Newsletter of the
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Volume 23, Number 9 --- 15 September 2021
Article submission: email@example.com Deadline next issue 10 October 2021
Secretariat Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Christine Muller General Secretary
Postal address: 12B Chemin de Maisonneuve, CH-1219 Chatelaine, Geneva, Switzerland
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From the Editor, Request for information for upcoming newsletters
This newsletter is an opportunity for IEF members to share their experiences, activities, and initiatives that are taking place at the community level on environment, climate change and sustainability. All members are welcome to contribute information about related activities, upcoming conferences, news from like-minded organizations, recommended websites, book reviews, etc. Please send information to email@example.com.
Please share the Leaves newsletter and IEF membership information with family, friends and associates, and encourage interested persons to consider becoming a member of the IEF.
The IEF warmly welcomes the following new members and associates:
Darren Hedley, Canada
Joanna Goh, Malaysia
Foyasal Khan, Bangladesh
Oyenekan Oluwafemi, Nigeria,
G. Sanjana Reddy, India
IEF Conference Announcement
This year's IEF Conference will take place in connection with COP26 in the first week of November. Look out for more details about the program in the October newsletter. The IEF General Assembly will be on October 30. These events will be help online, at least for the most part.
9th IEF Webinar
The 9th IEF Webinar was a discussion on The Recent IPCC Report – What Are Its Practical and Spiritual Implications? It took place on 28 August 2021. The discussion was very lively and interesting. As it was not recorded, there is a brief summary/commentary which you can read below.
There will be no IEF webinars in September and October as IEF is preparing for the Annual Conference.
Recordings of Past Webinars are posted on the IEF webinar playlist: https://tinyurl.com/7p09o73q
The Recent IPCC Report – What Are Its Practical and Spiritual Implications?
IEF August 2021 Webinar Discussion
Summary and Commentary by IEF Member Christine Muller
The 9th IEF webinar discussed the recently released 6th Assessment Report of Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. These discussions are not recorded, so here is a brief summary and commentary for all those who have missed it.
There were 20 participants coming from Zimbabwe, USA, Switzerland, Iran, France (Corsica), China, and Canada.
We started the gathering with watching a 2 min. video at the following link: https://www.carbonbrief.org/in-depth-qa-the-ipccs-sixth-assessment-repo…
By the way, the information which this link provides about the recent IPCC AR6 WG1 is one of the very best and I can warmly recommend it!
It is impossible to convey all the topics that were covered in 1 hour and 40 minutes. Here are my recollections and thoughts about three subjects discussed:
The discussion started off with the huge problem of water scarcity in many areas of the world. It was pointed out that, in addition to climate change, water mismanagement is a huge problem such as the diversion of water for irrigation of unsustainable crops which contributed to the shrinking of Lake Urmia in Iran, and the depletion of aquifers, many of them not replenishable. Lack of knowledge/education as well as corruption have played a major role in that water crisis. Our participant from Iran emphasized that we cannot separate climate change from other environmental and social problems. They are all interconnected. Therefore, we need to address these issues in a holistic way. We may want to add here that the holistic approach also needs to be used in efforts for adaptation – such as measures to improve living conditions in drought stricken areas – and mitigation which aims to reduce carbon emissions or improves carbon sinks. Our participant from Zimbabwe addressed this with the idea of tree planting to help save water and also to respond to climate change, something which is already being pursued in some areas, but will certainly be beneficial in many more places.
One participant elaborated how materialism is the underlying cause of climate change and environmental destruction in general. He pointed out that 'Abdu'l-Baha led a life of voluntary simplicity. Another participant observed that several studies have proven that a consumer lifestyle does not make us happy. Writing this just reminded me of the words of the Universal House of Justice:
At all times, contentment and moderation, benevolence and fellow feeling, sacrifice and reliance on the Almighty are qualities that befit the God-fearing soul.
The forces of materialism promote a quite contrary line of thinking: that happiness comes from constant acquisition, that the more one has the better, that worry for the environment is for another day. These seductive messages fuel an increasingly entrenched sense of personal entitlement, which uses the language of justice and rights to disguise self-interest. Indifference to the hardship experienced by others becomes commonplace while entertainment and distracting amusements are voraciously consumed. The enervating influence of materialism seeps into every culture, and all Bahá’ís recognize that, unless they strive to remain conscious of its effects, they may to one degree or another unwittingly adopt its ways of seeing the world.
Universal House of Justice 1 March 2017 – To the Bahá’ís of the World
A participant brought the 29 Nov 2017 letter of the Universal House of Justice to our attention. The letter was a response to three individuals who questioned climate science and can serve as a wonderful example of how we can engage in a conversation with people who share a very different view. It starts by acknowledging their sincere intention and establishes common ground. Then it gently explains: “One of the most pressing problems of humanity in the current century is how a growing, rapidly developing, and not yet united global population can, in a just manner, live in harmony with the planet and its finite resources. … It is essential, therefore, that Bahá’ís contribute to thought and action regarding such matters.”
The Universal House of Justice then devotes a whole paragraph to the importance of science and states that there is a “striking degree of agreement among experts in relevant fields about the cause and impact of climate change.”
In the discussion, a participant observed that we are all on a path of becoming increasingly more aware, more knowledgeable about climate change, other environmental problems, and the dire state of our world. Respecting that environmental awareness varies greatly in good people from all backgrounds is a good foundation for unity. Another participant pointed to a quote in the same letter of the Universal House of Justice: "Even when there is agreement on some underlying facts, there may be a diversity of views about what to do in response to those facts". We accept the science and the need to act, but what those actions should be needs to reflect local realities and situations, which vary greatly.
A participant brought to our attention that “science, the laws of nature, and environmental issues are based in facts on how the earth operates. There are no 'politics', 'sides' or 'opinions.'” Spreading the truth that we cannot change the laws of Physics and that climate change should be a non-partisan issue may contribute to raising our collective understanding. Climate change is a matter of science and ethics and requires unified action from the local to the international level!
The discussion reminded me of the huge task in front of us: Continue to educate ourselves about climate change and how to address it with spiritual principles and a holistic approach, and to boldly share this knowledge and speak up for truth, justice, and climate action because we are in a planetary emergency as the recent IPCC report clearly documents.
Wilmette Institute Course:
Sustainable Development and Human Prosperity
The Wilmette Institute course on Sustainable Development starts on 16 September, but there is still time to register until 23 September. The participants who have registered so far come from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Malaysia, Ukraine, United Kingdom, the USA, and Switzerland. There are still plenty of open seats in this online classroom. Would you like to join them?
For more information about the course and to register, go here.
Concern at low ambition of biodiversity negotiations
Launch of Non-State Actor Call to Action
Organizations representing all corners of society from around the world came together in Marseille, France, on 7 September 2021 at the IUCN World Conservation Congress to issue an unprecedented joint call for governments to strengthen a draft global biodiversity agreement.
The post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework is currently being negotiated by governments under the auspices of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. It presents a once-in-a-decade opportunity for the world to secure a global agreement to halt and reverse the loss of nature, but the pace of negotiations has been slow.
The growing concern from leading organizations is over the lack of ambition displayed by governments negotiating the agreement. NGOs, faith groups, local and regional governments, Indigenous Peoples, academics, youth, business coalitions and artists, including the International Environment Forum, are united in calling for governments to deliver an ambitious agreement at COP15 that reverses biodiversity loss to secure a nature-positive world by 2030.
The launch event convened by non-state actors was addressed by speakers including Inger Anderson, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme; Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International; Lucy Mulenkei, Executive Director, Indigenous Information Network; and Sofia Sprechmann, Secretary General of Care International.
Human activities are causing a catastrophic loss of biodiversity, with one million species now threatened by extinction. This destruction of nature undermines its ability to support us, placing human health and livelihoods at risk.
The signatories, which include leading academics, stress that reversing biodiversity loss is a moral responsibility, but it will also help avoid future pandemics, fight climate change and land degradation, and enhance environmental security. Continued loss of nature threatens not only half of global GDP, but also our opportunities to uphold human rights, and reduce social and gender inequalities.
The strong presence of humanitarian and development organizations among the signatories reflects biodiversity loss’ role in undermining human security and the need for connected action for nature and people.
Crucially, the call to governments highlights the commitments made by many world leaders in the past year to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030, through the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature and the G7 2030 Nature Compact. Leaders are called on to deliver an ambitious global biodiversity agreement which acts on these commitments.
To secure a nature-positive world by 2030, governments are urged to include a nature-positive mission in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, and to ensure a rights-based approach, including to nature-based solutions and to conserving 30% of land, freshwater and seas by 2030.
Governments are further called on to ensure the final agreement tackles the drivers of biodiversity loss - including unsustainable agriculture and food systems, forestry, fisheries, infrastructure, and extractives - by securing a just transition that halves the footprint of production and consumption by 2030. Other key areas of the draft agreement that need strengthening include ensuring adequate financial resources and an effective implementation mechanism.
You can download the Call to Action, including the IEF signature, here, or read it below.
Based on WWF press release: https://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/press_releases/?3524966/100-organization…
Coral Reefs as a Model for Humanity
IEF Presentation at the Parliament of the World's Religions
17 October 2021
The 2021 Parliament of the World's Religions will be meeting on 16-17 October 2021 on the theme "Opening our Hearts to the World: Compassion in Action".
The Bahá'ís are as usual collaborating in the Parliament. IEF President Arthur Dahl is scheduled to give a presentation on Coral Reefs as a Model for Humanity on 17 October 2021 at 1:00 pm Central Time, 20:00 CEST.
In a world united by technology but fractured by many forms of intolerance, it is important to show the harmony and complementarity of science and religion in our search for solutions to modern problems. Nature has over millions of years learned unity in diversity, favoring cooperation over competition, and showing what principles can lead to a just and sustainable economy and society. The highly complex ecosystem of a coral reef that builds its own environment as a home for thousands of species can provide a meaningful model for humanity as we work for a world civilization founded on spiritual values.
We need compassion for both humanity and nature if we are to save the world for future generations. Seeing our spiritual values reflected in nature can inspire us both to save coral reefs from destruction by climate change, and to work for unity in diversity across our faith traditions, cultures and peoples.
The presentation will be richly illustrated with photographs of coral reefs taken by the presenter.
Secure and Equitable, Nature Positive, Net Zero World
Non-State Actors' Call for Governments to Strengthen
the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework
The International Environment Forum has endorsed the following joint call to action prepared by WWF International as governments negotiate a new post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to be approved at the Convention on Biological Diversity COP15 opening on 11 October and concluding in May 2022.
The science has never been clearer - systematic disregard for the environment and the rapid loss of biodiversity have pushed the natural world to its limits, helping trigger a planetary health crisis, and placing human health and livelihoods of current and future generations at risk.
Continued loss of nature threatens not only over half the global GDP, but also our opportunities to reduce social and gender inequalities, with the poorest and most vulnerable populations hit first and hardest. The loss of biodiversity and growing scarcity of natural resources, including through the expansion of resource extraction, insufficient political will, and sometimes exacerbated by armed conflict, undermines human security as it often leads to human rights abuses, including gender-based violence and violence against Indigenous Peoples and environmental defenders.
Reversing nature loss and addressing structural inequalities is therefore a moral responsibility. We must uphold nature’s spiritual, artistic and inherent values and rights of cultures, faiths and communities, and recognize the past and current contributions of Indigenous Peoples who have conserved much of the remaining biodiversity.
In the context of our dangerously unbalanced relationship with the planet, halting and rapidly reversing the loss of biodiversity to secure a nature-positive world by 2030 will also help avoid future global pandemics, fight climate change and land degradation, and enhance environmental security. It will also directly contribute to upholding human rights, including children’s rights, to adequate food, health, water and a healthy environment.
As non-state actors, we are deeply concerned at the lack of ambition among the government parties negotiating the first draft of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) to effectively address the nature crisis. We all need and demand a strong Framework. One which acts upon commitments made in the Leaders Pledge for Nature and the G7 2030 Nature Compact Communiqué to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.
Therefore, we are calling on governments to strengthen the first draft of the Global Biodiversity Framework ahead of CBD CoP 15 in Kunming to secure a nature-positive world by 2030, in support of climate action and the Sustainable Development Goals by:
• Including a nature-positive mission that commits the world to reverse biodiversity loss and improve the state of nature by 2030, against a 2020 baseline.
• Ensuring rights-based approaches: guaranteeing human rights, gender equality, Indigenous Peoples and local community rights, intergenerational equity, and recognizing children as equal stakeholders, ensuring their effective participation in decision-making processes.
• Ensuring rights-based approaches to nature-based solutions and to conserving 30% of land, freshwater, and seas by 2030.
• Directly tackling the drivers of nature loss - including unsustainable agricultural and food systems, forestry, fisheries, infrastructure, and extractives practices - by securing a just and sustainable transition that halves the impact of all that society produces and consumes by 2030.
• Committing adequate financial resources from all sources, and their appropriate allocation, including by eliminating all harmful subsidies by 2030.
• Securing a strong, effective, inclusive and transparent implementation mechanism that prioritizes bottom-up over top-down approaches, and that will allow for a ratcheting up of action over time.
World Scientist's Warning of a Climate Emergency
Summary and commentary by IEF President Arthur Dahl
An international group of leading scientists has been issuing warnings for thirty years of our growing environmental crises. After a "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity" in 1992, the Alliance of World Scientists (https://scientistswarning.forestry.oregonstate.edu/) issued a "World Scientists’ Warning: Second Notice" in 2017, and a "Scientists' Warning of a Climate Emergency" in 2019 (https://www.scientistswarning.org/), documenting the catastrophic trends in the world leading to a climate emergency and the need for rapid action. I was one of nearly fourteen thousand scientists in 158 countries to have signed up to that call, but it has not yet had much impact. At the end of July 2021, the authors have repeated their warning of a climate emergency, updating their data to show that most trends are still in the wrong direction. Click here for their full paper with all the graphs.
Among the worrying planetary vital signs, the number of ruminant livestock passed 4 billion, forest loss in the Brazilian Amazon accelerated to become a carbon source instead of a carbon sink, global GDP dipped during the pandemic but is expected to reach an all-time high, the reductions in fossil fuel use and air travel during the pandemic appear to be transient, greenhouse gases have set new concentration records in the atmosphere, 2020 was the second hottest year on record, and melting of Greenland, polar and glacier ice, and ocean heat content and sea level rise, have set new records.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as serious as it is, was not enough to affect the climate crisis. To respond to the climate emergency, the scientists call for immediate action to change course in six areas: (1) energy, eliminating fossil fuels and shifting to renewables; (2) short-lived air pollutants, slashing black carbon (soot), methane, and hydrofluorocarbons; (3) nature, restoring and permanently protecting Earth’s ecosystems to store and accumulate carbon and restore biodiversity; (4) food, switching to mostly plant-based diets, reducing food waste, and improving cropping practices; (5) economy, moving from indefinite GDP growth and overconsumption by the wealthy to ecological economics and a circular economy, in which prices reflect the full environmental costs of goods and services; and (6) human population, stabilizing and gradually reducing the population by providing voluntary family planning and supporting education and rights for all girls and young women. All transformative climate action should focus on social justice for all by prioritizing basic human needs and reducing inequality.
Why has the world not listened to the scientists? The warning could not be clearer, and as the recent IPCC report has shown, the evidence is overwhelming that the climate catastrophe is already underway. Bahá'u'lláh warned over a hundred years ago that material civilization carried to excess would be as great a source of evil as it had been of good when kept within the bounds of moderation. Our present economic system is in total contradiction to that concept, and in particular the lifestyle of the affluent. The UN and many leaders of thought have called for a fundamental transformation in society, but it is clear that science is not enough to motivate that. We need a fundamental change in values, which only a spiritual or religious renewal can bring about, and that is what the Bahá'ís are working towards from the grass-roots up, community by community, all around the world. As the climate emergency accelerates, let us hope that the renewal of civilization on new foundations can ultimately save us from the worst.
Climate Change, Faith and Science
The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) in collaboration with the Baha'i International Community (BIC) and United Religions Initiative (URI) will host a webinar on 16 September. IEF President Arthur Dahl will be among the speakers. See the poster below.
The Recent Climate Report - Elevate the Conversation!
By IEF Member Christine Muller
“Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.” - Baha'u'llah
The recent AR6 WG1 Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) documents the extreme threat of climate change. “Current concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere are higher than they have been for at least the past two million years.” That was the time before glaciation—and there were no humans on the planet. Human activities have already warmed the Earth on average by 1.1°C. Global warming is expected to hit 1.5°C “in the early 2030s.” And without reaching “net-zero” CO2 emissions—along with “strong reductions” in other greenhouse gases—the climate system will continue to warm. Every bit of warming will worsen the climate change impacts we are already experiencing such as more extreme heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods, and storms. Some climate impacts such as ocean acidification and sea level rise will even worsen “for millennia after global surface temperatures initially stabilise and are irreversible on human time scales.” “However, strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change. While benefits for air quality would come quickly, it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilize.”
What can we do? We can elevate our conversations by spreading knowledge about climate change and the need for climate action, and we can infuse these conversations with spiritual principles. The Bahá’í teachings provide us with spiritual guidance on how to approach climate change and with a vision of a civilization that is spiritual, just, and in harmony with nature. We have a goal to work for – and we can give hope for the future to others who may be in despair because of the scientific projections in the IPCC report.
The first step toward such meaningful conversations may be to learn more ourselves. This press release by the IPCC announcing its AR6 WG1 Report presents more information about the report and the current scientific knowledge about climate change: Climate change widespread, rapid, and intensifying – IPCC.
For exploring how to apply the Bahá’í teachings to climate change, here are some ideas:
1. The Wilmette Institute webinar about ”How can Spiritual Principles Save the Climate".
2. The website of the Bahá’í-inspired International Environment Forum provides numerous resources on climate change including a compilation of relevant Bahá’í quotations.
3. Two chapters of the online interfaith study course “Scientific and Spiritual Dimensions of Climate Change” specifically highlight the connections of specific spiritual principles to climate change: Spiritual and Practical Dimensions – The Individual and Spiritual and Practical Dimensions – The Role of Society.
Source: Wilmette Institute: https://wilmetteinstitute.org/the-recent-climate-report-elevate-the-con…
Water: Catalyst for Peace; Accelerator for Sustainability
By IEF Member Mark Griffin This year UN-Water released its latest set of SDG-6 Progress Reports for freshwater use, beginning in July with the Joint Monitoring Program (JMP) for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH), and in August with the remaining SDG-6 Target reports, listed in the Table below and in the infographic link. The 2030 Agenda with its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) came into effect in 2015, with progress indicators adopted in 2017. In general, SDG-6 progress is significantly off-track for 2030, and a recurring theme of “acceleration” refers to UN Water’s SDG-6 Global Acceleration Framework.
Those best suited to assess progress are designated as Custodian Agencies and are the primary authors of the reports. The JMP’s assessment of WASH addresses Targets 6.1 and 6.2 regarding drinking water, sanitation, hand washing, and hygiene, especially for school-aged girls. While these targets have been better defined in recent decades, they represent the traditional goals of unlimited water supply to people only, without regard to demand management or consideration given to other uses. The added Targets represent a more comprehensive view of freshwater and include: pollution of the wider water environment (6.3); water efficiency and water stress, particularly in agriculture and include climate change impacts (6.4); integrative approaches (6.5); water for ecosystems (6.6); global support (6.a) and local participation (6.b)
This month the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), as the Custodian Agency for Indicator 6.5.2, will hold the ninth session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP9) to the Water Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes. The aim is the sharing of knowledge and experiences as a collaborative effort in support of communities sharing a watershed or aquifer area. Dialogue FAQs include capacity development, technology transfer, ecosystem-based climate adaptation and Nature-based Solutions (NbS), social inequities, IWRM and the Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystem Nexus. A special High-Level Session on Water & Peace will discuss water cooperation as a catalyst to peace, beyond the avoidance of conflict, and water collaboration as an accelerator of sustainable development. Educational side events are offered in the two days prior to the MOP and are open for registration: case studies, WEFE Nexus, 9th World Forum, Youth Water Network, Women, Water and Peace and Climate Adaptation in watersheds.
Exciting Announcements from the Interfaith Community
FaithInvest just informed us of two important events on October 4: “The Pope and senior faith leaders will be issuing an urgent call for action on the morning of October 4 ahead of the UN climate conference, COP26, this November. Crucially, they will also pledge that their organisations will undertake practical action on the climate and the environment.”
FaithInvest will follow this call with its own announcement on the afternoon of October 4 of the Faith Plans programme as the practical tool by which hundreds of faiths around the world are putting this call for bold action into practice. The world's major faiths have been developing Faith Plans – long-term commitments over the next seven to ten years for practical actions to mitigate climate change, protect biodiversity, and contribute to healthy ecosystems and sustainable development.
The details about these events will only become available on 21 September. Watch the IEF website for further details then.
From UNGA to COP26 & Beyond: The Future of Climate Governance
Responding to a “Code Red for Humanity”
A Virtual Side Event Discussion – UN General Assembly High-Level Week 2021
on Thursday, 23 September, 10:00-11:30am EDT/New York; 4:00-5:30pm CEST
To register for this event, go here: https://stimsoncenter.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_QhI-Yj8ARC2nCCdIefjFtw
Event Co-Sponsors: Climate Governance Commission⎯Global Challenges Foundation, the Stimson Center, Global Governance Forum, Global Governance Innovation Network, Group of Women Leaders for Change & Inclusion, CIVICUS, Doha Forum, Council on Energy, Environment and Water, Plataforma CIPÓ, Baha’i International Community, International Environment Forum, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung New York Office, We The Peoples Campaign, Together First, ACUNS, Common Home of Humanity, the Institute for Economics and Peace, and the Coalition for the UN We Need.
The United Nations (UN) Secretary General has urged all nations to declare a state of climate emergency, and has also called the recent Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ⎯ which reports the worsening unprecedented, unequivocal and irreversible (for centuries to millennia) effects caused by human-induced global heating ⎯ a “Code Red for Humanity.”
Against the backdrop of the multi-faceted global pandemic recovery, among other global challenges, the gravity and urgency of the planetary climate emergency is becoming more widely understood, and increasingly acknowledged. Science is showing that the civilization-nurturing climatic conditions of our planet – stable for the past approximately 12,000 years – are profoundly threatened, and serious changes are happening more quickly than predicted. For example, a range of the earth’s known biophysical systems which regulate the global climate are showing signs of instability earlier than scientists had predicted and may foreshadow the crossing of dangerous and mutually reinforcing tipping points. Such developments telegraph the seriousness of current conditions and the need for rapid action by national governments and the international community to stabilize and protect the earth’s climate system.
Unless we rapidly and radically shift course, the world is heading for catastrophic climate change and possible ecological collapse. Some have called our present predicament a survival crisis for humanity – and certainly for human civilization and for populations as we currently know them – depending on the course of action we collectively choose. Paradoxically, even though solutions exist to mitigate the most devastating effects of the climate crisis – including global governance solutions – they are not being implemented at a pace and scale commensurate with the magnitude and the urgency of the challenge.
Even with this sharpening scientific understanding, the vast majority of the world’s emitters are not yet on track to meet their pledges of emission cuts. It has been observed that the timelines of many nations are not ambitious enough (e.g., focusing on mid-Century targets), and current global governance approaches remain weak, lacking in accountability mechanisms, fragmented and siloed. What new approaches and governance innovations might the international community wish to consider, as a matter of priority? And what strategies can be considered to ensure that these innovations are implemented?
- Maja Groff, Convenor, Climate Governance Commission
- Richard Ponzio, Senior Fellow and Director, Global Governance, Justice and Security Program at the Stimson Center, and Member of the Climate Governance Commission
- Jimena Leiva Roesch, Senior Fellow and Head of Peace and Sustainable Development at the International Peace Institute, and Member of the Climate Governance Commission
- Arunabha Ghosh, CEO at the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, Member of the Climate Governance Commission
- Dhabia Al-Mohannadi, Professor, Texas A&M University at Qatar
- Katharine Rietig, Associate Professor in International Politics at Newcastle University, and Member of the Climate Governance Network
- Michael Collins, Executive Director for the Americas at the Institute for Economics and Peace
- Magnus Jiborn, Head of Research, Global Challenges Foundation and Member of the Climate Governance Commission
- Adriana Erthal Abdenur, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Plataforma CIPÓ and Member of the Climate Governance Commission
Our Common Agenda
A Significant Development at the United Nations
On 10 September 2021, UN Secretary-General António Guterres delivered a powerful speech at the United Nations General Assembly. His courageous call for unprecedented solidarity and global governance in the face of existential threats and his vision for a just and sustainable global order that relinquishes GDP as a standard for development have the potential of marking a further milestone in humanity's development toward global unity and hope for the survival of the Earth's life support systems. His call for a summit for the future reminds us of Baha'u'llah's words written in the later part of the 19th century: “The time must come when the imperative necessity for the holding of a vast, an all-embracing assemblage of men will be universally realized. The rulers and kings of the earth must needs attend it, and, participating in its deliberations, must consider such ways and means as will lay the foundations of the world’s Great Peace amongst men.”
This is the link to the Secretary General's full report: https://www.un.org/en/content/common-agenda-report/assets/pdf/Common_Ag… This is the link to his speech followed by comments by members of the UN General Assembly: https://media.un.org/en/asset/k1i/k1ios29mjc Here is the background of the report he presented (taken from the UN website), followed by a summary.
“The UN’s 75th anniversary in 2020 arrived at a time of great upheaval and peril. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Member States came together to recognize that our challenges are interconnected and can only be addressed through reinvigorated multilateralism with the United Nations at the centre of our efforts.
They pledged to strengthen global governance for the sake of present and coming generations and, to that end, requested the Secretary-General to report back with recommendations to advance our common agenda and to respond to current and future challenges.
“'Our Common Agenda' report looks ahead to the next 25 years and represents the Secretary-General’s vision on the future of global cooperation and reinvigorating inclusive, networked, and effective multilateralism. The Secretary-General presented his report to the General Assembly on 10 September 2021 before the end of the 75th session of the General Assembly.”
Our Common Agenda
on the future of the United Nations
10 September 2021 - Summary
We are at an inflection point in history.
In our biggest shared test since the Second World War, humanity faces a stark and urgent choice: a breakdown or a breakthrough.
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is upending our world, threatening our health, destroying economies and livelihoods and deepening poverty and inequalities.
Conflicts continue to rage and worsen.
The disastrous effects of a changing climate – famine, floods, fires and extreme heat – threaten our very existence.
For millions of people around the world, poverty, discrimination, violence and exclusion are denying them their rights to the basic necessities of life: health, safety, a vaccination against disease, clean water to drink, a plate of food or a seat in a classroom.
Increasingly, people are turning their backs on the values of trust and solidarity in one another – the very values we need to rebuild our world and secure a better, more sustainable future for our people and our planet.
Humanity’s welfare – and indeed, humanity’s very future – depend on solidarity and working together as a global family to achieve common goals. For people, for the planet, for prosperity and for peace.
Last year, on the occasion of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, Member States agreed that our challenges are interconnected, across borders and all other divides. These challenges can only be addressed by an equally interconnected response, through reinvigorated multilateralism and the United Nations at the centre of our efforts.
Member States asked me to report back with recommendations to advance our common agenda. This report is my response.
In preparing the report, we have engaged with a broad array of stakeholders, including Member States, thought leaders, young people, civil society and the United Nations system and its many partners.
One message rang through loud and clear: the choices we make, or fail to make, today could result in further breakdown, or a breakthrough to a greener, better, safer future.
The choice is ours to make; but we will not have this chance again.
That is why Our Common Agenda is, above all, an agenda of action designed to accelerate the implementation of existing agreements, including the Sustainable Development Goals.
First, now is the time to re-embrace global solidarity and find new ways to work together for the common good. This must include a global vaccination plan to deliver vaccines against COVID-19 into the arms of the millions of people who are still denied this basic lifesaving measure. Moreover, it must include urgent and bold steps to address the triple crisis of climate disruption, biodiversity loss and pollution destroying our planet.
Second, now is the time to renew the social contract between Governments and their people and within societies, so as to rebuild trust and embrace a comprehensive vision of human rights. People need to see results reflected in their daily lives. This must include the active and equal participation of women and girls, without whom no meaningful social contract is possible. It should also include updated governance arrangements to deliver better public goods and usher in a new era of universal social protection, health coverage, education, skills, decent work and housing, as well as universal access to the Internet by 2030 as a basic human right. I invite all countries to conduct inclusive and meaningful national listening consultations so all citizens have a say in envisioning their countries’ futures.
Third, now is the time to end the “infodemic” plaguing our world by defending a common, empirically backed consensus around facts, science and knowledge. The “war on science” must end. All policy and budget decisions should be backed by science and expertise, and I am calling for a global code of conduct that promotes integrity in public information.
Fourth, now is the time to correct a glaring blind spot in how we measure economic prosperity and progress. When profits come at the expense of people and our planet, we are left with an incomplete picture of the true cost of economic growth. As currently measured, gross domestic product (GDP) fails to capture the human and environmental destruction of some business activities. I call for new measures to complement GDP, so that people can gain a full understanding of the impacts of business activities and how we can and must do better to support people and our planet.
Fifth, now is the time to think for the long term, to deliver more for young people and succeeding generations and to be better prepared for the challenges ahead. Our Common Agenda includes recommendations for meaningful, diverse and effective youth engagement both within and outside the United Nations, including through better political representation and by transforming education, skills training and lifelong learning. I am also making proposals, such as a repurposed Trusteeship Council, a Futures Lab, a Declaration on Future Generations and a United Nations Special Envoy to ensure that policy and budget decisions take into account their impact on future generations. We also need to be better prepared to prevent and respond to major global risks. It will be important for the United Nations to issue a Strategic Foresight and Global Risk Report on a regular basis, and I also propose an Emergency Platform, to be convened in response to complex global crises.
Sixth, now is the time for a stronger, more networked and inclusive multilateral system, anchored within the United Nations. Effective multilateralism depends on an effective United Nations, one able to adapt to global challenges while living up to the purposes and principles of its Charter. For example, I am proposing a new agenda for peace, multi-stakeholder dialogues on outer space and a Global Digital Compact, as well as a Biennial Summit between the members of the Group of 20 and of the Economic and Social Council, the Secretary-General and the heads of the international financial institutions. Throughout, we need stronger involvement of all relevant stakeholders, and we will seek to have an Advisory Group on Local and Regional Governments.
For 75 years, the United Nations has gathered the world around addressing global challenges: from conflicts and hunger, to ending disease, to outer space and the digital world, to human rights and disarmament. In this time of division, fracture and mistrust, this space is needed more than ever if we are to secure a better, greener, more peaceful future for all people. Based on this report, I will ask a High-level Advisory Board, led by former Heads of State and Government, to identify global public goods and other areas of common interest where governance improvements are most needed, and to propose options for how this could be achieved.
In this spirit, I propose a Summit of the Future to forge a new global consensus on what our future should look like, and what we can do today to secure it.
Humanity has shown time and time again that it is capable of great achievements when we work together. This common agenda is our road map to recapture this positive spirit and begin rebuilding our world and mending the trust in one another we need so desperately at this moment in history. Now is the time to take the next steps in our journey together, in solidarity with and for all people.
Musical Composition “Humans on Earth – a Ballad of Our Time”
The new musical composition "Humans on Earth - a Ballad of Our Time", written by IEF member Christine Muller, is an attempt to participate in public discourse in an artistic way. The piece is for soprano, baritone, string orchestra, piano, and percussion. The two singers first lament about the big problems of our time – climate change, biodiversity loss, social inequality and human suffering. In the second part of the piece, the tone is getting more hopeful with a spiritual perspective. The lyrics contain quotations from scientific papers and from the Baha'i writings as well as words spontaneously written while composing the music.
You can read the lyrics and a description of the music as well as listen to an electronic version here: https://www.iefworld.org/index.php/node/1176
Making Peace with Nature
UNEP Synthesis Report
The United Nations Environment Programme's first Synthesis Report, Making Peace with Nature, is a scientific blueprint for how climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution can be tackled jointly within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals. It represents a synthesis of the many recent intergovernmental global environmental assessments and assessments prepared under the auspices of Multilateral Environmental Agreements, UN bodies and others.
Among other conclusions, it states: "Only a system-wide transformation will achieve well-being for all within the Earth’s capacity to support life, provide resources and absorb waste. This transformation will involve a fundamental change in the technological, economic and social organization of society, including world views, norms, values and governance."
Its top five key messages are:
• Environmental changes are undermining hard-won development gains by causing economic costs and millions of premature deaths annually. They are impeding progress towards ending poverty and hunger, reducing inequalities and promoting sustainable economic growth, work for all and peaceful and inclusive societies.
• The well-being of today‘s youth and future generations depends on an urgent and clear break with current trends of environmental decline. The coming decade is crucial. Society needs to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels and reach net-zero emissions by 2050 to limit warming to 1.5 °C as aspired to in the Paris Agreement, while at the same time conserving and restoring biodiversity and minimizing pollution and waste.
• Earth’s environmental emergencies and human well-being need to be addressed together to achieve sustainability. The development of the goals, targets, commitments and mechanisms under the key environmental conventions and their implementation need to be aligned to become more synergistic and effective.
• The economic, financial and productive systems can and should be transformed to lead and power the shift to sustainability. Society needs to include natural capital in decision-making, eliminate environmentally harmful subsidies and invest in the transition to a sustainable future.
• Everyone has a role to play in ensuring that human knowledge, ingenuity, technology and cooperation are redeployed from transforming nature to transforming humankind‘s relationship with nature. Polycentric governance is key to empowering people to express themselves and act environmentally responsibly without undue difficulty or self-sacrifice.
Source: United Nations Environment Programme (2021). Making Peace with Nature: A scientific blueprint to tackle the climate, biodiversity and pollution emergencies. UNEP: Nairobi. https://www.unep.org/resources/making-peace-nature
Environmental and Interfaith News in Brief
The Parliament of the World's Religions invites to two webinars:
Faith & Climate Summit: The Final Sprint to COP26
Monday, September 20, 11am EST, 17:00 CEST (1 hour)
The UK COP26 Presidency will give an update on the status of negotiations and the Parliament of the World's Religions will announce new faith-based climate commitments.
Faith for Earth Dialogue
Wednesday, September 22, 11am EST, 17:00 CEST (1 hour)
Webinar: Public Health, Climate Change and Strategic Litigation
The Webinar is organised by the Global Health Law Groningen Research Centre, the UK Faculty of Public Health, the European Public Health Association (EUPHA) Law and Public Health section and the Environment and Heath section, in collaboration with a range of other partners.
The session will include presentations and a panel discussion by distinguished legal scholars, policy makers and public health practitioners exploring the challenges and opportunities for advancing arguments in strategic litigation, in particular its health, environmental and human right dimensions.
Speakers and panelists include Dr Maria Neira, Director, Environment, climate change and Health, WHO, Geneva; Marlies Hesselman, Faculty of Law, University of Groningen; Irmina Kotiuk, Senior Lawyer, Client Earth; Richard Harvey, Legal Counsel, Greenpeace International; Professor Sir Stephen Holgate, MRC Clinical professor of immunopharmacology, University of Southampton , and Dr Marina Romanello, Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change.
Call for Emergency Action to Limit Global Temperature Increases, Restore Biodiversity, and Protect Health
New England Journal of Medicine September 5, 2021, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMe2113200
"The greatest threat to global public health is the continued failure of world leaders to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5° C and to restore nature. Urgent, society-wide changes must be made and will lead to a fairer and healthier world. We, as editors of health journals, call for governments and other leaders to act, marking 2021 as the year that the world finally changes course."
Link to this highly recommended article: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2113200
Young people worldwide between 14 and 30 are invited to share their 3 minute films of local and community projects focusing on fighting climate change, protecting biodiversity or restoring land. For more information, go here: https://earthbeat.youth4planet.com/earthbeat-film-challenge/
A Guide to Global Internet Energy Usage
Updated 15 September 2021