contribution also of culture, of ethics, of religion. So we are all actors in this fight for the continuation of the survival of human civilization on earth. One of the insights that very soon, I tried to systematize in my writings was to define what is an environmental crisis? Let me clarify that. When I speak of climate change, I consider climate change, not as something that exists per se, but as a part, as a chapter as a dimension of environmental crisis. So looking at the environmental crisis, I think that we may identify five dimensions or five features, five characteristics that are completely unique. First, environmental crisis, with climate, of course, inside it is the only really planetary crisis there. There is no other thing with such scope. We may see that, for instance, climate change is basically or intensively felt on the extreme north and extreme south of our planet, in regions in which there is almost nobody living. So it's completely planetary; there are no sanctuaries. And secondly, it's an irreversibility and entropic crisis. We know that we have massive biodiversity extinction, and when a species disappears, it is forever. So it's irreversible. There is also a third dimension; it's the cumulative acceleration. We are indeed in a process of great deceleration, inside what is now called the Anthropocene. And what is happening, for instance, with the oceans, the ocean acidification is a good example of this speedy cumulative acceleration we are embarked on. And a fourth characteristic is there is a growing political and social unrest. We know that many conflicts now, inside countries and between countries, have also the mark, have also the sign of environmental crisis, probably the Arab Spring would never have happened without the climate change impact. And finally, something that probably will speak later in our conversation, we are creating a kind of what I call the ontological debt between generations. So we are transmitting to the coming generations to adapt, not in terms of money or capital, but adapt in terms of the harm we are doing, to the planet, to the software of the planet, to the biosphere, to the atmosphere, to the hydrosphere. So we are jeopardizing the planet. And so we are transmitting a kind of ontological debt to be paid by the coming generations.Kimberly WhiteNow, that's really interesting and diving back further into some of these challenges of the environmental crisis that we're currently in; in the book Security at a Crossroad-New Tools for New Challenges, you highlight the seven categories of human security. Can you elaborate on these? And in your view, what are some of the challenges climate change poses to human security?Viriato Soromenho-MarquesYeah, with pleasure. Well, when we speak normally about security, we think immediately in terms of strategy in terms of military security, military balance. That's our own conception. It's an old one. In the past 200 years ago, 100 years ago, it was logical to think in that way, today it is completely not just out of fashion, but completely wrong. Indeed, we had in 1994, the United Nations Development Programme in a report that was published that year ‘94, advanced with a more comprehensive concept of human security, trying to look to security, also, and basically, from the perspective of the individual, of the person of ourselves. So what do we as citizens of our countries, as citizens of the world, what are, for us, the main dimensions and features of security? And the seven categories that you mentioned are part of that vision of transforming the paradigm of security. They are basically the following. So economic security, that's completely important in a world that has grown to have more jobless people on account of the pandemic situation. Economic Security is also a key dimension, food security, health security, other two very important dimensions and environmental security. Well, I would say that environmental security is heretical because it entails also those that I mentioned, personal security to be as an individual, to feel safe no matter your race, your sexual orientation, your net level of material wealth, community security, to live in a safe community and political security. I think those seven dimensions, as I mentioned in the chapter you mentioned, are, in my opinion, very connected with the big contribution of one probably the most famous of the most important American presidents ever. I mean, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, that in the famous speech of the State of the Union, 1941, spoke about the need to have, at a global level, not just at the level of the United States, at global level, four freedoms. Those four freedoms, as probably many of our listeners know by heart, are freedom of speech and expression, freedom of religion, in the words of Roosevelt, freedom of every person to worship God, freedom from want, freedom from want means that we are secure in terms of our access to material wealth, so we have access to food, we have a job. So it has to do with the economic realm. And finally, freedom from fear, meaning that we live in a safe world, that a world that is not going to be disturbed by invasions by warfare. I think that the table proposed in 1994 by UNEP is very harmonic, it's harmonious. It goes in the roots of the proposal of President Roosevelt in the way that it is intended, not for a particular community, a particular specific country, but is intended for the world as a whole, using the expression of Roosevelt everywhere in the world. So the idea to have an international system, not just international law, but an international system that is able to assure the implementation of those dimensions of security. And of course, if we look to climate change, if we look to the environmental crisis, what do we see? We see that all those dimensions are in peril, are jeopardized, are in danger. Let me give you an example. I was shocked. This summer, I was working in September, and suddenly I realized that the big fires in the American West, namely in the state of Oregon, a very beautiful state that I already traveled to some years ago, Oregon is a state with a few more or less 5 million inhabitants. And I was told that 500,000 Americans, inhabitants of the state of Oregon, were on the move running from the huge fires that were crossing the states. Many other states, but the state of Oregon was very hit by the big fires. Those big fires started historically speaking, starting in December of 2017. In Portugal, we had two major big fires, one of them in October 2017 was one of the most severe and damaging recorded in history. And those fires add the direct connection with climate change. So, we are not speaking about a matter of natural sciences; we are speaking about the way in which we can cope, in our society, in the way in which we can look forward into the future. That is the question is about the future. The question is about security. The question is about the continuation of our life on earth. We have to shift dramatically the way in which we are inhabiting the earth. Our way of dwelling on the earth must profoundly shift.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely, and I know that there are many who view climate change as a threat multiplier, as it can potentially exacerbate many of the current challenges and threats that members of our global community are facing, such as food insecurity and infectious diseases. The former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon had stated that climate change would not only exacerbate these existing threats to peace and security, but climate change is also itself a threat to peace and security. So it's kind of a driver of both things. And as we see, these cascading effects of climate change continue to impact our natural resources. It will continue to drive and amplify conflict. And we've seen this begin to happen in some developing nations that have had a lessened capacity for climate change adaptation, for sure.Viriato Soromenho-MarquesYeah, for sure. When we look to the tipping points that you mentioned, and Ban Ki-Moon also referred when he was United Nations General-Secretary, we need not just limit the tipping points to certain areas to the borders of developing countries, because even in European countries, like Portugal, in very developed countries, in the leading countries, like the United States, we are facing the consequences of climate change. The big fires in Australia, in Sweden, in Russia are examples of those cascading effects. And, of course, we are seeing the tipping points in the Arctic, in the coral reef in Australia, but probably and I'm not the first one to say or to say that probably even the Coronavirus crisis we are facing now has to do with the extinction and the loss of biodiversity. So, we are invading as a species the habitats of many other species. So we are breaking the borders between our species and other animal species on earth. We are cutting the self-defense mechanisms between our species and probably what happened, and not just with COVID-19, but with other illnesses that appeared also in the zoonotic process. So the transmission of biological material, in this case of a virus, from animals to humanity is probably the result of a tipping point in biodiversity. So that's not a very bold thesis. If we look into the literature of the specialty, probably you will find many other authors and specialists that will tell you the same. So we need indeed to consider that climate change is part of a global crisis. That's the major environmental crisis. And we need to find a new international system because today we are completely adrift. I would say that in terms of international law and in terms of an international system, we are probably in the 19th century. As we know we have to measure steps forward in the international system. The first one was President Wilson's idea of creating the League of Nations. And the second one was the creation by Franklin Delano Roosevelt and many others of the United Nations, but today, the United Nations is a pale image of what it was 45 to 50 is a pale image of the need we have for a strong, active international organization. And, of course, of course, I'm not blaming the current General Secretary of the United Nations because it's not a matter to be blamed for a personality; it's a matter of organization, of involvement of countries. Above all, it's a matter of the big countries, the United States, China, the European Union, India, Russia. So those big acting countries need to go back to the original spirit of the charter of nations and need to cross that spirit with the new challenges we have. Because today the world, it is much more dangerous than in ‘45. Because we have existential problems, climate change, global environmental crisis, the risk of nuclear war, there was already in 1945, but today it is bigger. We also have the problem of the economic system. We are now very fragile because we are exposed as humanity. We are very much exposed to cyclical finance and economic crisis because we failed in the building of a system able to control the finance and economic flows. Contrary to the hopes of President Roosevelt, Roosevelt considered the need to have an economic order, he even considered the need relative to Congress, saying that we need to have an economic Bill of Rights. So it's interesting many, many people in Europe don't know that President Roosevelt considered that one of the tasks for the future of the United States was to have a second bill of rights of economic dimension. So the environmental crisis can't be separated from the economic crisis because it's the economic structure, the economic fabric of the world. It's the key driver of the planet of humanity today. If we don't shift the economic fabric, we will not be able to tackle the environmental and climate crisis.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely, and we can no longer look at climate change as an issue that might affect us down the road. It's a very real and current ongoing threat. And going back to what you were saying about the current pandemic, it has been said by many experts that this is the result of environmental degradation and human encroachment into natural spaces and not just with COVID, as you said. For example, the wildlife trade has been linked to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as well as several other major pandemics and epidemics throughout the years, including MERS SARS and Ebola and also the transmission of pathogens such as bird flu and swine flu.Viriato Soromenho-MarquesAccording to the World Medical Organization, 75 percent of the new diseases that appeared in the last 40 years are zoonotic diseases. So, diseases that are based on the transmission of biological material from other species to human species. The linkage, the connection, probably the causal connection between biodiversity loss and these new diseases, seems to me very, very strong.Kimberly WhiteDefinitely, it's a concerning statistic and it should be a wake-up call that we really need to be respectful of these natural environments and these ecosystems that we share on our planet. Now, diving into my next question, you have said we need to abide by the moral and political imperative of fighting against climate change if we want to be fair toward our children and grandchildren. Do we have a moral obligation to work toward intergenerational equity, safeguarding future generations, and helping to ensure a stable climate? How can the Global Pact for the Environment and the framework proposed by the Common Home of Humanity help us to achieve this?Viriato Soromenho-MarquesVery, very important question, Kimberly. Well, let me start with the first question, a more philosophical question. Do we have obligations towards the coming generations? Are there duties between generations? I think that it's a very important philosophical and ethical question. And in my opinion, the debate is typically a debate that could be possible only in very, let's say, refined, sophisticated civilizations. So the debate in the West about that started, again, between, to major American politicians. The first time ever that the question of justice between generations was raised was in 1789. We can find that in the exchange of letters between Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. Thomas Jefferson was in 1789 in Paris. He had been for five years Ambassador, minister, as was the term used in the 18th-century Minister of the new United States in Paris. And he was almost coming back, it was in September, so 89. And he wrote to James Madison in the United States, saying, I want to discuss with you a new problem, the problem of our duties regarding the next generation. So it's amazing how strong and how useful for the debate of today the discussion between Madison and Jefferson is. They discussed two topics, the topic of public debt and the topic of the revision of the Constitution. So basically, the thesis of Jefferson was that a generation should not force or connect the next generation, the coming generation, neither to a big burden of monetary debt, public debt nor to a constitution that could not be revised. Jefferson was not very glad he was not in the Philadelphia convention because he was in Paris. But he was exchanging opinions by mail with Madison and others. And he was not glad with the solution. For the revision that was found by the drafters of the Federal American Constitution, he preferred a more stable mechanism of revision every 19 years. So he was trying to say that we as a generation must leave the way open for the next generation. And I'm quoting now what I think can be considered the principle of Jefferson, that is, and I'm quoting, "The earth belongs in usufruct to the living" It is very clear. Jefferson was saying that we are not owners of the earth. We are just using it during our lifespan of generations. And we have the duty to give back, to transmit the earth in good conditions to the next generation. We don't have absolute autonomy. We need to care also in the way in which we behave on earth to care for the interests of the coming generation. So we can say that, in this line of Jefferson, we have the duty of maintaining and, if possible, promoting the earth's integrity for the next generations. And we are not doing that. So that's why, and I am now going to the second part of your question, as we know, the United Nations is involved in the process of creating a Global Pact for the Environment that will be proclaimed in 2022. Fifty years after the first big conference of Stockholm, the first big United Nations Conference in Stockholm, and also 50 years after the creation of the United Nations Environmental Program. And, well, Common Home of Humanity is trying to not just to support that effort from the United Nations, but we are trying to increase the intensity of the change. And that's why we are proposing the need to integrate into that Global Pact for the Environment the idea of a Safe Operating Space Treaty, a kind of a global convention that is directed to give legal status to a very important scientific concept that was created well, let's say in the last 50 years by our scientists, and that concept is the concept of the earth system, as we know when we have the concept of the earth system in science, but the earth system is not just a concept. It's a concept that reflects reality. And that reality is the living unity of the earth. It's the fact that our planet is our planet, not because it is one of the rocky planets in the solar system. We have other rocky planets; we have Mars, we have Venus, we have Mercury. But the earth system, this planet, is the only planet that, besides the rocky surface, we have something mysterious that is responsible for life. We have a kind of software, a living software. And that software is responsible for the fact that we are the only known planet with intelligent life, not just in our solar system, but at least in our galaxy. And that's a big responsibility we have. So, our effort, as a group of citizens from different countries, is to participate in the debate of the United Nations for the Global Pact for the Environment. And to add to that, they need to give us a step forward and to create an SOS treaty, SOS convention, safe operating space convention, in which the international community, the international law, and the international system will find a new way of inhabiting our earth based on cooperation, compensated cooperation, based not in in the current negative-sum game we are embarked, in which we are decreasing every day, we are decreasing the natural capital, we are decreasing the capacity of the earth to support life. But on the contrary, we should create that convention that will give a legal status that is going to allow for individual states but also for other big international actors. And we know that we have companies, corporations that are also big international actors to have a kind of earth's accountability in which we can, in a very rigorous way, in a very independent way, neutral way, we can do the accounting of the externalities, and we can give a reward for countries and corporations for the positive externalities they introduce into the earth system. And of course, we need to have some kind of penalty for the negative externalities international actors are introducing into the planet. So, in a nutshell, that's basically what we are intending to do, within the process, the United Nations process of creating the Global Pact for the Environment.Kimberly WhiteThat's really great. I feel like historically nations have focused more on the creation, or attempted creation of intragenerational equity in terms of development, focusing only on the current generations rather than the future. I think this is something, and I feel it is apparent with the continued propping up of the fossil fuel industry, where we're giving trillions of dollars in subsidies, which is just compounding the issues from the climate crisis. And that's why I feel that initiatives, like the proposal from the Common Home of Humanity, are so critical to what we need to do to move forward and to safeguard those future generations.Viriato Soromenho-MarquesI agree. I agree entirely. And, well, there is also a big, transformative dimension in this idea in this proposal, and the dialogue with members of diplomatic bodies, and members of the media, politicians, it is very interesting because we can do nothing without sharing values, without learning with others. And I think that the shift from the current pattern of negotiation, diplomatic negotiation, that is basically the burden-sharing model, it's, for me, vital. So the idea that we are discussing quotas, limits for emissions, it's so poor, and it's so wrong because we need to bring to the table of negotiations much more than that. We need to create a diplomatic paradigm that is able to go from a zero-sum game in which I win what you lose, you win what I lose, to a win-win diplomacy, to a positive-sum game. And in order to do that, I think that the SOS treaty, the existence of a convention, giving a legal status to the earth system will give a concrete material shape to an idea that was created by my dear colleague and friend Paulo Magalhaes, that Kimberly, you know him as well. And in 2002, Paulo Magalhaes talked to me about the idea of the earth condominium. And it is now a very known worldwide idea the earth condominium, and basically, the earth condominium could be the prototype for the new brand or the new model of negotiation. Because when we have a home condominium, for instance, a condominium of our of the place in where we live with our family, we know that we have two types of property, we have the property of our flats, of our house, but we have also the common property of the common spaces and functions, the electric system, elevators, many other systems that are integrated into the compound of the condominium are also co-owned by each one of the members of that condominium. So, the same should happen in the international system. We are not saying to states that national sovereignty is going to end; no, that would be false. What we are saying is that if we keep completely connected to the old, we'd almost four centuries model of state sovereignty, we are going to lose everything, including the state sovereignty; it's what is called the sovereignty paradox. We can't tackle climate change, environmental crisis, financial crisis alone. You can't tackle pandemics alone. See what happened in Europe the pandemic was first faced in a very competitive way. But now, just after the cooperation between European countries, now, we have the hope of overcoming the pandemic situation, although the situation as you know, is now very bad. So, our proposal tries to combine two types of sovereignty. The first one is the classic sovereignty. So the territorial sovereignty of states, you are going to need that sovereignty for instance, many functions of state, you need to have national control to control borders, for instance, the control of international trade and so on, in certain conditions must be developed by the national state. But if we speak about the atmosphere, if we speak about water, both the ocean water or the river, the Continental waters, if we speak about the management of biodiversity, the protection of forests, we are speaking about the common software, the common heritage, using the category of Arvid Pardo. And so, in that case, we can’t divide the management, we can’t say we are the owners of this part of the atmosphere, we can’t say we are the owners of this part of the ocean. No, we are not the owners. As countries, we will exercise a court sovereignty, so a sovereignty of cooperation without other entities without the other states. So, it's a good example of what I called compulsory cooperation. If we are really intending to overcome the climate crisis, the environmental crisis, we need to work together, that's compulsory cooperation, we need to act together even with countries to which we have many other points of disagreement. But there is no atmosphere for China and for the United States; we have just the world, the earth's atmosphere. So we need to translate that in political language, in law language. But I think that it's not very complex, from the point of view of earth sciences. And with all the tools we have now, the capacity of data analysis we have, I think it's a very strong argument. The demonstration of the reality of these physical and geophysical and biogeophysical and chemical situations is very strong in terms of demonstration. And we need to jump from the field of sciences to the field of the real world of citizen engagement, of political engagement, of states, to the field of international law, and international diplomacy and international politics. I think that that's the task we have in the face of us.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely, you make some really excellent points there. And I think you touched on this a little bit earlier, but I want to dive into it a little bit more, which is the current legal status of climate change as a common concern of humankind, that results in mitigating potential damages from climate change, and it was a dominant consideration for much of the UNFCCC's existence, creating a burden-sharing system. These mechanisms represent a negative-sum game where the stable climate resource continually decreases. How can recognizing climate as a common heritage be the legal innovation we need in climate negotiations after decades of underwhelming climate talks?Viriato Soromenho-MarquesThat's precisely the point I raised about the need to have the acknowledgment of the earth system, to give the earth system a legal status. And understanding that there is an object, although intangible, but no matter an object that needs legal protection, and that the legal protection of the earth system can't be done just by an institution, nor just by one state, or a corporation, but it's a common task of humankind, and human international system in the international community, just by that, we will be able to, indeed, overcome the obstacle of the low protection of the low status of climate change as a common concern. This is not a common concern. This is indeed a menace, a danger, or a threat to the common heritage of humankind because climate change is the result of the disarray of the flows of our way of life on our way of inhabiting the earth and of the way we are ill-managing the earth system. So, the only way to have a concrete strategy, a coordinated strategy, a long-run strategy of countries and other entities to face and to overcome, to mitigate and adapt to climate change is to understand that climate change is a symptom of environmental crisis. The environmental crisis is also a symptom of the bad shape and bad status and the disarray status in which the earth system now is passing. We need to combine and connect climate change with the need of restoring the earth system, and when I say restoring, I am saying that we need to shift also the economic fabric. Because now we have an economic fabric based on what we may call the entropic value today, the economic value is the value of entropic processes meaning when the norm of example, that we can easy to explain this, you have a forest, okay a forest is a very strong part of the earth system because it produces a set of natural surfaces very important namely, it is also a way of capturing co2. So, it is a good tool to fight climate change, but it is also very important to the water cycle, it's very important to the forest, to the biodiversity. However, in economic value, the forest only gains economic value, when it's destroyed. Look to all these happening crises in the Amazon forest and the big Amazon forest. Huge natural areas still pristine in many regions are being destroyed. Why? Because there are actors interested in making narrow, rapid economic value from something that is so, so rich, so powerful, and so over lasting. So we need within this effort to have a legal status for the earth system. We need also not just to shift our diplomacy, our international system, but we need to shift our economic mindset. We need to give a price not to the destruction of natural resources, not to the destruction of the earth system, but to give them a monetary reward for the preservation, for the protection, for the promotion, and for the restoring of the different areas of the earth system. Water, biodiversity, forests, landscapes, the beauty of pcapes is also a natural value. One of the things that keep us connected with our planet is the experience of beauty. The aesthetic values are also part of the reason why it's so important to be alive. And it's so, so, so fantastic, to be alive. We are not just destroying the life carrying capacity of our planet, but we are also destroying the beauty of the planet. And that's a shame. And we need to face that, with all the intelligence, imagination, and moral strengths that we can assemble.Kimberly WhiteAll right, and there you have it. We cannot tackle climate change, the environmental crisis, the financial crisis, or the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic alone. We need to act together, despite other points of disagreement. We are not the owners of the earth, we are just using it during our lifetime. We have an obligation to work toward intergenerational equity and promote the earth's integrity for future generations. That is all for today, and thank you for joining us for this episode of Common Home Conversations Beyond UN75. Please subscribe, share, and be sure to tune in on February 10th to continue the conversation with our special guest, Katherine Richardson, renowned climate change expert, Professor in Biological Oceanography, and leader of the Sustainability Science Centre at the University of Copenhagen. And visit us at www.ThePlanetaryPress.com for more episodes and the latest news in sustainability, climate change, and the environment.
1 minutes | 3 months ago
Viriato Soromenho-Marques Interview Promo Clip
40 minutes | 3 months ago
Ana Barreira, Director and Senior Environmental Lawyer at the International Institute for Law and the Environment (IIDMA)
Interview TranscriptTranscribed by Otter AIKimberly WhiteHello and welcome to Common Home Conversations. Today we are joined by Ana Barreira, lawyer and Director and founding member of the International Institute for Law and the Environment (IIDMA). Thank you for joining us today!Ana BarreiraHello, how are you? Thank you.Kimberly WhiteSo you're the director and founding member of the International Institute for Law and the Environment. Can you tell us more about IIDMA and the work you do there?Ana BarreiraYes, of course. IIDMA was founded in 1996, it is already 24 years ago, with the purpose of contributing to sustainable development and environmental protection through the study, analysis, development, implementation, and enforcement of the law. Because the law is fundamental for organizing societies and those years in 1996, there was already a lot of environmental law. And we were focusing those years on environmental law. Since then, we have been working in many different areas, not only in sectors of the environment as water protection, marine protection, biodiversity, or climate change and energy transition but also on horizontal matters as governance. And we have worked a lot on party participation in the implementation of the Aarhus Convention, which is a convention on access to environmental information, public participation, and access to justice in environmental matters. It is known as an environmental democracy convention. But these years, now we have new science, and in 2009, the scientific community developed the framework for planetary boundaries. And if you realize all the work we have been doing, through law; we have been tackling all the planetary boundaries, or most of them because we have this science framework that we need the law to keep our activities and our lives within the planetary boundaries. And law helps a lot. And the work we have been doing in the last, I would say six years, has been concentrating a lot on climate change and energy transition, particularly in energy transition. What we saw is that the energy system, particularly the electricity generation system, was based mainly in Spain and in many European union member states on coal. And coal is one of the most polluting sources of energy from a climate change point of view; it generates a lot of co2. We started to implement this transition in Spain, advocating for the closure of coal power plants, we were using the rule of law tools, we were advocating, we were attending ADMs of energy companies, and we were discussing with energy companies. We were having conversations with authorities. We produced some studies on the impacts on health from the emissions of coal power plants, showing the externalities of the emissions of coal power plants and its cost on health. Like having data on premature deaths produced by this pollution, and all the economic impact that has like, for example, how many hospitalizations were necessary because of those emissions and how many lost working days happened in Spain. And also, we used our litigation. We started to go to court, to show and to challenge some of the permits granted to coal power plants. We saw that those permits were not in line with the legal framework we have at the European Union level. What has happened is that because of the work we have been developing in these last six years, at the end of June, more than half of the capacity of coal installed in Spain has closed and the rest of the capacity installed in Spain, it's going to close very soon. So we are having outcomes, positive outcomes, to reduce CO2 emissions from Spain through our work through using the tools that the rule of law offers to citizens.Kimberly WhiteThat's really interesting. I'd be keen to see the studies you have there because I know globally, air pollution from burning fossil fuels costs almost $3 trillion every year. And the premature deaths associated with that, the last time I checked, were 4 million premature deaths a year. And kudos to you and the team at IIDMA! That is quite an impressive feat. Ana BarreiraIn addition, in IIDMA, we are now following the process of all the European Green Deal. But in Spain, as part of this program we have on energy transition and climate change, in Spain, we still don't have a climate change law. There are many European Union countries that have their own climate change law, and even some other countries, for example, in Latin America, they are producing their own climate change laws. But in Spain, during COP21, in Paris, our president committed to start working on a climate change law, that was in 2015, but still, we don't have one. Now, there is a bill being discussed in the Spanish parliament; it is the climate change and energy transition law. And we have been advocating for a stronger law because it has some deficits in its governance; for example, a good climate change act has to be accompanied with a climate change committee, which is a scientific body, following the example of the IPCC. So many climate change laws, they have their own scientific body, which normally it's called climate change committee, for example, in the UK, in France, or in Denmark, including now, the EU where it is being discussed or it is under discussion, the future EU climate law, the European Parliament has added the need in its first reading of the need of having this kind of body. The Spanish law doesn’t contain that, so we have been advocating for that. Kimberly WhiteSo nature, the environment, and the earth system are, by definition, systemic and interdependent. The magnitude and immediacy of the looming climate catastrophe show the need to design and implement a global public policy, creating instruments and institutions that enable collective action. How can recognizing the earth system as a common heritage of humankind better articulate our responsibility to protect the integrity of the earth's ecological systems? Ana BarreiraI think this is fundamental. Because as it has been said, in other of these podcasts series, the earth system is not legally recognized yet. And we need first, that recognition. And the best way is to be recognized as a common heritage of humankind, an intangible common heritage of humankind, and how this can articulate our responsibility to protect the integrity of the earth's ecological system. If we have that recognition, that will help to integrate the planetary boundaries system within the international legal system. We have a very well developed international legal framework for the protection of the environment, but it's framed in a very siloed manner; there is no interconnectivity. And as you are asking, we need to protect the integrity of the earth's ecological systems, and we are not doing that through the law. Because we have a lag, we don't have this definition at the International Law level of the earth system. So if it is considered as a common heritage of humankind, this is going to allow the international community to start joining the dots of all the legal frameworks we have, because we have a Convention on Biological Diversity, that until now, there has been not much cooperation with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. We have another convention, they are called the Rio conventions on the certification, so they have been working in a silo manner. So we need to do an integration of all the, and I'm just citing some of the multilateral environmental agreements we have, we have many that we need an overarching idea, ideally, in the legal system, which is the earth system. And as it has been said already, it is a common heritage of humankind. Because if we don't have the earth system protected and allow us to keep that human development within the Holocene conditions, we are in danger. And therefore, we won't have any future here. So that's why it's so important. Kimberly WhiteSo being a common concern is not enough.Ana BarreiraSo until now, climate change has been recognized as a common concern of humankind. And then this was for the first time, appearing in the language of the Rio conventions, because of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change acknowledged that change in the earth's climate and its adverse effects are a common concern of humankind, and also the Convention on Biological Diversity affirms that biological diversity is a common concern of humankind. But at the same time, it recognizes the sovereign rights of a state over their biological resources. So when we talk about common concerns of humankind principle, it's fine. I mean, because common concerns of humankind are those that are understood as those that inevitably transcend the boundaries of a single state and require collective action in response. And this framework provides a basis for protecting shared resources that are being threatened by a global problem. So it's focused on sharing the burden of solving a problem and implies common responsibility to a specific issue of concern, based on its importance, as a whole entailing and legal responsibility to each state to prevent damage to it. And in fact, this principle is linked to this principle seven of the Rio Declaration that was established and regards the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, but we must take into consideration although this is fine, it has not been enough. It has not been enough because we are under a climate emergency. So, there is something that is missing. There is something that we have to introduce amendments and to reinforce the legal system we have. So that's why recognizing the earth system as a common heritage of humankind will help. And why? Because this principle applies to areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. Some of the examples under international law are the seabed and the ocean floor, beyond national jurisdiction, and the moon and its resources. But we have to take into consideration that when we are proposing the common heritage of humankind, for the earth system, that we must go on a step farther in how it is functioning. Now, at the international level, this principle, because there are four essential elements defining this principle, like one, the area or resources under consideration cannot be subject to appropriation, and the elements of the earth system cannot be subject to appropriation. And at the same time, some of the components of the planetary boundaries are found within national boundaries. Another element of this principle of a common heritage of mankind means that all countries must cooperate as a commodity, area, or resource for the benefit of humankind. And we need an institutional framework for ruling this co-management. But of course, when we talk about co-management, it is not about exploiting the earth system. So that's why we have to accommodate and go a step farther, and we need to establish a regime under a treaty to protect the earth system to stay under a safe operating state. And also, the previous element that I mentioned, entails an active sharing of burdens as well as benefits derived from the protection and the use of the areas or resources. So, therefore, as it has been said already, that countries that are contributing positively, like, for example, we have the Amazon, and it provides benefits for all humankind. So this has to be recognized under the principle, and the principle of a common heritage of mankind will help to that. And, of course, another element of this principle is that the area or resource must be dedicated exclusively to peaceful purposes. And, of course, the earth system must be dedicated to maintaining a safe operating space for humankind, which is definitely a peaceful purpose. So, therefore, when we talk about common heritage of humankind, it's not that we want a seabed authority authorizing activities to exploit the seabed. It requires some accommodation to the reality of the earth system. But if we combine the common concern with the common heritage of humankind, I believe that we can be more successful than we have been until now.Kimberly WhiteAll sovereign states share global ecological commons. And we can now clearly define the interconnectedness of the earth's ecological systems, oceans, biodiversity, atmosphere, climate, etc. Yet, there is no mechanism of looking at international environmental law from an interconnected perspective. Can the Global Pact for the Environment be that needed mechanism to address this global legal gap?Ana BarreiraYes, definitely. Last year, at the UN level, within the UNEP, there were these discussions on the Global Pact for the Environment. And these discussions were an opportunity just to start thinking and stop thinking in a silo manner. In fact, this was something that was addressed by the UN Secretary-General in its report on gaps in international environmental law. That he pointed out that there is no integration at all, there is no interconnectivity among all the legally binding instruments we have. So, therefore, the Global Pact for the Environment represented an opportunity to include principles in it as the integrity and unity of the earth system. And in addition, it's an opportunity to declare, for the first time, the earth system as a common heritage of humankind. Now, as you know, these discussions are going to be under UNEA5, which due to the COVID-19, are in February 2021. It's going to be not in person, but it's going to be a meeting online. And the civil society, we are trying that considerations on the high-level declaration for Stockholm plus 50 takes into consideration the earth system as a common heritage of humankind and as an integrated and unique system. In fact, I must say that last year, Common Home of Humanity and IIDMA, the International Institute for law and the environment, we were attending all the negotiations for the Global Pact for the Environment. And we did several statements asking the government's there to recognize the introduction of the Global Pact for the Environment, these principles I mentioned. But I must also say that we lack these days, at some levels, some political leadership. I don't know what is going to happen in UNEA5; the discussions were not really very well last year. And I hope that because of what we are living, the humankind these days, because of the pandemic, the recent change, and there is some leadership, and in fact. I am confident that the EU has always been dawned in climate change negotiations and environmental negotiations take the leadership and an unhealed to bring the framework of planetary boundaries at the international level. And I said it requires recognition of the earth system as a common heritage of humankind, an introduction in the international legal system of a principle on the integrity and unity of the earth system. Kimberly WhiteSo what's the next step? What do you see as the challenges of reaching an internationally binding treaty like the Global Pact for the Environment? And do you feel that sovereign states can unify so that this proposal can become real?Ana BarreiraSo, sovereignty has been subject to certain limitations as a consequence of the gradual recognition of the interconnectivity among live resources and ecosystems. State sovereignty is a fundamental principle of international law. However, this term is often used in a political sense, with differing interpretations depending on context and intention. However, in order to protect our earth system, it is important to clarify the rights and obligations that this principle embodies. And it is paramount to clearly understand that the earth system is not under the sovereignty of any state, and they cannot appropriate it. At the same time, activities carried out under the jurisdiction of any state may positively or negatively impact the earth system. I would say that the notion of sovereignty is dynamic, evolving with the development of the global institutional environment. And today, sovereignty implies the limitation to respect the other sovereignty as well as the obligation to respect international law. And this requires collaboration within the international community, representing an obligation to cooperate, take into account the interests of others, and to contribute in good faith. But in addition, the scope of sovereignty has been limited through principles of international environmental law. The main elements of sovereignty and equality of estates are a jurisdiction over a territory and the permanent population living there, a duty of non-intervention in the area of exclusive jurisdiction of other states, and the dependence of obligations from customary law and treaties. And according to international law, each state has the competence to develop policies and laws in respect of the natural resources and the environment of their territory. Therefore, states have sovereign rights upon elements, elements which are part of the processes comprising the earth system and which are within the scope of the planetary boundaries. In addition, there are certain areas that are outside the territorial scope of any state in which they cannot exercise or affirm their exclusive jurisdiction, and these are known as global commons. And these are the high seas and its seabed, the subsoil or outer space, the atmosphere, among others. And there is a problem because of all the lines dividing the territories our intention with the interdependency and interlinkages of the subsistence processes of the earth system. And we cannot deny that activities that are taking place in all these areas subject to jurisdiction of the states have an impact on the balance of the earth system, and this can put under pressure the planetary boundaries. But I want to emphasize again that international law has been evolving in certain limits to activities undertaken within the jurisdiction of a state with the purpose of avoiding impacts beyond their jurisdiction or within the jurisdiction of other states. And one example is the Trail Smelter case that derived from a dispute in the 40s of last century between the United States and Canada over the emissions of sulfur fumes from a smelter located in Canada, which caused damage in Washington State. And the arbitration tribunal found that under international law, no state has the right to use or permit the use of its territory, in such a manner as to cause injury by fumes in or to the territory of another, or property or persons during when the case is of serious consequence, and the injury is established by clear and convincing evidence. There are many other judgments, even from the International Court of Justice, that have been developing this finding by the arbitral tribunal. In many cases, like, for example, in the pulp mill case between Argentina and Uruguay, for example. And there are as I mentioned before, there are principles of international environmental law that limit the principle of sovereignty. And one of them is principle 21 of the 1972 Stockholm declaration that recognized the principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources but limited the sovereignty of estates imposing a duty to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other states or areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. And this is also known as the no-harm principle, a Rio Declaration principle to also reproduce this principle, just with a small amendment. So, therefore, as a conclusion, I would say that in the second decade, now, we are about to enter in the third decade of the 21st century, this obligation that the states have to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other states, or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction must be interpreted as an obligation that requires not to put on the risk the earth system's stability, and therefore not to transgress or overpass the planetary boundaries. Kimberly WhiteExactly, because recognizing the earth system as a common heritage of humankind is the first step to restoring a stable climate.Ana BarreiraYeah, and I will say that climate change is one of the core planetary boundaries, but we need also to consider biodiversity. So, we have to consider both. I would say we need to consider all the planetary boundaries, and we have trespassed some of the planetary boundaries. And climate action is fundamental, but we need also to consider the protection of biodiversity because this is integrated. So everything is linked. And, we need to consider that we cannot just concentrate only on climate change, because as the science has told us, there might be cascading effects. So we need healthy biodiversity to have a healthy planet, and we need a stable climate for healthy biodiversity. So everything is interlinked.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely. Everything is connected. So when we’re developing and implementing solutions and plans of action, it is imperative that this is taken into account. I think we will see a much higher success rate. So jumping into my next question, and I know we've mentioned the EU a couple of times at this point, but the EU has been at the forefront of climate action with its Green Deal, aiming to become the first Climate Neutral continent by 2050 at the latest. Given your extensive experience in international environmental law, can you share your thoughts on the European Green Deal?Ana BarreiraThe EU has always been a leader, front runner in fighting climate change. In fact, it was during the Kyoto Protocol negotiations. And, for example, when the Kyoto Protocol implementation time was extended, the EU committed to mitigate or reduce emissions by 2020 by 20 percent. And now, for example, in 2015, when countries have to send their NDCs, the European Union sends an NDC that committed to reduce emissions 40 percent by 2030. But because of the reports by the IPCC and the emissions gap reports by UNEP, we know that we are not on track, and we need a stronger commitment. And for example, as you know, recently, countries such as the UK have committed to reduce emissions 68 percent by 2030, just to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. But now the European Union is working, and this is a commitment in the Green Deal to increase the level of ambition in the NDC to at least 55 percent. This was presented last year, in December last year, when COP25 was taking place in Spain, here in Madrid. And now, this year, the EU, as part of the European Green Deal, committed to a lab to prepare an EU climate law. The European Commission published its proposal for a European Union law last March. Now, these laws have been under negotiation and as part of the EU legislative system or process. The European Parliament has pointed out that the commitment of a reduction of emissions by 2030 by 55 percent has to be increased to 60 percent. In fact, there is a European Council meeting, and they are going to analyze this. There has been the publication of scientific studies at the EU level that says that the EU has to increase its NDC by 65 percent. Let's see what happens. But there is a commitment. If you go through all the Green Deal to make and to achieve that, the European Union, all it's the economy; it's totally decarbonized by 2050, and that we achieve a net-zero emission that year to comply with article two of the Paris Agreement and just to contribute, at least to keep the temperature not to increase more than 1.5 degrees centigrade. So I think that this is really remarkable because if you go through the Green Deal, all this is going to be not only through climate policy, which is fundamental of course, but the EU are deploying new policies. It's reviewing all the systems we have for environmental protection, and it is as I said before, the Green Deal is striving that we live within the planetary boundaries because the Green Deal is not only about climate policy; it's about also biodiversity protection. Also, we have a new circular economy strategy as part of the Green Deal. I can give you many more examples like, for example, there is a strategy on from farm to fork, which is linked also to the biodiversity strategy, as I mentioned, with the reduction of fertilizers, but also how the soil is used. And to introduce regenerative agriculture in Europe. So there are many of the planetary boundaries in this European Green Deal. And there are going to be reforms in all those directives that are not helping the introduction, and just to abolish all barriers for renewables. Also, there are commitments, although these commitments are already very old, ending with perverse subsidies, and one of those perverse subsidies are subsidies on fossil fuels. I would say that, for example, this is one of the problems of what has happened at the international level, the international community that we have many commitments that have not been achieved, they haven't been complied with, like, for example, the Aichi commitments of the CBD. It has been clear that we are not achieving the commitments that were put on the table 10 years ago, in the Convention on Biological Diversity, but for example, the EU committed to end fossil fuel subsidies in 2010. In 2001, when it was preparing the road to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. So there have been many commitments that have not been achieved. And this is something that the Green Deal also points out that there has been a deficit in the implementation and enforcement of legislation. So we need to also reinforce the governance system because we need new legal instruments. Right, but we need also institutions that have enough resources to follow compliance and to ensure compliance. Of course, as we are seeing at the international level, in many countries, there are nowadays a lot of climate change cases and climate change litigation. And there are very good outcomes for those cases. But I always said as a lawyer that I don't want to go to court because if we go to court is because the damage is already done. And sometimes courts take years to give a decision. And we need stronger institutions that can follow that laws are correctly implemented, and also that companies, citizens, public administrations are more aware of the importance of respecting the laws and respecting the laws of the earth system. Because if not, we are really in a crisis, we are in a crisis, because we have already a very developed legal system that has not been complied with. And that's why now we need as we have more scientific knowledge, we need to integrate that scientific knowledge in our laws. But we have not much time. Therefore, that's why compliance and enforcement are key. And this is in the Green Deal, the European Commission commits and ask also member states to give enough resources to all the institutions in charge of implementing the laws to achieve the outcomes.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely. And, you know, as we have been in the midst of this pandemic we’ve seen an increase of proposals for green recovery plans around the globe. Following the covid-19 pandemic, it’s really crucial that governments take this opportunity to build back better, not to return to business as usual. Now, the EU proposed a recovery plan that places the Green Deal at its core. In your opinion, what are the highlights of that proposal?Ana BarreiraOkay, the European Union, it's now it's everything is almost concluded, all the negotiations for the multi-annual financial framework, which is the budget until 2027, and also their recovery and resilience facility. But it is amazing. I would say because the European Union is committing €672.5 billion for the recovery. And member states, in order to get access to those funds, need to make recovery and resilience plans that are going to be assessed by the European Commission. But it is remarkable that 37 percent of the amount of this recovery and resilience facility that the EU has established under what is called the EU next generation has to be committed to climate change and for biodiversity protection. So it is the first time I would say that there is this commitment just to overcome a crisis through protecting our planet and looking at the planetary boundaries. But at the same time, we need to just to have a focus on the conditionality because what we need to know is what is going to happen with the rest of the funds. But I would say that having the Green Deal, as it has been said by the Vice President of the European Union, is the growth strategy of the EU, at the core of the recovery plans and of the multiannual financial framework of the EU; it gives some sight of how it's going to be the future of the EU and how the EU can impact in other regions of the world and how the EU can impact as a model in their recovery plans that all the regions in the world are preparing now. So, therefore, I feel that these commitments are really essential and are fundamental.Kimberly WhiteAll right, and there you have it. The interconnections between the economy, social justice, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, and the climate emergency are becoming more evident. We need healthy biodiversity to have a healthy planet, and we need a stable climate for healthy biodiversity. The Global Pact for the Environment represents an opportunity to integrate the principles of the integrity and unity of the earth system and, for the first time, declare the earth system as a common heritage of humankind. Recognizing the earth system as a common heritage of humankind is the first step to restoring a stable climate. That is all for today, and thank you for joining us for this episode of Common Home Conversations Beyond UN75. Please subscribe, share, and be sure to tune in on January 27th to continue the conversation with our special guest, Viriato Soromenho-Marques, Professor of Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Nature, and European Ideas at the University of Lisbon. And visit us at www.ThePlanetaryPress.com for more episodes and the latest news in sustainability, climate change, and the environment.
1 minutes | 3 months ago
Ana Barreira Interview Promo Clip
42 minutes | 4 months ago
Klaus Bosselmann, Director of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law
Interview TranscriptTranscribed by Otter AIKimberly WhiteHello and welcome to Common Home Conversations. Today we are joined by Klaus Bosselmann, Director of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law at the University of Auckland. Thank you for joining us today!Klaus Bosselmann Thank you.Kimberly WhiteSo you've been the Director of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law since it began in 1999. Could you tell us more about NZCEL and your work there? Klaus BosselmannYes, the New Zealand Center for Environmental Law has its working model, working for sustainability. It's an interdisciplinary Institute involving scientists, political scientists, sociologists, lawyers, all united in the pursuit of making sustainability a reality in the legal system. And what that means, of course, first of all, sustainability needs to be clearly defined. And that has shaped my work in the 1990s, as somebody who has joined the Rio Earth Summit where sustainable development was first negotiated. And in essence, what we do at the NZCEL is, we are finding practical ways how to implement sustainability at the various levels of law, domestically, internationally, and so forth. And we have done it, I think, quite successfully. So, let's just give you an example regarding New Zealand. New Zealand was the first country back in 1991 to incorporate the concept of sustainability into its leading environmental law called the Resource Management Act. And what it means there is that rephrasing someone, the purpose of this description of this act is to allow any sorts of activities within society and within an economic system, as long as the fundamental integrity of ecological systems are not affected. And this is a nice capture of what sustainability really means. It means the duty of states to protect and preserve the integrity of earth ecological systems. That was for the first time incorporated into the Rio Declaration, 1992. And so ever since we have been working on this, and we have done this, once internationally in the form of being a founding research center, that formed the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law, which is really the global umbrella organization for all environmental law scholars and environmental law research centers. So that has been a very gratifying experience. We're working obviously, with research centers around the world, all in pursuit of basically transforming our current system of rather fragmented environment law. So that's what we are doing.Kimberly WhiteThat's really interesting. And New Zealand has been at the forefront, leading globally with climate law and what you guys are doing, that's fantastic. You’re the Co-Chair of the Scientific Committee of the Common Home of Humanity. Now, one of the main innovations that CHH has brought for public and academic discussion was conceptualizing one global common without borders, the earth system. As a professor and expert in international environmental law, how do you see the concrete legal solution that goes beyond the soft law declarations?Klaus BosselmannYeah, the notion of a global common without borders is a real challenge to the existing system of international law. We are more familiar with global commons in plural, acknowledging areas outside national jurisdictions such as oceans, Antarctica, the atmosphere. The notion of global commons harbors a certain duty, a degree of moral duty in terms of stewardship or guardianship. It has further been expressed in the notion of common heritage of humankind, which acknowledges a shared responsibility for areas that are subject to common heritage. So there is a certain familiarity with the notion of global commons. And as such, it can be incrementally implemented in international law. Now, when it comes to singular, global common without borders, this is the real challenge. And, of course, it's a reflection of earth as a whole and a physical reality, a spiritual reality, and yet, the law has largely been ignorant of this phenomenon called earth or mother earth. The closest thing that lawyers tend to accept as a description of reality can probably be described as the earth condominium, right? The idea that sovereign states, they own little apartments in a huge condominium that they all share just a situation that we have you rent an apartment, or you even own an apartment. But you also have to take care of the overall house that, you know, your apartment only forms part off. And this image tells us that by virtue of being interested in protecting your own apartment dash country, you need to have followed the logic of wanting also a healthy apartment next door. And furthermore, the functioning of the entire building that your apartment sits in. So this stipulates the need or sort of articulates very nicely what states by virtue of being part in this complex system called planet earth are up to and what their responsibilities really are, they need to go past responsibilities that you have as neighbors, right sort of one state to the others, we need to have common responsibilities for the global common is this notion is, is articulating this. So this is the new challenge, and of course, has been expressed in some ways, some way or other, not necessarily in soft law declarations per se, but in a number of international documents. And of course, the discussion continues, and it is very exciting to see some developments in that area. Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely. So what exactly does this mean in terms of the history of international law?Klaus BosselmannYes, this is the heart of the matter is that international law is, of course, a legal construct, defining the relationships between sovereign states. So the assumption is that somehow the 189 or so current existing sovereign states can sort out all matters through this vehicle called, quote, international law. And this means they're using a notion of state sovereignty that has a certain history. In fact, it was created under the Westphalian peace treaty from 1648 and served the main purpose that states in Europe at the time ought to recognize each other's sovereignty in order to respect each other so that the citizens of one given country can be protected by their own government without fearing the threat of being attacked by people from a neighboring country. So historically, the concept of state sovereignty was all meant to provide a certain peace order, and that's all very well, even though, as you all know, hasn't very well functioned in practice, but nevertheless, the principle of state sovereignty has its absolute legitimacy. However, what do you do in a situation when these sovereign states discover a problem that cannot be dealt with with a pure notion of a sovereign state? This is a phenomenon that we all share the natural environment. The environment does not know any national boundaries. And in fact, we are talking about one global environment or the earth system. And this is what the idea of state sovereignty is not geared for is not invented for. We today speak of the sovereignty paradox, and this describes a situation that we are finding ourselves with a legal construct that is largely outdated because it does not inherently cater for shared responsibilities and, you know, enforceable responsibility of a sovereign state towards the global environment, yet, the well-being of each state and their citizens of course, it utterly depends on the so-called functioning of ecological systems, including climate change. So this kind of dichotomy between a rather restrictive and absolute concept of sovereign state, which does not know an inherent duty to protect the global environment on the one hand side, and the physical reality of a shared earth is that the crux of the matter and needs to be addressed, and it can be addressed in many ways. But this is, if you like the historical legacy that we are dealing with, the history of international law was mostly shaped by concerns for security and maintaining peace. But in more recent times, over the last 70 or so years, of course, we have this phenomenon of international human rights. And ever since there's an increased argument, of course, politically, but just as well, legally, that to say that a sovereign state does not have any kind of jurisdiction over limiting universal human rights and human rights principles. So this would be an example where we can today meaningfully say that any state can pretty much do what they like, except for in any way threatening the fundamental entitlements of human beings, namely, to be protected and their freedom and well being and so forth. So this seems to be the essence of today's understanding of international jurisprudence. And the challenge for the earth as a whole is to expand this understanding a little bit by saying we also need to realize that the well being of human beings depends on the protection of the natural environment. So, in addition to human rights concerns, we need to have concerns towards the protection of the natural environment expressed in the context of the sovereign state. So this is jurisprudence. But I hope you can sort of follow the argument that we are beginning to realize, and one has to be, you know, very cautious here because there's always politics in the way. But we can sort of certainly see the trend in international law that goes increasingly towards protecting two fundamental interests of human beings, one's expressed in the concept of human rights and human dignity, and the other expressed in our dependence on the natural world in our need to be protected and our desire to flourish in our lives, protected from environmental pollution and degradation. So there's a lot of traction for this kind of reasoning in the legal literature. The gap is stood between what we can learn in law schools and legal scholarship, on the one hand side, and then in translating this kind of knowledge are these ideas to governmental level and finding enough resonance there. This is, of course, the real challenge, because politics certainly right now, is not ready for it. We're in the pandemic times, we see pretty much the opposite effect, that states are increasingly operating on their own national terms rather than cooperating. And yet, of course, the pandemic would be the perfect example of why we are failing. We are failing largely; we're suffering literally, under the current pandemic situation, because of a lack of cooperation and lack of understanding of how fundamental it is that states take responsibility for the, in this instance, protection of wilderness, of wildlife. This is sort of not a directly related matter, but it has to do with the kind of legacy of international law that we are talking about here.Kimberly WhiteAnd with COVID-19, we really see that the pandemic did not respect borders. And I think for those people who may not have realized, climate change is truly a global issue, not just happening in some far off land. It is impacting everybody. COVID has been a way for people to maybe start to get to that realization.Klaus BosselmannYes, I can't agree more. It is rather peculiar, isn't it, that, for some reason, states tend to act rather quickly with all the money thrown in when it comes to the perception of oh, our human health is directly affected, people are dying, and so forth. But that kind of urgency that's found here and rightly so is not being easily enough translated to the urgency of climate change, where you have the same phenomenon. People are already dying in many parts of the world, and it only gets worse. And the excuse you're hearing from governments, right is climate change is too complex, and who knows what's really happening and so forth, are no longer excused, that's just the politics, the science is absolutely clear and is somewhat really astonishing, that we do not see the same urgency yet, I should say, with respect to climate change, as we have been seeing with respect to the COVID over the last eight months or so.Kimberly WhiteEight months, it's hard to believe it's been almost this entire year. Our health is tied in with our environment. So I'm hopeful that with these talks of the green recovery plans, we're going to start to move the needle a little bit more. I guess we will have to wait and see. Although we really don't have time to wait and see, we need action now. Do you think that we need a conceptual evolution of law to enhance its capacity to explain and represent our highly interconnected and interdependent earth system? And what could be the implications of such a conceptual evolution? Klaus BosselmannYeah, it is an intriguing notion, the conceptual evolution of law, and that certainly is what's required. I translate this notion to transformation of law, which describes a similar phenomenon, and here's how it goes. I am rather optimistic here, but then again, being a legal scholar, you do not have the troubles with making it happen in the reality of politics. And yet, of course, we need to be realistic in what can be achieved and how to achieve it. So what lawyers tend to try is having a clear understanding of what the law can do, and equally a clear understanding of how we get there. And there are certain steps to be followed. Now with your question relating to the earth system, how we can sort of increasingly adopt the consideration of common concern of humankind, or, you know, or similar ideas, common heritage of humanity with respect to the earth, there are certain things that are fundamental here. One is what we call soft law. This is just a production of agreements among states, where they declare certain commonalities and shared responsibilities. The famous example would be the Rio declaration, from 1992, on the Environment and Development. And I just give you an example here, principle seven of the Rio declaration talks about the obligations of states to cooperate, in order to protect the integrity of earth ecological system, that we have the acknowledgement of the earth system already in 1992. And not only that, it's defined as a duty, a duty of care, and, arguably, a legal obligation of all states to take this duty seriously, meaning, legally enforceable. So this is a soft law notion repeated in some 25 international agreements all the time, you have the reminder of the drafters, and again, the drafters were states, right representatives of countries, to say that states have a responsibility to protect the integrity of earth's ecological systems. That next step, in order to make it more real, would be to what we call hard law, having a convention or an internationally binding treaty that particularly articulates these notions. We do not have such a treaty as yet. There is a development towards the Global Pact for the Environment, which potentially could have this acknowledgment of a fundamental obligation of states, but not in the current text, but this is sort of a work under construction, so to speak. So this is your instrument of a future convention that might be having this function. But then there is another level that is, in many ways, even more, important than, you know, treaty law. And that is the level of fundamental norms, and we are all familiar today about the universal acceptance and importance of human rights, by and large, a shared responsibility, at least as a legal responsibility, and we could expand this to mean also an overarching obligation to protect the physical conditions under which human beings are only able to live and thereby having reference to the environment. Now, these things to do with so-called general principles of international law; human rights is seen, as you know, as one of those general principles that exist regardless of any specific treaties that states may have or not have signed. So, this is the underpinning concept of sources of international law, and one very important one would be such a general principle or overall objective or a grundnorm. A grundnorm is an understanding that certain issues have such fundamental importance that they are taken for granted, they do not have to be specifically spelled out in a treaty, and the example here would be again, human rights, right that they are having certain grundnorm character. So that has to do with the general understanding in international law, what, what states are asked to follow soft law, hard law in general principles and grundnorms. And then, more practically, what's required here, under the notion of, you know, conceptual evolution of law, it needs to make a real difference. And it would only make a real difference if we have specific institutions that take our obligations towards the natural environment, at heart, so-called trusteeship institutions. The conceptual evolution of law is certainly not an effort that we can hope for to be done within the next five or ten years. Evolution, of course, takes its own time, and who knows how long it might take. But it seems to me; it is quite clear that the idea of an earth system will sink in, right? It shapes the minds and imagination of lawyers in this instance. We really, what are we doing in quite practical terms, and what I'm working with as my students, lawyers are normally trained from a state-centered perspective, right? They just have an understanding of what can be done with your local government or central government and what can be done taking over this kind of perspective from an existing state. And that needs to be shifted to an earth-centered perspective and then becomes quite clear what our challenges are. Again, it is a gradual step. But there's also a transformational evolution involved if we increasingly adopt an earth-centered concept of understanding of our responsibilities in the design of law. So this will be my sort of rather lengthy take of what I think the conceptual evolution of law could mean.Kimberly WhiteA stable climate is a manifestation of a well functioning earth system. However, climate is currently considered a common concern of humankind. Is this the moment to reopen the discussion around the legal status of the climate Earth system and recover the 1988 Malta proposal to apply the legal regime of common heritage to a stable climate Earth system as a single whole?Klaus BosselmannYeah, that's a good question. Really, I'm grateful because the 1988 Malta proposal was pretty much the time when I started to get involved in climate change law, at the time as a member of the German negotiation team, towards the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. And I remember very well, that was the initiative of the smaller country of Malta, that called for a concept to describe climate change. And at the time, there was, of course, these two fundamental ideas to relate to climate change as a common concern of humankind, in the other proposal, traditionally strongly advocated by Malta and other states as well, to consider climate change or climate, a common heritage of humankind. Now, the difference between those tools is still controversial. At the time, the common concern notion was celebrated as being more stringent, you know, if you're concerned about anything, or something, then you're committed to certain actions. So this is behind the notion of common concern. And those advocates of common concern were dismissing the notion of common heritage as not being so stringent. And I would argue the other way around, because historically, and might I again, is a good example, because that's where the scholarship over centuries, I should add thanks to Catholicism into the theology of, of several centuries to fundamentally consider the earth as a heritage meaning, we have in Christian terminology, you know, earth has been given to us human beings, so we can enjoy it, but not in any way destroyed, because we have a fundamental obligation to pass it on to future generations as is the notion of heritage. So automatically, the enjoyment of nature or the, you know, the enjoyment of air in this instance, right, it comes with the obligation to provide for effective protection of the atmosphere. So I think there is, in fact, a need for being more clear about the notion of common heritage as a concept to describe the climate of a stable climate, and by association, a stable earth system. So the common heritage model is popular, not only in the literature but also expressed in international law. Even though in a very rudimentary form, it was, again, the ambassador of Malta, Arvid Pardo, who gave a famous address to the United Nations General Assembly back in 1967, I believe it was, where he advocated the recognition of all the oceans, the high seas to be a common heritage of mankind, as the terminology was, at the time. Vehemently, arguing along those lines that you and I are interested in, namely, that we need to take good care of the earth as a whole. In this instance, the oceans, Arvid Pardo was regarded as the father of the oceans, and the mother of the oceans was a German scholar, Elisabeth Mann Borgese, who was equally an advocate of common heritage principles with respect to the oceans. So that's how it found its entry into international decision making. And we eventually ended up with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the seas, which does not acknowledge the high seas as a common heritage, but the sea bed or ocean floor is in fact acknowledged as a common heritage, which is not enough obviously, to address the complexities of climate change and so forth. But it's a very good example of what's meant, at least historically meant, by having a reference to common heritage or intangible heritage with respect to the earth system. It fundamentally means in law that in order to benefit from this heritage, we need to have effective protection mechanisms. The reason is that, of course, these areas we are talking about whether it's oceans, the atmosphere, climate, right, or the earth system as a whole, does not belong to anyone, is not subject to any property cannot be, by definition, it is freely accessible to all of us. But it has the question of who's in charge of protecting it? The answer is we all are expressed in the notion of common heritage. So I would think, you know, with respect to the effective climate regime, which we desperately need, we can't rely on the Paris Agreement and ongoing negotiations, there needs to be a far more fundamental understanding that the atmosphere as a whole requires a legal status and the legal status would indeed be the common heritage notion rather than the common concern notion, which I think is too weak and has certainly not done anything. Essentially, it only means, you know, common concern only means yes, we are concerned, but how concerned we are, and what we need to do about it, it's up to us, it's up to the sovereign state. Common heritage law is much stronger than that. But again, like everything in politics and law, it's not so much the labels we put on things but what we really associate with it. I would suggest there's a strong philosophical and legal support for the notion of the intangible common heritage as one of the most forceful ideas that require what I call trusteeship responsibilities of everybody who's associated with it. So let's just hope that you know, the climate debate, especially in the pandemic, and post-pandemic time, will increasingly focus on the subject matter, the atmosphere or the climate as a whole and not, you know, Paris Agreement and not kind of, you know, negotiations that are ongoing, we need to have a far more fundamental understanding that we have a shared responsibility for the atmosphere expressed best your question in the context of a common heritage.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely. Can the innovation of recognizing the existence of one intangible global common be the base for a new global governance regime of planetary stewardship?Klaus BosselmannYeah, so this raises the issue of legal status or institutionalization of care for the environment. Now, I would suggest that the global common as a base for global commons would lead us through a regime of earth trusteeship, which is a little bit more than just a different name to planetary stewardship. I would think that planetary stewardship rightly addresses the morality of the situation, like we need to organize our societies and our lives as human beings within the boundaries within the planetary boundaries. But in order to have a stronger sense of what it means, you know, to live within the boundaries that the planet gives us.Yes, we need to have a stewardship or guardianship understanding of our responsibilities, which basically is the situation if you like, like, you know, parents look after their children, right, they're minors if you are younger than 18. Parents have a guardian role in legal terms. However, I would suggest the notion of trusteeship is stronger than both stewardship and guardianship. Mainly because the concept of trusteeship is one of the oldest legal concept we know from Roman law times in order to express in civil law, countries and the continent of Europe and common law in England to mean basically, that trusteeship is a form of government where a person institution acts on behalf of others who cannot act themselves for all sorts of practical reasons. And under this notion, the right to only to act on behalf of others but in the best interests of others, again, a parents-children relationship comes to mind. But it goes far deeper. There was an understanding in German legal context, for example, that you have responsibilities towards future generations expressed as trusteeship duties. You have to have the best interests of future generations in mind in whatever you do today. And in more recent times, trusteeship governance, as I said earlier, has been introduced into international law in the context of the trusteeship council and attempts of sovereign states to take good care of those people who are not governed by sovereign states, and this taking good care is expressed as a trusteeship responsibility acting on behalf and in the best interest of another entity or other people. So the notion of earth trusteeship is closely associated, in my opinion, with the notion of intangible global common or earth system governance. It's a logical institutionalization of our responsibility towards the earth system. And it can be done in practical terms, right? The trusteeship responsibility is expressed at the United Nations levels with new institutions. And I mentioned earlier the possibility of the UN Earth Trusteeship Council. But equally, it could be expressed at national levels, either expressed in a constitution, where it's then clear that the state would have a legally enforceable trusteeship responsibility towards the natural environment so that citizens can actually take their government to court if they're not discharging of these duties appropriately or in other countries, such as New Zealand that do not have the same constitutional understanding, they do not have a written constitution that's per se, supreme law. New Zealand isn't a sort of common law country like the UK and others. We do not have a written constitution per se, but we do have interesting developments in law such as the Whanganui River trusteeship model that I explained earlier. In this way, New Zealand would be in the position to commit to the legally enforceable trusteeship governance. So that's my take of planetary stewardship. Simply, in my terminology, and not just me, there is an earth trusteeship initiative. This is a group of more than 100 human rights and environmental organizations we have been working towards a new declaration. That's called a declaration of, well, the full name of this document that we have drafted during the period between 2016 and 2018, The Principles for a Universal Declaration of Responsibilities for Human Rights and Earth Trusteeship, it's a bit of a mouthful, but it was meant to be a historical advancement from the famous Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948, which had its 70th anniversary on the 10th of December in 2018. And on that particular day, we adopted, and that's the Earth Trusteeship Initiative adopted the Hague principles in the Peace Palace in The Hague. We're also the Earth Charter, I should add, as Earth Charter was very much behind the idea of the Hague principles. The Earth Charter was adopted in the Peace Palace in The Hague in the year 2000 and has greatly influenced our thinking about, you know, responsibilities for the earth. So I need to mention the earth charter here and the context not only because I think it is a very fundamental document, probably the best document we have today because it is crafted by non-governmental organizations, by civil society organizations over a period of eight years between 1992 and 2000. The Earth Charter came about and personally closely associated with it, and out of the Earth Charter thinking came eventually the idea of, you know how can we articulate our responsibilities for the earth in a more sort of stringent way. So the idea of earth trusteeship came out of it all in parallel to the other very exciting development, namely earth system science. Today, we talk meaningfully about an earth system as a whole, which, 20 to 25 years ago, hardly anybody would have heard of. Of course, they are very close developments earth system, earth system science, earth system approach, earth charter, earth trusteeship, as always, the earth is at the focal point of it all. So to me that the notion of, you know, the global common as a base of new global governance and planetary stewardship has really a lot of legal meaning, and I'm very hopeful that we can articulate this very clearly. I wouldn't visit in the first place in the context of the Global Pact for the Environment that's currently being looked at at the UN level, even though not much progress has been made. But an opportunity would be the Stockholm plus 50 summit in July 2022. And hopefully, we as civil society, with the support of maybe some states, will be able to provide some really strong text calling for the recognition of the earth system as an intangible common heritage of humankind. And associated with it, the idea or the need to, you know, provide for legal and institutional means to actually protect the earth system as a whole.So there are interesting times ahead. And I personally, rather optimistically, would say that the pandemic has been such an inspiration to many people around the world, knowing that we need to do things far better. In fact, in a far more stringent and overarching way, as we have done it in the past. In the past, states have operated in a rather fragmented and uncoordinated coordinated way. But the pandemic has been such a defining experience where we can see how we are mutually dependent on the same things caused by a ridiculous small virus. And all of a sudden, we see the entire word sort of dancing to the tune of the virus. So that's something somehow and sings in what we are doing to ourselves and how we react to it. And furthermore, seeing that the incredible need of taking science seriously, and acting in accordance with, you know, the laws of nature, we really need to be mindful here, then I would be rather optimistic when it comes to, you know, a meaningful global governance model that protects the earth as a whole. And not just the climate, by the way, climate is much talked about, but of course, is intrinsically connected with the oceans and biodiversity, you cant meaningfully separate these things, and that's where the strength of earth system thinking comes, comes in. So in the long run, I think this is, you know, this is the way where we will be going. The only question is, of course, whether it will be too late or not, but the kind of framing of Earth System Science and system governments that has a great future.Kimberly WhiteAnd I think, you know, just as you said with the pandemic, it's been terrible. But I think in a way, it's really almost brought us together in this way of, we need to take what we've learned, and we need to build back better. And I'm hopeful that we can gather that political will quickly enough to avoid issues like this in the future. I saw a recent report stating there are a lot more viruses similar or even more severe than COVID, and if we keep going the way we're going, it's not a pretty picture. Klaus BosselmannYeah, yeah. Yeah.I mean, in recent months, we had so many meetings around the world about this phenomenon. And it seems to me so obvious, is almost a symbol, right that we have blurred the boundary between wildlife and human settlements. And what previously was seen as oops, you know, something we shouldn't do, and maybe there is some value in having untouched nature and not straining everything. We are talking, of course, the wildlife trading, a huge exploitation of wildlife; it's a multibillion industry and all the rest of it. And all of a sudden, we are realizing what has gone wrong. We have overstepped the incredibly important boundaries between natural spheres and humans spheres rather than, you know, blending in into natural spheres. Humans have expanded their own spheres all the time, and, of course, greatly accelerated by the mobility that we are having the spread of the pandemic, just, you know, everything was foreseeable, and, of course, has been predicted by so many experts. But there you are. I'd like to see a positive in all this; it could be the great unifier, could really be leading to a situation where this notion of common responsibility, shared responsibility, global governance really makes sense. So this, I mean, it's too early to tell. Obviously, we are in the middle of the pandemic, and it probably gets worse before it gets better. But if there's anything to learn, it would have to do with making the notion of cooperation and global governance and mutual trust and so forth utterly, utterly important. Let's hope that governments will learn this. So I think the pandemic will have a great effect on being far more responsible in the way how we govern ourselves.Kimberly WhiteAll right, and there you have it. We currently find ourselves with an outdated legal construct that does not cater to the shared enforceable responsibilities of a sovereign state towards our global environment, even though the functioning of these ecological systems is vital to our survival and how recognition of the earth system as an intangible common heritage of humankind can provide the legal and institutional means to protect the earth system as a whole. It's time to take science seriously and act in accordance with the laws of nature. That is all for today, and thank you for joining us for this episode of Common Home Conversations Beyond UN75. Please subscribe, share, and be sure to tune in on December 30th to continue the conversation with our special guest, Ana Barreira, lawyer and Director and founding member of the International Institute for Law and the Environment (IIDMA). And visit us at www.ThePlanetaryPress.com for more episodes and the latest news in sustainability, climate change, and the environment.
1 minutes | 4 months ago
Klaus Bosselmann Interview Promo Clip
36 minutes | 4 months ago
Richard Ponzio, Director of the Just Security 2020 Program at the Stimson Center
Interview TranscriptTranscribed by Otter AIKimberly WhiteHello and welcome to Common Home Conversations. Today we are joined by Richard Ponzio, Director of the Just Security 2020 Program and a Senior Fellow at the Stimson Center. Previously, Richard directed the Global Governance Program at The Hague Institute for Global Justice, where he served as Director for the Albright-Gambari Commission on Global Security, Justice, and Governance.Thank you for joining us today, Richard! Richard PonzioThank you, Kimberly.Kimberly WhiteCan you tell us more about your role at Stimson and what you're working on?Richard PonzioI am a Senior Fellow and Director of the Just Security 2020 program. The program is focused on UN and broader global governance, innovation, strengthening, making the international system more inclusive, voices of civil society, of course, but non-state actors working with governments, and of course, international organizations like the United Nations to address the 21st-century challenges. From climate change to rising violence in parts of the world to, of course, the pandemic, which is on everybody's mind today.Kimberly WhiteVery interesting! And speaking of the pandemic, we're currently going through a global health crisis, a climate crisis, and a biodiversity crisis. Can these become the common ground that we need to find new multilateral solutions, such as the Global Pact for the Environment, to our shared problems?Richard PonzioIf these issues don't, I don't know what will, in terms of rethinking our multilateral system, how the 193 member states come together. But as I said in my introduction, we're looking very much at solutions. But also capabilities, ideas, networks coming from non-state actors, global civil society is a terminology often used in this context. But it means a lot of things social media, social movements, actually. And religious organizations, to academics, think tanks, like the institution I'm a part of, but all the way down to the grassroots and community level organizing, at the same time, either part of civil society or working in its own right. The private sector, the business community, incredibly rich with talent, technical ingenuity, financial resources, of course, but you know, we look to them for leadership as well and working with governments and international organizations, which I presume we'll be talking a bit about because that's what my own research, scholarly work has focused on for years. And these two or three intertwined crises that you mentioned, the climate crisis biodiversity, and of course, the health crisis was really prominently featured in the COVID-19 pandemic that we're all experiencing. You know, never has there been such a maelstrom of forces that have forced the international community to rethink how we're organizing ourselves, how we're looking at these issues. Through global fora, such as the United Nations, the World Bank is very much on the frontlines of these issues. Major informal groupings of states such as the G20, they all have a contribution to make. But I think as a starting point, you refer to the Global Pact for the Environment. I think it's critical that as the Global Pact, in its early days of being discussed and negotiated, it really makes the point that, hey, we have all of these international agreements out there; there's principles associated with many of them. What are some of the common threads, common foundational principles between the major conventions on climate change on biodiversity, but again, hundreds of other agreements that deal with the global environment. I think if we have more coherence, and a sense of vision and a roadmap through this new instrument, called a Global Pact for the Environment, this will really, I think, build on the solidarity that we're seeing worldwide as a result of the global pandemic. And then we channel the sense of a common global identity, global citizenship, to then work on common global problem solving. And that's at the heart, again, of what the Global Pact for the Environment and its particular concerns with issues such as the biodiversity and climate crisis, I think they're just critical. And as we see today, health issues are intimately related to environmental concerns. And it's so important that we then look in an interdisciplinary fashion to address these problems simultaneously. But it's going to require a rethink both of our institutional framework and instruments that take our normative framework from previous years and upgrade them. And that's, in a sense, what the Global Pact for the Environment is all about.Kimberly WhiteSo essentially, at this point, we need all hands on deck.Richard PonzioAbsolutely. Hundred percent. And that's why it's great to see whether it's the annual meetings of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and all the work that's gone into the massive 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Using technologies to have online consultations, it's really pushed the frontiers on how inclusive these UN policymaking processes can be. And the same thing needs to happen now for the Global Pact for the Environment. The ideas cannot come from within a small UN Secretariat or within the private sector alone; it's really got to be voices from different parts of humanity.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely. As an expert in politics, governance, and international relations, what do you see as the biggest challenges of establishing this Global Pact for the Environment?Richard PonzioThe biggest challenge is not understanding and diagnosing the problems related to a whole host of environmental challenges. Not just climate, the big one, or, you know, if we let science guide us, we're going to get the vaccine, as we've been seeing in recent weeks, and fighting the pandemic. We even, I think, have a lot of tools in the toolbox for conflict resolution and pushing back against violent extremism, at the heart of all these issues. You mentioned my background and issues of governance and politics, especially at the global level. It's the fear that we are eroding and ripping apart the very foundations of the international system of governance that was created in the aftermath of a major cataclysmic World War, the second world war in the early 1940s. And so, this past year has been monumental, not just because of the pandemic, but the 75th anniversary, a chance to review and reflect on the UN system. But what we're seeing at the same time is rising nationalism, an exclusive form of nationalism that really works against the core principles, the spirit of global cooperation on any issue, including, I think, the environmental themes that we'll be talking about today. And unless we realize how corrosive, how negative and deleterious it is to these institutions, their basic functioning, the signals that members of the Secretariat that starting with the Secretary-General of the United Nations get when they hear lack of cooperation. You've heard a term called vaccine nationalism arise.Even with the hope that is provided by solving the pandemic, now there's going to be questions about which countries and who within those countries will get access to the vaccine first, and that there needs to be a treatment of an issue of such critical magnitude at the global level. Like a vaccine to help us restore normalcy in societies. We're going to get, I think, to the economic dimensions, the knock-on effects, including the environmental effects from the pandemic crisis. But first things first, the health crisis needs a level of global cooperation. First of all, the World Health Organization has been crippled and politicized and has a lot to do with the rise of a combination of even democratic countries that are building artificial walls, so to speak, and sometimes literal walls in their country to protect them from spillover effects. And it's just quite short-sighted to believe that whether it's the pandemic, these environmental themes we'll be exploring today, a whole host of global security questions that you can isolate yourself in this world. But many countries believe, I mean, the populist leaders are whipping up fear and whipping up confusion about the role of global institutions. And until we get a basic understanding of why these institutions were created, and why they, in fact, do need to be upgraded, modernize, made even more inclusive, certainly adopting principles of sustainability and justice at their core, they only then can they function effectively, and then deliver global public goods and address global public bads that countries are understandably afraid of. So it's absolutely critical, and I hope we can get into some of the specific ways those changes could occur in the not so distant future. It's not like these are long term, Don Quixoteesque plans that will take hundreds of years to implement. No, we have ideas under discussion now in connection with the Global Pact for the Environment that can lead to rather ambitious changes even in the next three to five years; and they're going to be critical for addressing the biggest challenges of the present era.Kimberly WhiteAnd one of the biggest challenges is climate change. Climate change is creating cascading detrimental effects on our societies, such as inequality, migration, conflicts, health issues, security issues, and international relations, not to mention the impacts on our economies. Yet, we're only talking about climate change as an isolated problem of carbon dioxide emissions. How can we get past treating these challenges as separate issues? Richard PonzioYeah, each of the issues are important in their own right and could be unpacked and part of an entire discussion. But it's so important that climate not be looked at just in terms of CO2 emissions, not to think that there's an easy technical fix. Although some talk about geoengineering and shooting sulfates into the atmosphere, that's going to somehow cool the earth off. And it's interesting to explore a whole host of technological fixes, especially related to green technologies. Things we can use in our everyday lives and rethink how industry is doing and green infrastructure, especially as it is again connected to the mentioned health issues and the pandemic, we have this huge opportunity as we recover economically, but also to invest in the type of infrastructure. That was not the case a decade ago when the world faced another monumental financial crisis. And it took several years to dig out of, and there are statistics being tossed around that we spent for every $6 of infrastructure stimulus investments back in 2009, 2010, 2011. Only $1 can be considered green infrastructures, such as retrofitting your buildings, and, of course, public transportation, and even electrical grids done in a different way that are more energy-efficient and would reduce emissions. So that's on the economic side, there's a huge body of work. And that's where we came up with sustainable development, through Gro Harlem Brundtland’s World Commission on Environment Development back in 1987, leading to the Earth Summit, leading to the Framework Convention on Climate Change. But where the debate is today, you know, a lot being discussed about the connection between environment and security issues. Two or three years ago, there was a Marrakech the World Summit on migration issues, and certainly, the environmental and climate dimensions of that set of issues was unpacked. So we absolutely, in an interdisciplinary fashion, need to understand the only way we're going to deal with easily the biggest challenge of our time- Climate change is a far more complex, dangerous, ominous set of issues linked to it than the pandemic, which we're going to get a handle on things sooner than later. But hopefully, we can learn the right lessons of how international communities organize and how we chip away at a project as big, complex, and multidimensional as climate change. And that means looking at the economic dimensions, the health dimensions, the security, even issues of migration and refugees. We think that they're all being driven by things like conflict or economic needs. That's true. But the overwhelming evidence is showing that climate change is now, but in the future will more so be the major push factor of refugee movements, even migration to countries that are maybe suffering less. So the whole debate around learning to live with climate change in the short term and adapting. But we need to be still having these discussions hand in hand with mitigation debates and really slowing the pace of climate change. Otherwise, the world in many parts of the world becomes uninhabitable. So that's why going back to the basics and what the Global Pact for the Environment represents in terms of core principles, a guiding vision, and understanding the need for a multidimensional approach and moving beyond just a focus on CO2 emissions. That's absolutely critical if we're going to get a strong handle on this fundamental challenge of our time, climate change.Kimberly WhiteI would love to get your thoughts on the calls for a green recovery. We're starting to see them all across the world. Do you think we’re beginning to see a shift towards governments recognizing that these issues are tied together, they are not separate, and we cannot work on them in silo?Richard PonzioThis is the big question on all of our minds, and we'll see the evidence even within, I'd say 6 to 12 months, how much people put their money investments and real effort where their mouth is on talking about a green recovery. That before the green recovery, we had in the US Green New Deal set of proposals, at least for one of the two political parties. But many other countries of the EU as a whole, Korea, many countries have picked up the nomenclature. And now they're combining that with another common phrase linked to the pandemic; build back better. We hear it in the United States context, but it's actually been picked up and integrated into the recent declaration for the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. So signed on by 193 member states and their world leaders who met, of course, virtually, but did so in the last few weeks at the annual high-level segment of the General Assembly. And not only are they saying, you know, we need to build back better, and they're focused on, of course, getting their economies going and jobs, and greener, so green recovery. This creates such a fortuitous situation because a year ago at the UN Climate Summit, the previous UN General Assembly high-level segment in New York, September of 2019, it was well known that we are off pace, and starting with the biggest countries, the biggest emitters, the biggest economies those associated with the G20 were, in particular falling behind on their own nationally determined commitments. You know, some of the questions we need to ask ourselves is the voluntary approach, which is at the heart of the Paris Climate Agreement. Why it's different than the Kyoto Protocol, a binding, enforceable international legal instrument? You know, everybody says this revolutionary new model, global governance, is going to be the future because it's about outcomes and results and impact that matter more. And I agree, if it's delivering results, then we should all be 100% behind the Paris Climate Agreement. But when the biggest countries are not even following their own adopted commitments, in part because of questions of enforcement and verification. What are the consequences, the penalties when they don't follow through? Of course, the US did pull itself out and made the initial step towards pulling out in 2017. And it just happened two days after the US election. We fully expect on the first day of the new Biden administration for the US to resign and recommit itself. But back to your question on green recovery. It has so many meanings and dimensions to it. But this is, you know, the fundamental opportunity to wean ourselves off of fossil fuel producing engines of our economy to you know, all kinds of green infrastructure investments, as I noted, in response to the previous question, to, you know, government action, incentives, regulatory environment, to really incentivize the private sector to become the chief engine for the green technologies, which I think are going to be at the heart of a green recovery. But yeah, it's not going to be done by any one country, it's not going to be done by government or the private sector, it's going to be a combination of these actors. And of course, we're going to have partners and ideas coming out of civil society, think tanks, universities, that are going to be, you know, central to not only pushing the debate in terms of what green recovery could mean, and be realized in a practical sense. But they're also going to be the watchdogs. And they're going to be the ones analyzing and showing, hey, you use all this wonderful rhetoric about moving towards renewables and getting the Paris Agreement action plan on course. But the reality is, and I fully expect some good analysis to come even within the first six months of 2021.Kimberly WhiteWell, I'm looking forward to seeing how everything plays out for sure. I'm excited to see all these new commitments, and the time for action is now, so hopefully, we start to see that happen. So let's move on to my next question. The tensions resulting from our global interdependence confront us with the need to redefine the global commons. Do you agree that we need a new legal and political theory based on the commons to make it possible to explain and harmonize these tensions?Richard PonzioYou know, global commons, it's been around I believe, if I'm not mistaken, it's the Law of the Sea treaty, debated throughout the 1970s adopted treaty signed in 1982. And even today, not all countries are adhering to it or even fully ratified members. But the terminology continues, and it's at the heart of the recognition that we have interdependence. Among first and foremost states is the major actor in global governance today and how issues are being addressed. But for redefining the global commons today, it's going to have a lot to do with getting it into an instrument like the Global Pact for the Environment. But I think having non-state actors, having corporations of various kinds, not just the multinational but small and medium-sized enterprises that at the national level, those even operating at the local have some degree of appreciation, understanding of this concept of a global commons. Introducing it then, in an instrument, like the Global Pact for the Environment, absolutely will have all kinds of legal and political implications. And maybe in a practical sense, it will be then translated in ways that people then can connect local thinking and certainly local action to the notion of global commons, which needs to translate, of course, into global action. And in terms of environmental issues, sustainability, linkages, with all of the issues we noted earlier today. The health crisis that we're facing at the present moment, issues of peace and security that, you know, everybody thinks it's conflicts that are driving refugee movements and migration today. It's very much environmental factors that are also at the forefront, and of course, it can lead to a vicious circle where these issues are all interdependent just as countries. Consequently, countries are interdependent because the issues that consume their nation's populace, consume political leaders, are all issues that have an often certainly regional and many times global dimension. And until we start to refine concepts such as a global commons, we're not going to, I think, be able to upgrade our political institutions and regional and global levels to be more effective on essentially collective action, problem solving. So these are absolutely fundamental steps that will have a strong basis in legal and political theory. If, you know, they're both to be understood first and foremost by scholars and academics who care about legal and political theory. But then to translate it into practical tools and applications and things that will affect everyday people's lives will be front and center, and how political leaders look at these issues. I think we're talking about something that will take time. But it will be nothing less than a transformation in how we analyze, and then the types of recommendations we put forward for addressing fundamental challenges such as the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, and even in the near term issues of great concern related to recovery from the pandemic.Kimberly WhiteA very much needed transformation. We've talked a lot about the crises facing our global community today. How would the framework proposed by the Common Home of Humanity help us to tackle these challenges?Richard PonzioI think it is designed as a community of great thinkers from across different disciplines, who really are starting to see that working in their individual silos and specific areas of expertise has great limitations and to combine the intellectual power of this community to policymaking processes, beginning with the Global Pact for the Environment, it's just fortuitous that there was an initiative within certain countries. And I believe the Office of the Secretary-General, countries such as Portugal, where the Secretary-General is from, playing a leading role in advancing the notion of the pact for the global environment. It's absolutely critical that these ideas are not kept in a parallel divorced channel that is not engaging governments and senior International Civil Servants working on the same energy issues. We need to bridge the gap marry these two communities and ensure that the Common Home of Humanity to realize its full potential is at the forefront of shaping this particular instrument, the Global Pact for the Environment, in the near term. And then there will be a considerable amount of work after its adoption. Many of us hope that the historic 50th anniversary of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, coming up in 2022, one would hope the Swedish government, champion on many of these issues will be hosting a meeting in its capital Stockholm to celebrate, but more importantly, talk about the next phase in the agenda that was started way back in 1972 in Stockholm. So a natural follow on and a new generation of action could follow from not only what we've been discussing in terms of the upgrade and central importance of taking the Paris Climate Agreement to the next level. But I would say a parallel track but intersecting in many ways will be this instrument, the Global Pact for the Environment, which then touches upon the other major convention starting with biodiversity, action plans on desertification, all kinds of other pollution-related issues. We need to look holistically at a whole range of environmental concerns and not just fixate on the climate crisis alone. We can't solve one without the other. And then the same thing can be said, of getting beyond the environmental challenges and dealing with, of course, the governance framework and how the UN and governments are consumed with many other challenges on a daily basis besides climate or a host of other environmental concerns. And we need to be not only cognizant of that, but make the case that the security challenges of the future, the human rights agenda, which is front and center of what the United Nations is all about.Continuing to reduce extreme poverty, especially in light of the pandemic, which has led to huge economic dislocation and upending the sustenance of millions, if not billions, of people worldwide. Informal economies and the regulated economies of the world, they absolutely need government leaders, decision-makers, especially in policy bodies, such as the United Nations need to see the connections because this is what's going to consume governments and leaders and diplomats for the coming years, dealing with these fundamental day to day survival challenges. And just like, if you're in the middle of something on the scale of a World War, you're going to just focus on that and addressing that and everything else put to the wayside. No, we need to be able to focus on climate and other environmental concerns. The pace of biodiversity loss is just staggering, and it's going to have untold consequences. So the way to address those is, again, getting back to first principles. Things like the Global Pact for the Environment can contribute significantly. And really rethink then how we want our international institutions and then the governments that are part of that, to behave and to act and to deliver on the most crucial challenges of our time. They need to look in an interdisciplinary way across the whole set of environmental concerns. But then the connections, as I noted, with other major baskets of issues, in the security, economic, human rights, even cultural domain, they all have an effect on whether or not we succeed in combating the climate crisis, arguably the biggest challenge the UN has seen since its creation in 1945.Kimberly WhiteThe legal framework proposed by the Common Home of Humanity can really help create a system of accountancy to support agreements like the Paris Agreement, a global deal for nature, and much more, as you mentioned earlier.Richard PonzioI think it gets to the heart of what I feel is missing. I subscribe to the arguments that the founders of the United Nations had in 1945 when they were trying to build a system that responded to the Second World War, but really the failure of international governance in the form of the League of Nations, which was of course created in the immediate aftermath of another world war, the Great War 1914 to 1918. And they really made everything based on the consensus of all the member states at that time, of course, dominated by colonial powers. But the reality is, it created paralysis, and nothing could get done if everybody had veto. And so it's definitely criticized today, the Security Council with the dominance of the permanent five powers of Russia, China, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, questions about whether or not they deserve to have not only the permanent seat on the Security Council, which is again, the only body that allows for binding, enforceable international law through its decisions, but the use of veto power. That compromise was absolutely fundamental to create the UN back in 1945. There are some important lessons we have to balance, pragmatic, real politic with more progressive notions of how international governance should be organized. But applying that to the climate crisis, the environmental crisis, I know that there's incredible thinking and innovation in the Paris Climate Agreement, I'm not at all wishing to denigrate the progress, and I do celebrate the achievement that it represented back in 2015. But the jury is still very much out whether or not governments will ratchet up their commitments as expected, and most importantly, the verification procedures; there's talk that that itself would be enforceable, somehow, someway over time.Well, that gets to the heart of how we empower our international governance system. And there's nothing akin to what I was discussing in the Security Council domain—and being able to, as an international community, take action collectively to enforce binding international laws. There's no parallel now to the biggest challenge of our time, the climate crisis. So while we're not going to create a global climate security type council and have just a few major countries dominated, that's not what we're proposing. But we need to see, what was the thinking even from 75 years ago, or even more recent times, the conventions on political, civil, cultural, economic, social rights of the 1970s. There's lessons in recent years, the Law of the Sea treaty, and the type of tribunal that they set up for dispute settlement mechanism. There probably are some really strong arguments that we need similar types of institutional innovations. But first things first, we need to get common principles to be revisited, updating the global commons notion, and really begin to take forward this notion of the common concern of humankind and making sure that its legal status is upgraded. And that's where initiatives like the Common Home for Humanity can really make a significant and timely contribution.Kimberly WhiteExcellent. Thank you, Richard. Before we go, is there anything else you would like to share with our audience?Richard PonzioYes, I'll conclude by saying alongside the opportunity presented by the 50th anniversary of the Stockholm conference on the human environment, so that would be in 2022. We're hoping that an outcome of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations when I say we, my research program at the Stimson Center think tank, of course. But we're working with many other partners and civil society, the Together First campaign, UN 2020, all of which are familiar with and supportive of what the Common Home of Humanity is all about. But these groups are going to get behind a very important report of the Secretary-General that was mandated by member states this past September. And it is on the follow through to the 12 commitments at the heart of the UN 75 declaration. Protecting Mother Earth is the second major commitment, ensuring no country, no people are left behind I think is the exact formulation, but it's the first commitment. But that's not only speaking to the pandemic and recovery but how the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement are critical to recovery and to the issues that we discussed today, beginning with the climate and biodiversity crisis. So the opportunity presented by this initiative is something that I hope your listeners will follow closely. The report of the Secretary-General is expected to be out by September, and many of us are already hoping for a more ambitious and more serious intergovernmental process than the UN75 declaration. It was a very important first step. It was catalytic, and it was during very difficult times of rising nationalism, not to mention the pandemic. So we applaud what was achieved, and we were pleased to be part of that process. But we believe it needs to kick off a much more serious intergovernmental and multi-stakeholder process of global governance innovation. And we'll see what form it takes and how long will we need it, certainly before the 80th anniversary of the United Nations in 2025. We would like to see some significant changes which, over time, can be even labeled transformative. But first things first, many of these institutional machinery changes of the international system and not just the UN, but the linkages to the G20, the World Trade Organization, the Bretton Woods institutions, it's absolutely fundamental that we look at the system as a whole. And perhaps alongside the work on the Global Pact for the Environment and the Stockholm plus 50 Review Conference, we might be seeing a parallel institutional change process coming off of the Secretary General's mandated UN75 follow through report. So keep our eye on that process and try to get involved and know that we could be turning the corner to creating the institutions that are fundamental for today's 21st-century challenges, rather than, you know, a 20th-century structure of global governance, which is very much about diplomats and states running the show. I think the new model of global governance, a multi-stakeholder one, something that I believe is at the heart of the Common Home of Humanity project; it's absolutely critical. We are long overdue and need these kinds of important changes to create a more inclusive system of global governance that really delivers results for all people and especially the most vulnerable.Kimberly WhiteAll right, and there you have it. Globally, we are going through a climate emergency, devastating biodiversity loss, and a health crisis. Evidence shows us how interconnected these issues are, showcasing the need for global solidarity and action to solve these shared challenges. The Global Pact for the Environment can be the necessary instrument that leads to ambitious changes critical to addressing our planet's greatest challenges. That is all for today, and thank you for joining us for this episode of Common Home Conversations Beyond UN75. Please subscribe, share, and be sure to tune in next week to continue the conversation with our special guest, Klaus Bosselmann, Director of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law at the University of Auckland. And visit us at www.ThePlanetaryPress.com for more episodes and the latest news in sustainability, climate change, and the environment.
1 minutes | 4 months ago
Richard Ponzio Interview Promo Clip
40 minutes | 5 months ago
Prue Taylor, Deputy Director of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law
Interview TranscriptTranscribed by Otter AIKimberly White Hello and welcome to Common Home Conversations. Today we are joined by Prue Taylor, Deputy Director of the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law. Prue is also a member of the IUCN Commission of Environmental Law and its Ethics Specialist Group. She was awarded the outstanding achievement award from the IUCN in recognition of her contribution as a world pioneer on law, ethics, and climate change. Thank you for joining us today! Prue Taylor You're very welcome, Kimberly.Kimberly WhiteSo climate change doesn't recognize borders; it spans our globe reaching the most remote corners, affecting all of us. It's happening now, and it's happening everywhere. And it's happening at an alarming rate. Can you tell us about some of the adverse effects of climate change you're seeing in New Zealand?Prue TaylorAbsolutely, I can, because they're happening on a daily basis. And they're happening here in New Zealand in ways that are increasingly dramatic. And there is a growing acceptance that the impacts of climate change that we're seeing here in New Zealand are, in fact, associated with, you know, changes to global atmospheric temperatures. So what we're seeing in New Zealand, temperature increases, which are manifesting in more extreme drought events. So these drought events are longer than more severe, and they're more frequent. And that's really impacting us as a nation because we're essentially still an agricultural nation. But also, our large urban areas are really starting to suffer. And Auckland City, which is our biggest urban area in New Zealand, is, as we speak, in the middle of a really serious water crisis. So there are a lot of water restrictions for us and the city right now. On the flip side of the coin, we're seeing a lot of extreme rainfall events; when the rain comes, it really comes. And that is exacerbating the flooding risk for New Zealand. New Zealand, as a country that is very, very prone to floods anyway, it's one of the significant natural hazards that we have. And climate change is accelerating and exacerbating those flooding events and risks. We're also seeing more frequent storms and much more storm damage. We're a long, narrow country in the middle of the massive Pacific Ocean. So we're seeing a lot of coastal damage. In terms of the ocean, which is very close to my heart, we're seeing increasing numbers of ocean heatwaves. So that is really where areas of the ocean are warming up very, very significantly around New Zealand. So we see some parts of the ocean around New Zealand with very elevated ocean temperatures between around four to five degrees Celsius higher than they would normally be. And that's really, really a dramatic climate change impact. But probably the climate change impact that has really galvanized New Zealanders recently has been wildfires. Now wildfires is not something that New Zealand has really experienced very much in the past, unlike, of course, Australia. But very recently, we've had a number of wildfires impacting urban areas, not just our forestry sector, but also our urban areas. And that's really started to focus the attention of New Zealanders on climate change impacts. And all of this has to be seen in a context which is quite unique to New Zealand. And that is that we're in the middle of the massive Pacific Ocean, which means that to some degree, ocean function does protect us from some of the most dramatic impacts of climate change. In other words, the Pacific Ocean has been seen traditionally as a moderating element that would kind of insulate us somewhat from the impacts of increased global atmospheric temperature change. So it seems as though we're not as insulated and protected by the Pacific Ocean as we had thought we might be.Kimberly WhiteThat's interesting. We've seen wildfires in California, and you know, we see some significant flooding in Florida from climate change. One of the most interesting videos I think we've seen is from Miami. During the king tide a few years ago, there was a lot of flooding, and they filmed an octopus in a parking garage. Prue TaylorYeah, yeah. Sometimes when you see those, you get those images of something dramatically out of place. They shock your consciousness, don't they?Kimberly WhiteDefinitely. I think that was a wake-up call for a lot of people down in Miami for sure. As a professor and expert in international environmental law, do you think we need a new legal innovation to address the global climate and biodiversity crises?Prue TaylorYes, I mean, if we open our eyes, and we look at the situation that we're currently in with, you know, massive decline and our ecological systems and, you know, the sorts of climate change impacts that I've just talked about. When we look at where we're at and what we're experiencing, what natural systems, what's happening to natural systems; How could we not acknowledge that we need some fundamental, fundamental change to our law and governance systems? I mean, to deny that we need change is to deny reality. And answering this question of governance absolutely, we need fundamental change. And, you know, I've been working in this area for 30 years, and I can honestly say, I feel that we are going backward. Okay, we've made some incremental improvements in some areas. And, you know, we have those incremental improvements in some areas. If we focus on those, we could say, well, we've achieved something. Something better than if we had had no international law and governance in this area. But frankly, when you look at it at an, you know, a level of accumulated impacts, and pace and scale, when really all we've been doing in the last 30 years, is an accelerated version of a really 1970s pollution control kind of approach, where we just look at continuing business as usual, but finding ways to mitigate or reduce harm, and I call this the do less harm approach. But what happens is, over time and scale, that less harm accumulates and accelerates and in combination with other harms and degradation to connected ecological systems. Everything is driving downwards. Everything is spiraling downwards. And the other fundamental or another fundamental failure of our existing law and governance framework, which really calls out for change, is the barrier that's inherent in the system. Where nation-states grudgingly negotiate what they're prepared to do or what they're not prepared to do through or from the perspective of national self-interest. There is no sense of collective responsibility for the benefit of everyone that needs to qualify how we exercise national self-interest. So this kind of grudging, incremental, piecemeal negotiation of ecological crises, as they suddenly become apparent in isolation from other ecological crises, is imperiling our existence and imperiling the earth system, so we have to change.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely. And with the pandemic, we see how interconnected everything is. These aren't standalone issues.Prue TaylorYep, absolutely right. They're not standalone issues. But I think they, you know; COVID really demonstrates the magnitude of what's going on and the pace of what's happening. And therefore the scope of change that's required. Kimberly WhiteSo how can the knowledge developed by Earth System Sciences and the definition of the earth system core drivers, the planetary boundaries, influence the concept of global commons?Prue TaylorI think that Earth System Science enables us to see what we intuitively knew existed before but couldn't really adequately define and comprehend. So Earth System Science has given us a firm scientific basis to help us understand, comprehend, and define that we as humanity share a global ecological commons. So Earth System Science is crucial to that idea of a shared global ecological commons. But that global ecological commons is very complex. And it's an interconnected system that we can now see operates at multiple scales, but ultimately, it operates at a planetary scale. And what Earth System Science helps us understand is at a very, very fundamental level, that what we do everywhere, and anywhere, impacts that shared global commons. So Earth System Science they're taking this to sort of another level. Earth System Science helps us understand that we have a shared global ecological commons that supports and is the basis for all life. So it's a commons that we are part of as human beings, and we share with all life. However, Earth System Science also helps us comprehend and define and increasingly measure that this shared global commons is under very serious threat from the collective actions of humanity. Not from some evil god or some other source, but from the collective action of humanity. At another level, again, for me, what Earth System Science helps us to comprehend is, the earth system is a very fundamental part of our home. And this is our home, of course, that we share with all humanity and all life that we're having detrimental impacts on. But Earth System Science helps us understand our home as something of incredible beauty. That, in fact, Earth System Science is part of the miracle of life on planet Earth. And this is a very, very precious thing that we share, it is a precious inheritance if you like, and we have to respect this and have a responsible attitude towards this precious inheritance. So ultimately, Earth System Science helps us understand that what we do to the earth system we do to ourselves. And if we treasure it, and nurture it and work towards its benefit, then we are, in fact, acting consistently with and responsibly towards the Earth. For the benefit of all. Kimberly WhiteHow can our oceans, already recognized as a global common, become a model when thinking about international law and governance?Prue TaylorWell, first of all, in answering that question, we have to begin by acknowledging, unfortunately, that current law and governance regimes for the oceans are deeply flawed. These law and governance regimes for the oceans, they share many of the problems of international environmental law. So I'd like to begin by saying, well, current law and governance for the ocean is deeply flawed. We can really better understand the potential of understanding the ocean as a global commons; if we step away from that traditional law and governance regime and think very deeply about how the ocean works as one interconnected ecosystem, one interconnected global ecosystem. So when we think of the ocean, it has a very fluid nature, and it connects all nations, and it connects all humanity. And ultimately, it operates as one system. And when we really get our heads around that incredible interconnectedness, then that really stands in stark contrast. And it defies the efforts of nation-states to continue to claim that their territorial rights and their sovereign rights can be exercised in a way that denies that reality. And other words can be exercised, irrespective of the interconnectedness of the ocean. So I think what's really interesting about the ocean is that when we sit down and think about it, it's an incredible model, at a different scale for the way the earth system works as an interconnected global commons. And although for many of us, it's because human beings are often very focused on land, and biodiversity on land. For many of us, that territorial focus that we have, that land focus that we have, as human beings, takes us a while to really understand the magnitude of the oceans as a massive system. But once we do, I think that becomes a very good model that we can then get our heads around and use to help us to understand sort of the next level up the planetary scale of the earth system. I think also when we focus on the ocean, we can see it as a living system that can exhibit signs of good health, that's well functioning systems. But equally, we're starting to see that the ocean as an interconnected system can exhibit the signs of poor or bad health or degradation. And even in places, we can see parts of the ocean ecosystems dying. So I think sometimes, when we talk about Earth System Science, it can seem to be at a scale that is very difficult to comprehend. And to help us with that, we can begin by understanding how the ocean operates as a massive global ecological system that connects us all and then use that to help scale up our understanding and our thinking. And there's one other way in which the ocean is really important here. And that is that the ocean is an incredibly important element and the way the whole earth system operates. So it is one of those sorts of mega elements within the world, system if you like. So I think that's also a way in which an understanding of the ocean as a global commons that's interconnected, connects us, and whatever we do, wherever we are in relation to the ocean, impacts the whole. I think that that framework for understanding helps us get our head around the earth system and what's happening with the earth system in a manageable way. Kimberly WhiteAnd I think, you know, when you're talking about those impacts of that shared responsibility, it reminds me of the plastic pollution crisis, almost. Because we all have these plastic bottles, and you throw them in the bin, and they go away, but they never really go away. They may be out of your sight, but they exist somewhere, continuing to cause problems for someone else. All life on Earth shares global ecological commons, and we can now clearly define the interconnectedness of the earth system. It is time to take the next step in terms of law and governance to confront the global climate and biodiversity crisis. Do you think the common heritage concept for the earth system would better enable us to manage these crises that we and future generations face?Prue TaylorYes, I do for a number of reasons. So, first of all, the common heritage is a very powerful existing legal concept. So it is a concept that we have international law and governance and have had for many decades. It was originally developed for exactly the sort of issues that we currently confront. So it was originally developed as a legal concept for a global ecological Commons. And that is for the ocean as one interconnected system. So that was its original scope if you like. And what the common heritage required was that states should act collectively, according to a management regime. And that management regime for the ocean required states to act in an ecologically responsible way, not for their own benefit as states but for the benefit of all humanity and for the benefit of all life. So what the common heritage regime did was recognize the oceans as a precious common inheritance that we all have responsibility for. And what this meant, then, was that the priority for human use of the ocean as an interconnected ecological system, no matter where that use occurred, the priority of that human use became one of managing our activities consistently with achieving ecological benefits for humanity and for all human life. So the focus of common heritage, as it was originally developed, was very much centered on a shared global ecological Commons that we have to manage collectively in a responsible way. To ensure that the ecological Commons flourishes and benefits and that the benefits are enjoyed and shared by all. Now, that doesn't mean that states could not use ocean ecological systems. But the use of those systems, the priority of the use of those systems was to ensure the functioning, the ecological functioning of those ocean systems continued.Kimberly WhiteNow, you've said that we need new global governance and law that brings humanity together to achieve ecological benefits. How can the Earth System approach to the Global Pact for the Environment be the conceptual evolution to give sense to these initiatives, goals, and holistic approaches?Prue TaylorWe've talked already about how Earth System Science helps us understand that we share an interconnected global ecological Commons. And we've also talked about how Earth System Science helps us understand the massive detrimental impact that we're currently having on that shared global commons. What Earth System Science also enables us to comprehend and really, really come to grips with is that we need to take a very transformative approach to law and governance. And by transformative, I mean, we really need to change so that we put the function of the earth system, at the very center of our law and governance framework. And we have to look at that centering and prioritizing of the earth system, in terms of, how do we now work to achieve benefits for the earth system? So this is so radical that we're essentially flipping the objective of our law and governance framework on its head, to be really placing the functioning of the earth system at the core of what we're trying to achieve, and so much at the core that we can't just continue to approach it from a perspective of how can we do what we currently do while doing less harm, but rather, we need to now change that priority to being how do we manage ourselves and everything we do in a way that also returns a benefit to ecological systems and to the earth system. So in simple terms, what Earth System Science can help us better understand in terms of the transformative changes that we have to make, can come down to this we have to start asking ourselves, what can we do for the earth system? Not solely, what does the earth system do for us. And by taking this approach and applying it to the global pact, we can take law and governance beyond a 19th century, 20th-century approach where we consider the problems that we face through the very sort of incremental, narrow, piecemeal focus, essentially of pollution control and wanting to continue business as usual. So all of that could change if we really applied an earth system approach and saw its transformative potential to law and governance and as a new conceptual basis for the global pact. So another way of understanding this, I like to use the example of farming. A farming example can help understand this transformative change, I think. So a traditional model of a good farmer enabled a farmer to use the land for sustenance and use the land for benefit. But the traditional farmer also understood that their responsibility included ensuring that that use of the land occurred in a way that also built up the health of the soil for present generations and for future generations. So this idea of using resources but also returning a benefit, at the same time to the ecological systems that supported human use, were not mutually exclusive; they were part of a whole system. So use rights are a privilege. And there is a responsibility to ensure the continued health and well being of the whole so that those use rights could continue to deliver human health and well-being. These were not mutually exclusive things they've worked together and in unison. And as that sort of thinking and management of human activities everywhere, at every scale, that we need to return to and Earth System Science helps us to get there.Kimberly WhiteExcellent points. And you're absolutely right. It's time to shift away from that business as usual mindset that got us in this mess in the first place. So it's time to, you know, transform our systems and shift towards more sustainable options. Now, speaking of transformation, do you think that we can transform the law to overcome our territorial obsessions so that humanity can exercise at an international level connected responsibility for our impacts on the earth?Prue TaylorYes, we can do this. Yes, we can absolutely do this. But we have to want to do this enough. And we have to want to do this before we are forced to do this. And my concern is, if we don't develop this collective willingness to make these changes, very, very soon, then our opportunities to come together outside of a terrible emergency situation become greatly diminished. So we have a window of opportunity, but we have to recognize that as a window of opportunity and really want to do this. And if we want to do this enough, we can do this. There's nothing, I can't see anything that stands in our way apart from our willingness to do this, and our belief, and our understanding that this will benefit everybody if we do this well together. We can shape a law and governance regime that will be for the benefit of everyone. We can do that. We just have to want to do that badly enough. And we have to believe that human beings can act collectively together for the common good, that we are cooperative, collective thinkers, that we are capable of this. We have to believe in ourselves. Kimberly WhiteAnd you know, I think, internationally right now, we do see some countries, New Zealand being one of them, really at the forefront of climate leadership. As I mentioned earlier, I'm in the U.S., and we've been dealing with a lot of climate inaction. So a lot of that has to do with this political will. And I think we as a civil society, academia, corporate world, etc., we all need to come together to make our voices heard and demand this change. Because at this point,, this is the moment, this is the time for action. We don't have time to waste anymore. Prue TaylorYeah, I also think it's very important that we think about the problems that we have, and we communicate the problems that we have as fundamentally ethical issues and issues of justice, not just scientific issues or economic issues. I mean, that sort of framing, it really creates a barrier to people's willingness to stand up and demand change, right?Kimberly WhiteDefinitely.Prue TaylorI think that's where, you know, some of these youth movements are starting to shake things up, particularly in the climate change context. Because for so long, our ability to collaborate, to you know, really develop responses to climate change have been inhibited because we've been constantly approaching them from the perspective of; what is the science, what are the economic realities, blah, blah, blah, but omitting to really see these issues as very much issues of justice for present and future generations, no matter where those generations are.Kimberly WhiteAbsolutely, I think we see many of the youth come out, and I think that's been overwhelmingly a positive thing. Because they're forcing us to have those hard conversations that I think we've typically avoided. So we're definitely in an interesting time, especially with COVID. We're starting to see more talk with the recovery efforts, and hopefully, that talk leads to action. Because at this point, we've had a lot of talk, but we need a lot more action. A stable climate is a manifestation of a well-functioning earth system. Can we utilize the common heritage concept to the earth system as a whole? And can the evolution and redefinition of the concept of global commons be the base for a new global legal framework?Prue TaylorMy answer to that is yes. But a fundamental key to utilizing the common heritage concept is to understand its scope and its intention, as it was originally developed. So we need to understand common heritage as it was originally developed, and as it was initially intended, and not allow ourselves to be distracted by some of the very narrow and limited legal interpretations that emerged around common heritage in the 1970s and the 1980s. So, in short, to unleash the really great potential of the common heritage concept. We need to not be distracted by some of the restricted uses that have been imposed upon it. But to go back to its original scope and its original intention, and to understand that it's at its very essence, common heritage is about collective ecological responsibilities for the benefit of all and that those collective responsibilities, they apply no matter where human activities occur. And what the common heritage concept tells us or reminds us, there's something very, very challenging for traditional international law. Common heritage tells us that territorial sovereignty can no longer be used as a justification to not fulfill those common responsibilities or as a justification for abdication of responsibility. So common heritage really does transform ideas around territorial sovereignty and sovereign rights and imposes upon our understanding of territorial sovereignty, this deep, collective responsibility to work for the benefit of all that does not mean that a state doesn't have sovereignty over its territory; it qualifies the exercise of that territorial sovereignty in a way that ensures, first and foremost a collective benefit is the priority is the objective. Kimberly WhiteWhat was it about the proposal from the Common Home of Humanity that stood out to you and made you decide to join this initiative?Prue TaylorWhat the Common Home of Humanity does is it brings together Earth System Science with law and governance, and it attempts to transform the existing system. So it doesn't try and tweak or compromise our existing law and governance system. It brings these things together in a way that will potentially lead to a transformative change in terms of what are our central priorities, what are our collective responsibilities? How do we get beyond business as usual and focus on returning a benefit to a deeply interconnected but deeply degraded earth system? So it has that potential to really lead very significant transformative change. And that makes it very exciting. And it means to me that we are finally getting to a point where science is coming together with law and governance. And it's coming together in a way that goes beyond enhanced business as usual techniques to changes that are truly, truly transformative because they have put the functioning of the earth system at the very center of everything. We do everything we think about the very, very center of human existence.When I started researching and writing about international environmental law 30 years ago, I started with a focus on climate change. That was my issue if you like, and at that time, we really didn't have a good understanding of the earth operating as one interconnected system. Right. We tried to use words like a global environment, or a global commons, or Gaia. But you know, we were always kind of struggling with a conceptual framework and a scientific framework around which we could demonstrate that what people and nation states do and don't do within their legal territories has a dramatic impact on the whole and therefore is our responsibility and concern of the whole humanity. So, Earth System Science is sort of a bit of when we really understand it as sort of a eureka moment, because it says, well, actually, this does exist. And it does operate in this way. And it is capable of being decimated and degraded, but equally, it is capable of recovery. And, you know, perhaps we have focused a little bit too much on the on, you know, the extent to which we have harmed the earth system. But in talking about returning a benefit, I think, you know, that's not just a nice idea. The fact is that, if we do start returning benefits to these systems, they are capable of recovery; they really are capable of recovery. And so the key message is that by working towards the benefit of a well-functioning earth system, we're not giving up things, losing things; we're actually working towards positive outcomes for everybody. So I think it's a science that helps us focus on the potential of the positive. Right. And that's very powerful. The way we frame our responses to issues like climate change at the moment is always focused on the negative or the incremental and the negative, not the positive, transformative.Kimberly WhiteAll right, and there you have it. When we look at the situation that we're currently in with the climate crisis and the massive decline in biodiversity and ecological systems, it's clear that we need fundamental change to our law and governance systems. To deny that we need change is to deny reality. And by taking the Earth System approach and applying it to the global pact, we can bring about the transformative changes we need to law and governance for the common good. We can do this. That is all for today, and thank you for joining us for this episode of Common Home Conversations Beyond UN75. Please subscribe, share, and be sure to tune in next week to continue the conversation with our special guest, Richard Ponzio, Director of the Just Security 2020 Program at the Stimson Center. And visit us at www.ThePlanetaryPress.com for more episodes and the latest news in sustainability, climate change, and the environment.
1 minutes | 5 months ago
Prue Taylor Interview Promo Clip
Terms of Service
Do Not Sell My Personal Information
© Stitcher 2021