Newsletter of the
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Volume 23, Number 12 --- 15 December 2021
Article submission: firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline next issue 10 January 2022
Secretariat Email: email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
IEF Lecture Webinars
By IEF Member Khela Baskett, IEF webinar coordinator
New Lecture/Webinar Page on IEF Website
The IEF has been organizing an online webinar series approximately monthly since late 2020. You can find all the information about past and future lectures on this new Lectures page.
9th IEF Webinar
Environmental Education for Children Inspired by Spiritual Teachings with Sabine Schlenkermann December 18th 2021, at 1pm EST, 18:00 GMT (UK), 19:00 CET, 22:30 IST (New Delhi)
Description: Sabine Schlenkermann has a wealth of experience teaching children’s classes focused on environmental education and citizen sciences. She draws inspiration from the Baha’i teachings on the environment as well as teachings from other religious traditions. This presentation will focus on the activities she’s done, especially outdoor activities for children and families. Come to listen, discuss, share, and take away new ideas to implement with your family and community. This will be a dual-language webinar in both English and German.
Speaker Curriculum vitae: Sabine Schlenkermann studied Geography and has worked as a landscape planner for 30 years in Germany. She is also engaged in Citizen Science for nature reserves (Bürgerwissenschaft für Naturschutz) mostly on a non-profit basis. She lives close to Leipzig and has four adult children.
The IEF warmly welcomes the following new members and associates:
Russell George, USA
Naghmeh Rezvani Hedley, Canada
Niall McCrea, United Kingdom
Navnath S. Bombale, India
Manab Kumar Biswas, India
Brenda Kotras, Canada
Abdul Majid Teewno, Pakistan
Shamsideen Olawunmi Sebiotimo, Nigeria
We look forward to getting to know you!
Global Systems Accounting: Beyond Economics
A Talk and a New Initiative
On 8 December, IEF President Arthur Dahl gave a webinar talk for ebbf – Ethical Business Building the Future about his new ideas regarding “Global Systems Accounting: Beyond Economics”.
He proposed that UNEP could take the lead in developing a new system of global environmental accounts, particularly with respect to planetary boundaries like atmospheric carbon, loss of biodiversity and global pollution. These accounts could become the basis for global taxes on damaging activities and payments for environmental regeneration in the common interest. The accounting system could eventually be extended to include human dimensions of sustainable development.
The 40-minute video can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWUFwHH0uX0.
And the IEF Paper is available here: https://iefworld.org/index.php/ddahl_accounting
ebbf has set up some working groups to take the concept further. There are working groups on biodiversity, health, knowledge and education, spiritual capital, and minimum living standard (wealth). More information is available at https://www.ebbf.org/global-systems-accounting.
Any IEF members who are interested in participating should contact the ebbf learning team at email@example.com
Below is a shorter article than the IEF paper as published in PATHWAYS TO THE 2022 DECLARATION – a blog by jurists for diplomats.
GLOBAL SYSTEMS ACCOUNTING BEYOND ECONOMICS
By Arthur Lyon Dahl
Despite significant efforts over the last 50 years to create forces of integration in a world that has become a single economic system while remaining socially and politically fragmented, the forces of disintegration are continuing to win out and our environmental decline continues. We need to identify the root causes of our problems and the transformation that is needed to succeed in the urgent transition required to address climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and all the related social crises representing existential threats to our future. I suggest that we are trapped in an economic paradigm that calculates everything in terms of monetary profit and loss, capital, and interest, return on investment and the ultimate efficiency of the market. The ultimate indicator in this system is GDP and its endless growth as the solution to all our problems. Yet these factors and measures have no inherent relationship to human or planetary well-being. The solution would be to develop an alternative set of accounts more organically related to the functioning of the biosphere and the desirable direction of human society and the rights of everyone to a life of dignity and fulfilment.
In designing such accounts, we can apply the conceptual tools of economics. Since indicators are important in telling us where we are and suggesting where we want to go, we can start with basic accounting principles and relevant indicators. Capital is a measure of the standing stock of a resource, that can either be static, like a mineral in the ground or a gold bar, or dynamic like a forest or investment in a factory, able to maintain itself, grow and provide beneficial services. Interest is extracting wealth from capital, either diminishing static capital (unsustainable) or harvesting part of the increase in wealth (sustainable). Debt is when we borrow capital with a promise to reimburse it at some future time, generally with interest. The assumption is that the direct investment of the capital, or some other source of income, will allow reimbursement. We usually think of all this in terms of financial wealth, but capital and its services or benefits can be of many kinds, contributing to the functioning and wellbeing of the biosphere and human society. Considering wealth or benefit only in narrow financial terms is a materialistic approach and the cause of many of our problems.
The fundamental fault in the present financial system is that it favors profit or interest in monetary units (dollars, etc.) over all other benefits. The stock market links capital value to return on investment as dividends or interest, regardless of the purpose of the company. Profit is the basic role of the banking system and corporations and is seen as an end in itself. Money is borrowed through loans with interest determined by risk and invested in what are expected to be productive activities generating further wealth. There is no inherent link to any other measures of wellbeing or of services provided. With risks increasing and interest rates down, central banks have pumped great quantities of money into the system to prevent its collapse, inflating government debt while the stock market hits record highs. Since wealth generates wealth in this system, the rich get ever richer and nothing filters down to the middle classes, not to mention the poor. A giant debt bubble has built up between government debt, corporate debt, and consumer debt, with no imaginable possibility of reimbursement, only postponement of a reckoning to some indefinite future as debts are rolled over with further borrowing.
Development aid, in terms of capital transfer to poor countries, is largely as loans, but this seldom goes into activities generating adequate financial returns in weak and perhaps corrupt economies, and increased risk means higher interest, which accumulates in a vicious circle of debt. Apart from the exploitation of a neo-colonial economic system that removes more wealth than it creates, developing country governments must spend much of their available income on debt servicing, and are unable to invest in infrastructure or to meet basic human needs like health care and education. This even impacts development at the local level. Money is often available but projects aiming for a measurable economic return are lacking. Moreover, donor criteria requiring financial return on investment or reimbursement of loans for projects will also extract wealth from the local economy and ignore all the other non-cash benefits that may be more important to a local community.
Looking at the climate change crisis, the main proposal is to put a price on carbon to create a motivation to economize on its release. This is subject to the same flaw as the financial system, thinking in terms of money. What is needed is a whole accounting system with carbon as the currency. The planet became suitable for animal life when plants removed enough carbon from the atmosphere and stored it in the ground to bring down the planetary temperature to be suitable for life. The global carbon budget has since been in balance until recently, with animals releasing CO2 and plants absorbing it. Extraction of fossil fuels has upset this balance, raising the carbon concentration in the atmosphere to dangerous levels. A proper carbon accounting system would consider the biomass of the planet and stored organic carbon as the carbon capital stock. Plant-dominated ecosystems maintain that capital and provide ecosystem services as well. Excess carbon in the atmosphere is carbon debt, and all releases of carbon dioxide and methane increase that carbon debt. We are living beyond our means in terms of carbon accounting. In this framework, countries with biological resources have the most capital and should be valued accordingly, with incentives for environmental regeneration to increase stored carbon stock. All activities that destroy biological resources or release fossil carbon are increasing carbon debt and should be penalized accordingly.
The carbon accounts can be linked to the financial system since the sale of fossil energy generates monetary wealth that can be taxed, and those taxes used to reward carbon removal. Since excess carbon in the atmosphere continues to cause harm, there should be a carbon tax not only on new releases of fossil carbon, but also an annual tax on historic emissions until they are removed. Conversely, there should be corresponding payments for carbon capture and sequestration, whether by natural systems, environmental regeneration, or technology. Note how differently this would rate industrialized and developing countries, with corresponding incentives. Science should be able to estimate the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and the flows corresponding to inputs and withdrawals. It would not be necessary to measure the total geological carbon stock. The total carbon accounting system would provide the basis for quantifying national responsibilities and the corresponding payments by or to those directly responsible, especially in the private sector and civil society, generating positive and negative incentives to achieve a stable carbon market.
The world has already gone a long way towards defining the necessary components of global common interest, for which accounting systems are needed, in the structures already created for elements of global governance in the United Nations system and other international agreements. The UNFCCC and IPCC could evolve into a global central bank for carbon accounts. The CBD and other conservation conventions, with their scientific advisory bodies, would be responsible for biodiversity accounting. UNEP and related conventions would become a global environment agency to manage the pollution accounts and other aspects of global biosphere accounting that would link to carbon and biodiversity accounts for management of the overall health of the planet’s natural systems and life support services. The FAO would be responsible for food accounting to ensure that the planet produced adequate food for everyone through sustainable methods and that it was properly distributed to ensure that no one went hungry. The WHO would be charged with ensuring the health capital of all humanity and that global risks like the pandemic threatening that capital were addressed in the common interest. The ILO would have oversight of the human capacity to generate wealth and well-being through work and employment globally, ensuring that systems were in place everywhere to give every person some useful skill and the means to use it to earn her or his living through some meaningful service. The development organizations like UNDP and the World Bank could be reoriented to redress the present imbalance in global wealth and to devise mechanisms to guarantee a universal basic income and eliminate poverty. UNESCO and related institutions would manage the accounting of the global capital of science, culture, and knowledge to ensure its increase, preservation, and transmission through education. This list is not exhaustive, and there are certainly other dimensions of social and environmental health and well-being that should be included in the accounting system of an ever-advancing civilization. Obviously, such institutions would not manage everything, applying principles of national autonomy and subsidiarity to encompass the wonderful diversity and creativity of human institutions at multiple levels from global to local. They would be responsible for accounting for the global common interest in their area of concern, and of signaling and motivating the maintenance and increase in global capital and wealth in their areas of concern.
Together, all these forms of capital would become the basis for a new global currency, no longer subject to manipulation in the national interest of states and founded on scientific standards of human and natural well-being. The relative weighting of the forms of capital in the currency could be adjusted to the priorities of the moment. Carbon accounts would clearly weigh more in our present climate emergency. A pandemic would raise the weighting and priority of the health accounts. These decisions would be the responsibility of institutions of global governance, in the same way, that national central banks take decisions to ensure national economic well-being under the oversight of national governments. The proposals here could easily evolve from what we have already built and available capacities. UNEP and the environmental conventions could take the lead in designing the new environmental accounts. To abandon the present economic system and its exclusively financial accounting exemplified by GDP, we need to construct and propose a better system in its place.
“Food, Farmer and Community: Agriculture and the Reconstruction of the World”
The Agriculture Group of the Association for Baha’i Studies will host a webinar on “Food, Farmer and Community: Agriculture and the Reconstruction of the World” with Winnona Merritt & Dawn Egerton on Sunday, December 19 at 1pm EST, 19:00 CET. Participants will be introduced to a new book that is being released in January 2022 by the U.S. Bahá’í Distribution Service.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org in order to receive the Zoom link.
Baha'i Perspectives on Agriculture and Food
Wilmette Institute Course
The Wilmette Institute will offer its yearly course on Baha'i Perspectives on Agriculture and Food on January 13 - March 2, 2022.
Baha'u'llah described agriculture as "a vital and important matter" that was foremost among the principles "conducive to the advancement of mankind and to the reconstruction of the world” (Tablets of Baha'u'llah Revealed after the Kitab-i-Aqdas 90, 89). Yet current agricultural policy often prioritizes yield and profit over health, sustainability, and sociocultural features of rural communities, while the poor struggle to even feed themselves, and climate change makes farming increasingly unpredictable. The course will examine Baha'i teachings on agriculture, food, rural development; relate this to public discourse; and explore how agriculture can be incorporated in community-building.
There are five faculty members: IEF members Paul Hanley, Arthur Dahl, and Gary Reusche, as well as Kimberley Naqvi and Neil Whatley.
For more information and to register, go here: https://wilmetteinstitute.org/courses/bahai-perspectives-on-agriculture…
Words for Our Time
Whoso cleaveth to justice, can, under no circumstances, transgress the limits of moderation. … The civilization, so often vaunted by the learned exponents of arts and sciences, will, if allowed to overleap the bounds of moderation, bring great evil upon men. … If carried to excess, civilization will prove as prolific a source of evil as it had been of goodness when kept within the restraints of moderation. … The day is approaching when its flame will devour the cities,…
- Baha’u’llah (1817 – 1892)
Foreseeing the Future of Our Responsibility and Opportunity
UN Environment Management Group Nexus Dialogues
with IEF President Arthur Dahl
The UN Environment Management Group organised Stockholm+50: A 2-part Nexus Dialogue Roundtable Series, on 23 and 30 November 2021. The Stockholm+50 meeting on 2-3 June next year will be an opportunity to highlight the environmental dimension of sustainable development and accelerate the implementation of international commitments in the context of the Decade of Action, the Multilateral Environmental Agreements, the Sustainable Development Goals as well as other UN initiatives, such as the Decades for Ocean Science and Ecosystem Restoration, including in the context of a sustainable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The international meeting will also provide a platform to: take stock of the system-wide efforts undertaken by the United Nations in addressing the environmental agenda since the 1972 Stockholm Conference; reflect on related achievements and results; and develop future perspectives for coherent, coordinated action in going beyond planetary crises for the prosperity of a healthy planet, for all.
Among other institutions, the United Nations Environment Management Group (EMG) has promoted programmatic collaboration and advanced the implementation of environmental activities through system-wide engagement of UN entities.
The Nexus Dialogues on Stockholm+50 encouraged consideration and reflection within the UN system on:
• Achievements and challenges encountered by the UN system in addressing the environmental agenda since the 1972 Stockholm Conference;
• Lessons learned and recommendations to impart on the future implementation of the environmental agenda, to benefit all levels of its stakeholders and leave no one behind;
• How the environmental agenda has been integrated into, and implemented within, the 2030 Agenda, the SDGs, and other related initiatives and frameworks; and
• The UN system’s aspirations and commitments towards accelerating programmatic mandates and actions that seek to ensure the best possible outcomes in going beyond the planetary crises for the prosperity of a healthy planet, for all.
In the online Nexus Dialogues, representatives from the UN system, civil society, academia and Member States were invited to engage in the discussion organized over two sessions:
1. Taking Stock of Our Responsibility & Opportunity: 23 November 2021
Participants reflected on the journey over the past fifty years – on successes, lessons learned and gaps in mainstreaming and implementing the environmental dimension of sustainable development by the UN. The full recording is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOKwj_FEwIU.
2. Foreseeing the Future of Our Responsibility and Opportunity: 30 November 2021
This dialogue engaged participants in aspiring towards a shared future where we are living in harmony with nature, honoring current and future generation’s Right to a Healthy Environment, envisaging a sustainable recovery from COVID-19, and proposing specific and actionable plans to accelerate achievement of the environmental dimension of the SDGs to achieve a healthy planet for the prosperity of all. IEF President Arthur Dahl was one of the panelists.
The full recording is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=si0G1ftGAdc&t=6s
For more information, see https://unemg.org/stockholm50-nexus-dialogue-series/.
The Climate Crisis: A New Path for Human Well-being and Planetary Sustainability
The Global Peace and Prosperity Forum hosted a side event entitled “The Climate Crisis: A New Path for Human Well-being and Planetary Sustainability”, in the framework of COP26 on 10 November 2021.
The speakers were:
H.E María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés - President of the seventy-third session of United Nations General Assembly and former Foreign Minister of Ecuador
Ms. Jytte Guteland - Member of the European Parliament (S&D) and Parliament Rapporteur for EU’s new climate law
Dr. Augusto Lopez-Claros - International economist, Chairman of Global Governance Forum and former Director of Global Indicators and Analysis at World Bank Group
Ms. Giovanna Kuele - political researcher at Igarapé Institute. Ms Kuele coordinates research and advocacy projects in the areas of global governance, the United Nations, climate and security, conflict prevention and peace operations.
The panel was moderated by Ms. Neda Salmanpour – Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Global Peace and Prosperity Forum.
The panel addressed the urgency of global cooperation to align interest on local, national and international levels to provide solution to the climate crisis, commensurate with the magnitude and the urgency of the challenge, and ensure an equal, sustainable and peaceful world; highlighted the principle of common but differentiated responsibility which recognizes the contribution of countries to climate change and their capacity to prevent it and cope with its consequences vary enormously; addressed the various financing mechanisms available to the global community to provide both substantial revenue and incentive to shift to a low-carbon economy; discussed the importance of climate justice and trust and addressed liability to compensate those who bear the least responsibility for carbon emissions while suffering the worst consequences; highlighted the imperative for the developed countries to meet their pledges and obligations under the Paris Agreement to provide support to countries heavily affected by climate emergencies; highlighted the vision of the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, in his Our Common Agenda (OCA) report to the General Assembly, for a stronger, more networked and inclusive multilateral system that can better protect our global commons and global goods for present and future generations; discussed the new European Union climate law, which is the flagship of the European Green Deal and the role the European Union can play in bolstering action from other member states; and finally explored alternative models and value systems that enable environmentally sustainable, just and equitable economies and societies.
This is the link to the recording of this very interesting and relevant webinar: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1rsHapKC30
Papers and Articles of Interest
Contributions of participatory budgeting to climate change adaptation and mitigation: current local practices across the world and lessons from the field
By Yves Cabannes
First Published 29 July 2021, Sage Journal
This paper explores the extent to which participatory budgeting (PB) contributes to climate change adaptation and mitigation, based on an analysis of initiatives from 15 cities and regions in the global South and North. PB contributions are far from marginal, with significant investments decided by local people. The paper highlights some of the numerous innovations introduced to integrate PB into climate adaptation and mitigation efforts. Through a scrutiny of 4,400 PB projects, the research identified six categories of climate-related projects encompassing hardware as well as software approaches, such as awareness-raising activities, community-based early warning projects and research. The paper advocates for solidarity PBs for climate justice, and raises awareness of the huge (and as yet largely untapped) potential for this to help address the dramatic impacts that climate change has on millions of people’s lives. It also points to questions for future research.
Concluding Remarks and Lessons
One lesson, based on the experiences of the 15 participating cities from different regions of the world, is that PB initiatives sensitive to climate change did not really emerge as an international agenda imperative or in response to international priorities. They tended to appear instead as a citizen and local government response to very precise and immediate climatic effects. This largely explains their capacity to adapt to local constraints and vulnerabilities.
A second lesson relates to the effects perceived by citizens at a point in time. Climate PBs, primarily in the global South, tend to address effects of climate change, and these effects change and evolve through time. This leads to a two-fold argument: the first consideration is the need to understand better how the risks are perceived by people and by local governments, as they will be determining project proposals and choices. The second is that PB seems a good instrument for responding with some immediacy to climate change effects that are constantly evolving – in other words, to adapt. It is important, therefore, to deepen the analysis of how these citizen-based proposals differ from priorities set internationally.
What Did COP26 Achieve - Scientists Share Concerns
From Future Earth November Newsletter
Scientists and leading climate experts spoke to the BBC regarding agreements reached on forests, innovation, and methane during COP26 held in Glasgow, UK. However, experts also shared concerns over whether the necessary international policies will be implemented to deliver upon the agreements. Tim Lenton, Professor at Exeter's Global Systems Institute, acknowledged that the coalition of COP26 actors, including civil society, business, finance, and NGOs is starting to drive real progress. However, Professor Lenton still believes that we are headed for a more than 2°C increase in global warming, which risks triggering multiple climate tipping points. In addition, Professor Sir David King, the former UK Chief Scientist, stated, "even if we cut emissions completely, we'd still be in a difficult place because of the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere already." How can we ensure politicians keep their words and bring more policies for achieving a sustainable environment? Read more...
Convening the scientific knowledge required to boost climate action
Turning the ambition of COP26 into action cannot wait any longer, say members of the scientific community. Implementation of deep emission reductions must now begin, informed by the latest scientific evidence on stablizing warming.
The article is available here.
Risk-informed Sustainable Development and Planetary Health
The Framework for global science report takes stock of recent developments in disaster risk science and provides a compelling set of directions for research and scientific collaboration for a more holistic and collaborative approach to understanding and managing risks.
The article is available here.
Updated 15 December 2021