Newsletter of the
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Volume 24, Number 3 --- 15 March 2022
Article submission: firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline next issue 10 April 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
12th IEF Webinar
Environmental Factors in the Evolution of Skin Color Variation in Humans with Khela Baskett
Saturday, March 26th, 2022
The workshop will run for 1.5 hours and may be at a different time than usual due to variable daylight savings switch-over times around the world. Please convert to your local time!
11:00am PDT California
2:00pm EDT New York
7:00pm CET Central Europe
Description: In this workshop you will learn about the evolutionary factors behind why our ancient human ancestors first evolved dark skin in Africa, and then spread out over the globe to evolve a wide variety of skin colors. What environmental conditions led to these changes? Are these forces still in play in the modern world? How does this apply to humanity facing modern changes in our environment, like climate change?
Speaker Bio: Khela Baskett studied chemistry and computer science at UC Berkeley. She has worked in biotech at the Joint Genome Institute, and held software engineering and project management roles for academic, government, and industry projects. She is interested in anti-racism education, especially what genetics and evolutionary biology can teach us about the unity of the human family.
The following IEF Webinar will take place on April 30. Tamara Blagojevic, LL.M Independent Researcher, will talk about Space Debris as Pollution of the Space Environment.
Climate Change, Global Pollution, Biodiversity: Can we turn the corner?
7 April 2022
As part of the Cambridge Festival (UK), Arthur Dahl will be speaking on 7 April at 8:00 pm UK time, 21:00 CET, on Climate Change, Global Pollution, Biodiversity: Can we turn the corner?. For more information and to register, go to https://www.festival.cam.ac.uk/events/climate-change-global-pollution-b….
To overcome our environmental crises, we need to rethink our human purpose, our economy and our systems of governance, with young people in the lead.
Wilmette Institute Climate Change Course
Apr. 7 - June 1, 2022
This course provides a basic understanding of the causes and impacts of climate change, discusses its ethical challenges, and relates them to the spiritual teachings of the world’s religions, particularly those of the Baha’i Faith. It will help you consider changes in your lifestyle to bring greater coherence to your life and show you how to incorporate environmental and social responsibility in your community gatherings. It elevates public discourse above partisan politics by introducing spiritual responses to the climate crisis and demonstrates how the harmony of science and religion can be applied for the well-being of humankind.
The faculty members are Christine Muller, Arthur Dahl, Laurent Mesbah.
For more information and to register, go here: https://wilmetteinstitute.org/courses/climate-change/
2022 IEF Conference Planning is Underway
By IEF Member Douglas Gilbert
The planning process for the 2022 IEF Conference launched on 1 March 2022 with the introductory session of the IEF Conference Planning Team. This year’s conference will take place in conjunction with the Stockholm+50 international environmental meeting on 2 and 3 June 2022, commemorating 50 years of global environmental action since the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment. The IEF Conference will address the theme of “A Healthy Planet for the Prosperity of All – Our Responsibility, Our Opportunity,” with both physical events in Stockholm, Sweden and virtual events open to participants around the world in late May-early June.
The IEF has partnered in two proposals for official UN side events, but will only hear in April if they are accepted. The planning team will help to organize any approved side events as well as associated events that will be officially announced and to which everyone will have access. The IEF is collaborating closely with the Baha’i International Community (BIC), which is planning to launch its statement “One Homeland, One Habitation” at Stockholm+50, an early draft of which is available here: https://iefworld.org/2021bic_natural_world.
To recognize the multilateral approach to solving the Earth’s planetary crisis, the event aims to accelerate the implementation of the UN Decade of Action to achieve the adopted Sustainable Development Goals.
The IEF events will consider four broad topics:
STRENGTHENING GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE
GLOBAL SYSTEMS ACCOUNTING - BEYOND ECONOMICS
INTERGENERATIONAL PERSPECTIVE (bringing together a participant from the original 1972 Conference alongside youth expressing hopes and visions of the future)
EMPOWERING LOCAL COMMUNITIES
The IEF Conference Planning Team is searching for speakers, facilities, and equipment to create a successful conference experience. In a second meeting on 9 March 2022, the committee briefed the Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of Sweden to explore collaboration opportunities in support of conference events.
As our plans develop, we plan to release regular announcements on our progress. For questions or further information, please contact Douglas Gilbert at email@example.com.
First IEF contribution to Stockholm+50
The secretariat of the Stockholm+50 International Meeting next June is leading three Leadership Dialogues to prepare broadly-based inputs to the intergovernmental meeting. The first Leadership dialogue is Reflecting on the urgent need for actions to achieve a healthy planet and prosperity of all, and a first online informal working group on this theme was held on 10 March 2022. IEF President Arthur Dahl was invited to participate. He submitted several comments in writing, and was invited to be the last participant to make an oral contribution. The following are the main IEF contributions.
On the first topic, Transforming our relationship with nature and restoring ecosystems, with reference to the goal to conserve 30 per cent of lands and oceans by 2030, IEF noted that it is important to ensure that the 30 percent goal includes areas already under Indigenous ownership and management and provides for their continued protection by reinforcing their indigenous status and responsibility.
The discussion turned to education. IEF commented that education should include systems approaches to teach the oneness of all humanity and with nature as in Indigenous worldviews, rather than the separation of economy, society and environment as at present.
The organizers asked what types of measures should be considered to track progress on sustainable development and accurately account for changes in nature? IEF responded that we need comprehensive biodiversity accounting, with biodiversity and its ecosystems serving as capital, signalling positive and negative trends, to be integrated into beyond GDP accounts. Similarly, carbon accounts should tax releases of carbon from terrestrial storage, consider atmospheric carbon as carbon debt and charge interest to historical emitters, and reward carbon sequestration including by natural systems, to create positive as well as negative incentives. See https://iefworld.org/ddahl_accounting
The second topic was Producing and consuming sustainably and fighting pollution, including the question: What actions on pollution issues, including plastics, chemicals and waste, are needed to raise global ambition commensurate with climate change and biodiversity? IEF proposed that, beyond the planned plastics convention, we need global legislation on chemical and waste pollution of the global commons, beyond voluntary state action, also binding on non-state actors like multinational corporations, and enforceable on both producers and consumers. This could include toxic chemicals, fixed nitrogen and phosphorus for which planetary boundaries are exceeded, and wastes including space junk. See https://globalgovernanceforum.org/filling-a-critical-gap-in-global-envi… or https://iefworld.org/ddahl_pollution.
Finally, on the third topic, Social justice and intergenerational equity, the organizers asked about institutional and capacity gaps to enforcing environmental law and human rights. This is where Arthur was requested to make an oral contribution. He noted that there is no global governance for big business, which drives much environmental and social damage. The present corporate paradigm has no moral framework and is just institutionalized greed with financial profit as the legal responsibility that justifies any means. There should be a requirement that every corporation builds into its legal charter obligations for social and environmental responsibility to do good and prevent harm. He referred to his recent paper on this for ebbf at https://ebbf.medium.com/challenging-assumptions-of-old-business-models-….
This represents a good start to IEF contributions to Stockholm+50 on 2-3 June, including the IEF annual conference.
IEF 9 Year Strategic Plan
Approved by the IEF Board 16 February 2022
The International Environment Forum (IEF) purpose is to work for the betterment of the world, living together in concord and in harmony with our planetary environment. We aim to build a society that consciously pursues this collective purpose, working with all who labour in this undertaking, raising up vibrant communities learning how to bring about spiritual and material progress within their society and environment and to contribute to the discourses that influence the direction of that progress. We aim to build upon the most foundational qualities in humanity, ones for which the world stands in great need: unity, trustworthiness, mutual support, collaboration, fellow feeling, selflessness, commitment to truth, a sense of responsibility, a thirst to learn, the love of an all-embracing heart.
This strategic plan has been developed by the IEF board, inspired by the 30 December 2021 letter of the Universal House of Justice, and taking into consideration direct guidance by the Bahá'í International Development Organization and suggestions from members. The plan is a working document and is expected to be revised periodically.
This IEF strategic plan has two focus areas: A) contributing to public discourse on concepts relevant to the environment and sustainability, and B) empowering individuals to engage in discourse and social action. Within the first, this would include 1) discourse in the global political space and in the science-religion dialogue, 2) reconceptualizing concepts in light of with Bahá’í principles and teachings, and 3) scholarship, writing and communication.
Among our more immediate priorities are:
• to use the current situation with the pandemic to identify roadblocks, reset priorities and enable the necessary transition to environmental and social sustainability;
• to infuse conversations about environmental issues with spiritual principles;
• to assist our members and associates in their efforts to act locally and to educate others on environmental sustainability, for example by providing ideas, materials and case studies;
• to engage more young people and give them hope in the future and the motivation to work for positive change despite the difficulties;
• to support our members in their efforts to build resilience in all systems and communities and to reduce vulnerabilities in our food and water systems, our energy supplies and communications, our local economies and institutions; and
• to ensure that IEF continues long into the future.
To read the whole IEF Strategic Plan, go here: https://iefworld.org/index.php/IEFstrategy
Bahá’í-inspired perspective on global justice
Jubilee for Climate UK – Faith Leaders Roundtable
15 February 2022
presentation by Arthur Lyon Dahl
Roundtable video available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHWVqJluI9w
On 15 February I was invited by Jubilee for Climate UK and other partners to present a Bahá'í perspective on issues of global justice, on a roundtable along with a number of other people of faith. The following is the essence of my presentation. Following the roundtable, they decided to draw attention to persistent poverty by organising a public distribution of food for the poor at the end of each month, and at the end of the year, in the faith tradition of jubilee, to call for the abolition of all debt.
For those deeply concerned about issues of social justice and the weight of the debt burden on the poor and developing countries, now being aggravated by the climate crisis, while extreme wealth concentrates at the top, it is useful to ask what role religion might play today. The role of faith has always been to warn us about giving free reign to our animal nature when we really have a spiritual purpose and potential that can make us truly human. All the divine educators have brought this truth, while adapting their message to the needs of their time in a progressive series of revelations. In this sense we can understand the unity of all religions, including the beliefs and world-views of indigenous peoples. The divine educators taught both by their example and by their teachings which have become the sacred scriptures. Since faith has both rational and emotional components, it is able to motivate both individual and social transformation.
Presentation of the Bahá’í Faith
For those who may not know it, the central figure or divine educator of the Bahá’í Faith is Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), originally from Persia, who after many years of exile was imprisoned in the Holy Land from 1868 until his passing in 1892, which is why the Bahá’í World Centre is in Haifa, Israel. He renewed God’s message of unity and justice with principles and institutions for a united world. He explained how all religions are part of one progressive process of revelation, and the fundamental harmony of science and religion. His son Abdu’l-Bahá was only released from prison in 1908. He then traveled to Europe and America in 1911-1913, where He often addressed issues of justice and the economy. Today the Bahá’í Faith has an international elected governing body, the Universal House of Justice. The quotes below come from these three sources of guidance.
The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice.... By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor.
(Bahá'u'lláh, The Hidden Words (Arabic))
And among the teachings of Bahá'u'lláh are justice and right. Until these are realized on the plane of existence, all things shall be in disorder and remain imperfect. The world of mankind is a world of oppression and cruelty, and a realm of aggression and error.
('Abdu'l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, 227, p. 304)
Critique of the economic system
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.... The day is approaching when its flame will devour the cities...
(Bahá'u'lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, CLXIV, p. 342-343)
Having penetrated and captured all significant centres of power and information at the global level, dogmatic materialism ensured that no competing voices would retain the ability to challenge projects of world wide economic exploitation.
(Universal House of Justice, One Common Faith, 2005, p. 5)
All too many of these [man-made] ideologies...callously abandon starving millions to the operations of a market system that all too clearly is aggravating the plight of the majority of mankind, while enabling small sections to live in a condition of affluence scarcely dreamed of by our forebears.
(Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace, 1985, I, p. 6-7)
The time has come when those who preach the dogmas of materialism, whether of the east or of the west, whether of capitalism or socialism, must give account of the moral stewardship they have presumed to exercise…. Why is the vast majority of the world's peoples sinking ever deeper into hunger and wretchedness... ?
(Universal House of Justice, The Promise of World Peace, 1985, I, p. 7)
...certain approaches to obtaining wealth--so many of which involve the exploitation of others, the monopolization and manipulation of markets, and the production of goods that promote violence and immorality--are unworthy and unacceptable.
(Universal House of Justice, To Baha'is in the Cradle of the Faith, 2 April 2010)
The need for a spiritual approach founded in ethics and values
To alleviate a variety of problems born of the economic inequalities so prevalent in the world today, social and economic development will require, especially among the younger generations, a fundamental shift in perspective, one that changes the way in which certain essential concepts are viewed--the true purpose of life, the nature of progress, the meaning of true happiness and well-being, and the place that material pursuits should assume in one's individual and family life.
(Universal House of Justice, To Baha'is in the Cradle of the Faith, 2 April 2010)
Social justice will be attained only when every member of society enjoys a relative degree of material prosperity and gives due regard to the acquisition of spiritual qualities. The solution, then, to prevailing economic difficulties is to be sought as much in the application of spiritual principles as in the implementation of scientific methods and approaches.
(Universal House of Justice, To Baha'is in the Cradle of the Faith, 2 April 2010)
The failure to place economics into the broader context of humanity's social and spiritual existence has led to a corrosive materialism in the world's more economically advantaged regions, and persistent conditions of deprivation among the masses of the world's peoples. Society must develop new economic models…. Resources must be directed... to furthering a dynamic, just and thriving social order. Such economic systems will be strongly altruistic and cooperative in nature; they will provide meaningful employment and will help to eradicate poverty in the world.
(Bahá'í International Community, Valuing Spirituality in Development: Initial Considerations Regarding the Creation of Spiritually Based Indicators for Development. A concept paper written for the World Faiths and Development Dialogue, Lambeth Palace, London, 18-19 February 1998)
Summary of some Baha’i principles relevant to the economy
• Be content with little, altruism, voluntary sharing
• Elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty
• Graduated income tax (up to 50%) and tax on accumulated wealth
• Guaranteed minimum income, eliminating poverty
• Work is worship, obligation to work, to be of benefit to society, service
• Profit sharing in corporations (20% of shares to employees)
• No more trusts (corporations in a monopoly position)
• Sustainability, respect for nature and biodiversity, not destroying the natural order
• Peace, abolition of war through collective security
• New approach to governance, elected consultative bodies
• Avoidance of partisan politics, work for unity
• World federation to manage global resources and distribute them equitably
Serving as an example, individual and community
The economic life of humanity has recently embroiled so many people. Injustice is tolerated with indifference and disproportionate gain is regarded as the emblem of success. So deeply entrenched are such pernicious attitudes that it is hard to imagine how any one individual can alone alter the prevailing standards by which the relationships in this domain are governed. Nevertheless, there are certainly practices anyone could eschew, such as dishonesty in one's transactions or the economic exploitation of others. There should be no contradiction between one's economic conduct and one's beliefs. By applying in one's life principles of fairness and equity, each person can uphold a standard far above the low threshold by which the world measures itself. Humanity is weary for want of a pattern of life to which to aspire; we should aim for actions in our communities which will give hope to the world.
(Universal House of Justice, Message to the Baha'i World, Ridvan 2012)
A host of negative forces, generated by the materialism and corruption so widespread in the world, present a challenge in upholding standards of conduct with respect to financial affairs. The members of the younger generation would do well to ponder the difference between gaining wealth through earnest effort in fields such as agriculture, commerce, the arts, and industry, on the one hand, and, on the other, obtaining it without exertion or through dishonourable means. Let them consider the consequences of each for the spiritual development of the individual, as well as the progress of society, and ask themselves what possibilities exist for generating income and acquiring wealth that will ensure true happiness through the development of spiritual qualities, such as honesty, trustworthiness, generosity, justice, and consideration for others, and the recognition that material means are to be expended for the betterment of the world.
(Universal House of Justice, To Baha'is in the Cradle of the Faith, 2 April 2010)
Need for a vision and shared ethic
There is an inherent moral dimension to the generation, distribution, and utilization of wealth and resources. The stresses emerging out of the long-term process of transition from a divided world to a united one are being felt within international relations as much as in the deepening fractures that affect societies large and small. With prevailing modes of thought found to be badly wanting, the world is in desperate need of a shared ethic, a sure framework for addressing the crises that gather like storm clouds.
(Universal House of Justice, To the Baha’is of the World, 1 March 2017)
The vision of Baha'u'llah challenges many of the assumptions that are allowed to shape contemporary discourse—for instance, that self-interest, far from needing to be restrained, drives prosperity, and that progress depends upon its expression through relentless competition. To view the worth of an individual chiefly in terms of how much one can accumulate and how many goods one can consume relative to others is wholly alien to Baha'i thought…. Wealth must serve humanity. Its use must accord with spiritual principles; systems must be created in their light. And, in Baha'u'llah's memorable words, "No light can compare with the light of justice. The establishment of order in the world and the tranquillity of the nations depend upon it."
(Universal House of Justice, To the Baha’is of the World, 1 March 2017)
Three Different Artistic Expressions of Love and Care for the Environment
Paintings – Poem - Music
Paintings by Vivian Bergenthal
IEF member Vivian Bergenthal sent us photos of three of her paintings which show her love for nature. You can see the paintings in the pdf version of this newsletter: Enjoy them! Thank you, Vivian!
Song to Earth
In 2006, IEF member Christine Muller asked Edwin Phelps, a Rhode Island poet, to write a poem that could become the lyrics for a song about climate change. She needed another song for her staged reading Climate Change, Science and Religion - a Dialogue with Songs. Bud, as Edwin Phelps was called by the RI Baha’i friends, then wrote the poem Song to Earth. The song has been performed in a few places at that time, but the poem has never been published until now. Following the wishes of Bud, the song with its lyrics was copyrighted in December 2007.
Sing the beauty of Earth our planet!
Sing the wonders of the plan,
Sing the season’s ordered wheeling
Round this destined home for man.
Have you lingered by the river?
Seen the water’s running clear?
Seen the white and jade fringed oceans?
Glacial mountains gleaming near?
Have you seen the jets high flying,
O’er the vast industrial tide.
Fashion iron, protean plastics,
Ship the products far and wide.
Subtle changes! Temperatures rising!
Subtle shifting of the air!
Oceans slowly growing toxic!
Deadly changes everywhere!
Can you wait for colors fading?
Foul winds invade the skies!
Can you wait for creatures dying?
Have you heard the woeful cries?
Keep the beauty of the planet!
Save the wonders of the plan!
Keep the season’s ordered wheeling,
Save this destined home for man!
Edwin Phelps 1926 – 2014
Orchestral Piece about Climate Change by Iman Habibi
IEF member Gary Colliver sent us an article about the composer Iman Habibi who wrote an orchestral piece about climate change titled “Jeder Baum spricht (“Every tree is speaking”). The article is titled “A musical interpretation of climate change pays tribute to Beethoven”. The Philadelphia Orchestra performed the piece at the beginning of a concert followed by Beethoven’s 5th and 6th Symphonies. In the 6th Symphony - the Pastoral, Beethoven expresses his feelings when being out in nature. Sometimes the music is also descriptive such as in the impressive storm in the 4th movement.
To listen to the concert, go here and scroll down: https://www.imanhabibi.com/jeder-baum-spricht/
To read the article, go here https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2022/02/a-musical-interpretation-of-…
There is an interesting 10 min. interview with the composer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKNS1hKo2lY
Filling a Critical Gap in
Global Environmental Governance
Arthur Lyon Dahl
17 February 2022
There are an increasing number of scientific alerts about threats to the global commons and of planetary boundaries being exceeded. Climate change is an obvious example, and chemical pollution including plastics is a recent concern. Despite the efforts of the UN system of institutions and many multilateral environmental agreements, the problems are accelerating and interacting in dangerous ways requiring urgent action. They can be distinguished by the fact that they extend beyond the national jurisdictions of sovereign states and often can be traced to non-state actors including multinational corporations, for which there are no existing governance institutions at the scale of the problem. Some may in part be the responsibility of international conventions or organizations, but these lack the capacity to pass binding legislation or to enforce agreements among states. What they have in common is the release into the environment of substances, including pollutants and wastes, directly or indirectly as a result of human activities. This suggests a possible innovative step forward in global environmental governance through giving UNEP the institutional capacity to define when such releases involve significant global risks and to adopt global legislation targetting those risks and the parties responsible for them, whether state or non-state actors.
Definition of the problem
With the rapid expansion of human activities of many kinds to the planetary scale, we are flooding the environment with many thousands of chemicals, molecules, substances, materials and objects in quantities or at a scale where they are causing, or threaten to cause, significant impacts to human health, environmental quality, ecosystem functions or future development possibilities. These include greenhouse gases, ozone-depleting substances, poisons, pesticides, agricultural chemicals, antibiotics, endocrine disruptors, carcinogenic substances, long-lived radioactive isotopes, space junk, materials for geoengineering, plastics and many thousands of other chemicals, newly invented or manufactured on a large scale beyond natural processes. Recent research shows that everyone is increasingly exposed to complex mixtures of these chemicals with health effects only beginning to be understood, and ecosystems everywhere are being increasingly disrupted with species disappearing. There will be many surprises in store.
National boundaries have no relevance to the movement of such substances, and there are so many that existing processes to negotiate and adopt multilateral agreements among states could never cover all of the risks, and do not adequately implicate non-state actors.
There is thus an urgent need to take a carefully circumscribed but significant step forward in international environmental governance by creating the capacity to define, manage and where necessary prohibit through global legislation the release into the environment of substances and materials presenting planetary risks. This can be built in large part on what already exists. By focusing specifically on substances and the processes of their creation and release, this sidesteps issues of national sovereignty. Indeed, it should protect national autonomy in responding to requirements designated as necessary for the common good of all. The other significant innovation is to extend the scope of this legislation to non-state actors, especially multinational corporations, that are often directly at the origin of the substances and materials concerned and that largely escape from national regulation.
Elements of the solution
This new step forward in global governance would require components briefly summarized as: scientific assessment, legislation and enforcement.
Scientific assessment: The first step is to identify the release of something presenting a global risk because of the nature or scale of the activity or process and its impacts, both at present and dynamically looking ahead to future threats. This would require defining the planetary boundary or limit beyond which damage would be consequent or irreversible, with costs outweighing benefits. In the present economic system, the benefits are immediate to the producers, while the costs are externalities left to be borne by the public, the environment and future generations. Scientific research has already done much in this direction, but it is not always directly linked to policy processes. The global institution should be able to call on all existing scientific assessment processes where relevant, such as the IPCC, or to create new ones for substances not presently covered. It would need the authority to obtain access to the necessary confidential information even when classified as commercial secrets or intellectual property.
Legislation: Where the science identifies a substance, group of chemicals, or other releases into the environment that go beyond a defined level of threat or risk to human and environmental well-being, a legislative body then needs to negotiate and adopt a legal text with global authority defining the specific substances to be regulated to stay within an acceptable level of impact, the global limit or planetary boundary for the occurrence or concentration of the substance, and the principles or criteria for the equitable assignment of responsibilities to stay within the defined limit. This could include common but differentiated responsibilities relevant to national circumstances and historical contributions, and should cover non-state entities like public or private corporations, and even individuals in certain circumstances. The legislation could include definitions of liability and compensation for damage caused by the substance incriminated.
Enforcement: It will be important to avoid the creation of a giant bureaucracy, but to orchestrate a coherent global process of respect and control under the adopted legislation. The aim should be polynodal enforcement through existing institutions as far as possible, both within the UN system and international conventions, and through national and sub-national governments, with the collaboration of civil society. In some cases, new institutions might be necessary with specific technical capacities for monitoring and surveillance. There will need to be judicial and dispute settlement capacities, again where possible by expanding the authority of existing institutions. Some substances will need to be phased out, prohibited, or restricted to defined uses, with provisions for fines, global taxes and other disincentives.
The logical approach would be to build upon the existing capacities in the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), with the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) evolving into the legislative body, as it already has universal membership. The chemical conventions and the UNFCCC will also contribute much experience, and would benefit from a mechanism to add binding legislation of the substance that concern them the most. The aim should be to complement and not compete with what already exists.
The Stockholm+50 meeting in 2022 would be a most appropriate place to launch the process to upgrade UNEP to a global environment agency empowered with these new functions to protect the planet as our common home from the many threats resulting from the uncontrolled and unlimited release of so many things into the environment.
Republished with slight edits by the Global Governance Forum on 1 March 2022: https://globalgovernanceforum.org/filling-a-critical-gap-in-global-envi…
Historic day in the campaign to beat plastic pollution:
Nations commit to develop a legally binding agreement
UNEP press release 2 March 2022
Nairobi, 2 March 2022 – Heads of State, Ministers of environment and other representatives from 175 nations endorsed a historic resolution at the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5) today in Nairobi to End Plastic Pollution and forge an international legally binding agreement by 2024. The resolution addresses the full lifecycle of plastic, including its production, design and disposal.
“Against the backdrop of geopolitical turmoil, the UN Environment Assembly shows multilateral cooperation at its best,” said the President of UNEA-5 and Norway’s Minister for Climate and the Environment, Espen Barth Eide. “Plastic pollution has grown into an epidemic. With today’s resolution we are officially on track for a cure.”
The resolution, based on three initial draft resolutions from various nations, establishes an Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC), which will begin its work in 2022, with the ambition of completing a draft for a global legally binding agreement by the end of 2024. It is expected to present a legally binding instrument, which would reflect diverse alternatives to address the full lifecycle of plastics, the design of reusable and recyclable products and materials, and the need for enhanced international collaboration to facilitate access to technology, capacity building and scientific and technical cooperation.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) will convene a forum by the end of 2022 that is open to all stakeholders in conjunction with the first session of the INC, to share knowledge and best practices in different parts of the world. It will facilitate open discussions and ensure they are informed by science, reporting on progress throughout the next two years. Finally, upon completion of the INC’s work, UNEP will convene a diplomatic conference to adopt its outcome and open it for signatures.
“Today marks a triumph by planet earth over single-use plastics. This is the most significant environmental multilateral deal since the Paris accord. It is an insurance policy for this generation and future ones, so they may live with plastic and not be doomed by it.” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.
“Let it be clear that the INC’s mandate does not grant any stakeholder a two-year pause. In parallel to negotiations over an international binding agreement, UNEP will work with any willing government and business across the value chain to shift away from single-use plastics, as well as to mobilise private finance and remove barriers to investments in research and in a new circular economy,” Andersen added.
Plastic production soared from 2 million tonnes in 1950 to 348 million tonnes in 2017, becoming a global industry valued at US$522.6 billion, and it is expected to double in capacity by 2040. The impacts of plastic production and pollution on the triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature loss and pollution are a catastrophe in the making:
- Exposure to plastics can harm human health, potentially affecting fertility, hormonal, metabolic and neurological activity, and open burning of plastics contributes to air pollution.
- By 2050 greenhouse gas emissions associated with plastic production, use and disposal would account for 15 per cent of allowed emissions, under the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C (34.7°F).
- More than 800 marine and coastal species are affected by this pollution through ingestion, entanglement, and other dangers.
- Some 11 million tonnes of plastic waste flow annually into oceans. This may triple by 2040.
- A shift to a circular economy can reduce the volume of plastics entering oceans by over 80 per cent by 2040; reduce virgin plastic production by 55 per cent; save governments US$70 billion by 2040; reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent; and create 700,000 additional jobs – mainly in the global south.
The historic resolution, titled “End Plastic Pollution: Towards an internationally legally binding instrument” was adopted with the conclusion of the three-day UNEA-5.2 meeting, attended by more than 3,400 in-person and 1,500 online participants from 175 UN Member States, including 79 ministers and 17 high-level officials.
Improved science-based transformation pathways for the development of safe and sustainable plastics
Susanne Waaijers-van der Loop, Anne van Bruggen, et al.
Projected plastic production volumes are rising, as is societal and political attention to plastic pollution and possible health impacts. In line with ambitions for climate mitigation and the circular economy, various national and international policies and action plans address the reduction of impacts of plastics. Quantitative scenario analyses show that even if current ambitious targets to reduce plastics are achieved, plastics will remain a source of millions of tons of environmental pollution annually. To achieve a sustainable transformation of the global plastics economy, ‘extraordinary effort’ and ‘coordinated global action’ beyond current ambitions are needed. While mapping knowledge gaps for the effects of micro and nano plastics (MNP) is crucial, mapping alone is not enough to achieve the needed transition.
In this communication, we propose a scope for the exploration of societal transformation pathways to safe and sustainable plastics. To see which efforts are needed globally we need to advance in the following three areas: (i) embedding risk assessment methodologies in wider cost-benefit and life cycle analyses; (ii) using safe-and-sustainable design strategies that include alternative solutions and look at multiple life cycles, and (iii) reflecting on the societal transformation pathways with stakeholders by using co-created quantitative models. We believe that these practices are crucial in the coming decade to realise the extraordinary effort of defining safe and sustainable plastics.
To read the whole paper, go here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412021006802#!
Climate Change 2022
Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group II released its part of the sixth Assessment Report (AR6) on 27 February 2022. The report has a strong focus on the interactions among the coupled systems climate, ecosystems (including their biodiversity) and human society. The following are the essential points of the Summary for Policy-Makers (without the levels of confidence to simplify reading).
Observed Impacts from Climate Change
Human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability. Some development and adaptation efforts have reduced vulnerability. Across sectors and regions the most vulnerable people and systems are observed to be disproportionately affected. The rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond their ability to adapt.
Vulnerability and Exposure of Ecosystems and People
Vulnerability of ecosystems and people to climate change differs substantially among and within regions, driven by patterns of intersecting socio-economic development, unsustainable ocean and land use, inequity, marginalization, historical and ongoing patterns of inequity such as colonialism, and governance. Approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people live in contexts that are highly vulnerable to climate change. A high proportion of species is vulnerable to climate change. Human and ecosystem vulnerability are interdependent. Current unsustainable development patterns are increasing exposure of ecosystems and people to climate hazards.
Risks in the near term (2021-2040)
Global warming, reaching 1.5°C in the near-term, would cause unavoidable increases in multiple climate hazards and present multiple risks to ecosystems and humans. The level of risk will depend on concurrent near-term trends in vulnerability, exposure, level of socioeconomic development and adaptation. Near-term actions that limit global warming to close to 1.5°C would substantially reduce projected losses and damages related to climate change in human systems and ecosystems, compared to higher warming levels, but cannot eliminate them all.
Mid to Long-term Risks (2041–2100)
Beyond 2040 and depending on the level of global warming, climate change will lead to numerous risks to natural and human systems. For 127 identified key risks, assessed mid- and long-term impacts are up to multiple times higher than currently observed. The magnitude and rate of climate change and associated risks depend strongly on near-term mitigation and adaptation actions, and projected adverse impacts and related losses and damages escalate with every increment of global warming.
Complex, Compound and Cascading Risks
Climate change impacts and risks are becoming increasingly complex and more difficult to manage. Multiple climate hazards will occur simultaneously, and multiple climatic and non-climatic risks will interact, resulting in compounding overall risk and risks cascading across sectors and regions. Some responses to climate change result in new impacts and risks.
Impacts of Temporary Overshoot
If global warming transiently exceeds 1.5°C in the coming decades or later (overshoot), then many human and natural systems will face additional severe risks, compared to remaining below 1.5°C. Depending on the magnitude and duration of overshoot, some impacts will cause release of additional greenhouse gases and some will be irreversible, even if global warming is reduced.
Current Adaptation and its Benefits
Progress in adaptation planning and implementation has been observed across all sectors and regions, generating multiple benefits. However, adaptation progress is unevenly distributed with observed adaptation gaps. Many initiatives prioritize immediate and near-term climate risk reduction which reduces the opportunity for transformational adaptation.
Future Adaptation Options and their Feasibility
There are feasible and effective adaptation options which can reduce risks to people and nature. The feasibility of implementing adaptation options in the near-term differs across sectors and regions. The effectiveness of adaptation to reduce climate risk is documented for specific contexts, sectors and regions and will decrease with increasing warming. Integrated, multi-sectoral solutions that address social inequities, differentiate responses based on climate risk and cut across systems, increase the feasibility and effectiveness of adaptation in multiple sectors.
Limits to Adaptation
Soft limits to some human adaptation have been reached, but can be overcome by addressing a range of constraints, primarily financial, governance, institutional and policy constraints. Hard limits to adaptation have been reached in some ecosystems. With increasing global warming, losses and damages will increase and additional human and natural systems will reach adaptation limits.
There is increased evidence of maladaptation across many sectors and regions since the AR5. Maladaptive responses to climate change can create lock-ins of vulnerability, exposure and risks that are difficult and expensive to change and exacerbate existing inequalities. Maladaptation can be avoided by flexible, multi-sectoral, inclusive and long-term planning and implementation of adaptation actions with benefits to many sectors and systems.
Enabling conditions are key for implementing, accelerating and sustaining adaptation in human systems and ecosystems. These include political commitment and follow-through, institutional frameworks, policies and instruments with clear goals and priorities, enhanced knowledge on impacts and solutions, mobilization of and access to adequate financial resources, monitoring and evaluation, and inclusive governance processes.
Conditions for Climate Resilient Development
Evidence of observed impacts, projected risks, levels and trends in vulnerability, and adaptation limits, demonstrate that worldwide climate resilient development action is more urgent than previously assessed in AR5. Comprehensive, effective, and innovative responses can harness synergies and reduce trade-offs between adaptation and mitigation to advance sustainable development.
Enabling Climate Resilient Development
Climate resilient development is enabled when governments, civil society and the private sector make inclusive development choices that prioritise risk reduction, equity and justice, and when decision-making processes, finance and actions are integrated across governance levels, sectors and timeframes. Climate resilient development is facilitated by international cooperation and by governments at all levels working with communities, civil society, educational bodies, scientific and other institutions, media, investors and businesses; and by developing partnerships with traditionally marginalised groups, including women, youth, Indigenous Peoples, local communities and ethnic minorities. These partnerships are most effective when supported by enabling political leadership, institutions, resources, including finance, as well as climate services, information and decision support tools.
Climate Resilient Development for Natural and Human Systems
Interactions between changing urban form, exposure and vulnerability can create climate change-induced risks and losses for cities and settlements. However, the global trend of urbanisation also offers a critical opportunity in the near-term, to advance climate resilient development. Integrated, inclusive planning and investment in everyday decision-making about urban infrastructure, including social, ecological and grey/physical infrastructures, can significantly increase the adaptive capacity of urban and rural settlements. Equitable outcomes contributes to multiple benefits for health and well-being and ecosystem services, including for Indigenous Peoples, marginalised and vulnerable communities. Climate resilient development in urban areas also supports adaptive capacity in more rural places through maintaining peri-urban supply chains of goods and services and financial flows. Coastal cities and settlements play an especially important role in advancing climate resilient development.
Safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystems is fundamental to climate resilient development, in light of the threats climate change poses to them and their roles in adaptation and mitigation. Recent analyses, drawing on a range of lines of evidence, suggest that maintaining the resilience of biodiversity and ecosystem services at a global scale depends on effective and equitable conservation of approximately 30% to 50% of Earth’s land, freshwater and ocean areas, including currently near-natural ecosystems.
Achieving Climate Resilient Development
It is unequivocal that climate change has already disrupted human and natural systems. Past and current development trends (past emissions, development and climate change) have not advanced global climate resilient development. Societal choices and actions implemented in the next decade determine the extent to which medium- and long-term pathways will deliver higher or lower climate resilient development. Importantly climate resilient development prospects are increasingly limited if current greenhouse gas emissions do not rapidly decline, especially if 1.5°C global warming is exceeded in the near term. These prospects are constrained by past development, emissions and climate change, and enabled by inclusive governance, adequate and appropriate human and technological resources, information, capacities and finance.
Ecological Racism and Deep-Sea Mining in the Pacific
On Wednesday, February 16th, the G20 Interfaith Forum held its second webinar of 2022, organized by its Anti-Racism Initiative (in cooperation with several members of the IF20 Working Group on Environment) and co-sponsored by the International Academy for Multicultural Cooperation.
This highly recommended webinar provides valuable information about Deep-Sea Mining and points out the necessity for high ethical standards.
To view the webinar proceedings go here: https://www.g20interfaith.org/webinar-deep-sea-mining-and-ecological-ra…
Faith for Earth Statement
The Faith for Earth statement was finalized, submitted and read at the closing session of UNEA5.2.
This is an excerpt:
“This year a series of Faith for Earth Dialogues took place with the support of ninety-four FBOs. The series was opened by the Executive Director of UNEP and the President of UNEA alongside ten high-level faith leaders representing 80% of the global population. As members from unique communities of faith, religious traditions, and spiritual pathways – we affirm with scientists around the world the underlying causes of climate change, pollution, assaults on biodiversity, and ecosystem degradation, that are all tangled in a spiritual crisis of values, ethics and moral responsibility evident human overconsumption.
A fundamental change in policy and practice around the world will require a spiritual transformation for humanity that will be evident in values, attitudes and overall disposition to strengthen action for nature.
We are faith actors, living and practicing our beliefs in every part of the world. We are able to reach billions of people around the world in order to inspire this transformation. We are rooted in local communities and already provide spiritual, practical, and psychological support to displaced people, vulnerable communities, and to millions affected by calamities.
We play an essential role in assisting communities to respond with resilience in the face of current and coming disasters.
Collaboration with faith actors at all levels, including to the Faith for Earth Coalition, represents a fundamental opportunity to seek transformational change at the heart of the human relationship to the natural world in which we all live and a hope upon which our future depends.”
To read the whole statement, go here: https://indico.un.org/event/1000610/attachments/252/929/Faitth%20for%20…
UNDP 2022 Special Report: New threats to human security in the Anthropocene
New data and analysis in the report, New Threats to Human Security in the Anthropocene, shows that people’s sense of safety and security is at a low in almost every country, including the richest countries, despite years of upwards development success. Those benefiting from some of the highest levels of good health, wealth, and education outcomes are reporting even greater anxiety than 10 years ago.
To tackle this disconnect between development and perceived security, the report calls for greater solidarity across borders and a new approach to development; one that allows people to live free from want, fear, anxiety and indignity.
The imperative to act now has never been more clear, as new findings also show that global life expectancy at birth is falling for a second year because of COVID-19, and overall human development measures are also moving downward. Furthermore, climate change is likely to become a leading cause of death around the world. Even with moderate mitigation of emissions, some 40 million people might die because of changes in temperatures before the end of the century.
The report examines a cluster of threats that have shifted to become more prominent in recent years including those from digital technologies, inequalities, conflicts, and the ability of healthcare systems to tackle new challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing these threats, report authors argue, will require policy makers to consider protection, empowerment, and solidarity alongside one another so that human security, planetary considerations and human development all work together and not despite each other. This means that solutions for one problem shouldn’t exacerbate other problems.
The report also notes the strong association between declining levels of trust and feelings of insecurity. People with higher levels of perceived human insecurity are three times less likely to find others trustworthy.
Direct download of the report: https://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/srhs2022.pdf
The State of Global Environmental Governance 2021
The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) published a report on the State of Global Environmental Governance 2021. Negotiating global agreements on climate action, biodiversity restoration, plastic pollution control, and other environmental crises is not easy at the best of times—and 2021 was far from that.
Shifting waves of COVID-19 cases, unequal vaccines distributions, and ongoing travel restrictions continued to harm countries' efforts to reach agreement, even in a year when the impacts of climate change wreaked havoc around the world.
But 2021 was also a year of learning. Online meeting practices evolved. We had “hybrid” meetings involving both online and in-person modes of work, often rotating starting times as delegates tried to juggle time zone equity with day jobs. Forays into in-person meetings took massive leaps at the IUCN World Congress, the Barcelona Convention COP 22, and the Glasgow Climate Change Conference.
Our Earth Negotiations Bulletin team explores the highlights and lowlights in a tumultuous year—including the problematic popularity of pledging, the strategies that helped online meetings make progress, and the growing recognition of inequality as an environmental issue. With 2022 featuring possible milestones for plastics, biodiversity, the ocean, and chemicals, it's more important than ever to build on lessons learned.
Updated 15 March 2022