Earth-system governance

London: A group of scientists is calling for a fundamental overhaul in the way international environmental issues are decided, including reforming the UN bodies and decision-making processes to make them fairer and more effective at providing a sustainable future. The 32 authors of The Earth System Governance Project write in this week’s issue of Science magazine that reducing the risk of potential global environmental disaster requires a “constitutional moment” comparable in scale and importance to the reform of international governance that followed World War II.

The article, ‘Navigating the Anthropocene: Improving earth system governance‘, says we need these urgent changes to cope with food and water security problems before tipping points are reached on planetary boundaries, such as climate change. The authors suggest upgrading the UN Environment Programme and creating a UN Sustainable Development Council, as well as allowing qualified majority voting on important UN decisions to stop countries from blocking progressive action on, say, emissions reductions as happened at Copenhagen in 2009.

It’s not the first time, scientists have called for change to how humanity manages environmental stewardship – there have been calls for an International Court for the Environment, for example – but in the run-up to the Rio+20 conference this June, perhaps more people are listening and thinking about how we might better manage our globalised economies, land, water and air.

Global efforts are perhaps coming of age: polio has been almost wiped out, the Millennium Development Goals on poverty reduction and access to clean water have been met ahead of schedule, and we have had successes in action on stratospheric ozone depletion and nuclear testing in the past. Now we need more joined up governance on the complicated interconnected issues that threaten us all. The question is: will Rio+20 governments deliver with the same post-WWII commitment?



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