Guest blog: Is it time for a Global Planetary Authority? – by Angus Forbes

This is the first in a series of guest blogs, exploring a range of new ideas for how we can move forward and create a future economy with human and environmental wellbeing at its heart. These blogs reflect the opinions of their authors, not necessarily WEAll and its members. What do you think of Angus’ idea? Comment below!

By Angus Forbes

“Two extraordinary things have just happened to the human race. The first is the understanding that we now run, along with Mother Nature, the life-support system of our planet. This is tantamount to a second Copernican revolution. The second is that we have now formed into a connected global citizenship.

From this point on, the future of both Earth and us humans is inextricably linked due to our size and power. So, we now have part responsibility for the planet’s ability to sustain life as we know it. We, yes, us humans, have to decide what the biophysical integrity of this planet will be in 2120, 3020, 4020 and thereafter.

We created our 200 countries though numerous acts of national self-determination when the global population was, on average, just under two billion (1924). Now we number just under eight billion people, we are urban, we are powerful and things have changed.

We now have a global problem that clearly cannot be handled by the system of independent countries and their multilateral organizations that we have created. For in the 50 years since the 1972 UN Stockholm Declaration which stated that the natural assets of Earth must be safeguarded, we have witnessed the accelerating destruction of our most valuable global asset, the biosphere. So something is structurally very wrong.

I believe the blame for the current predicament lies squarely with us, that is, you and me, because we have not created the right governance tool for our times, the risk we face and the known future. The nation state system we built was never designed to protect a biosphere from attack by 8 billion of us.

I am absolutely convinced that in order to protect the biosphere, we need a specialist global authority to do the job. We need to give it powers of regulation and revenue collection over all human organizational form (including the nation state) sufficient to impose the necessary biophysical boundaries for us all. Our new specialist authority will make decisions based on time frames different from those used by any existing human organization, i.e. 100, 500 and 1,000 years.

I believe that humanity is just about to embark upon our first act of global self-determination and enter the current void in global governance to create this authority. In 2022, 32 years after Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote the computer program HTML and gave us the World Wide Web, five billion of us will be connected to each other via the internet. Five billion global citizens who are only seconds apart.

Because we know the problem and we are now connected, we have in place the two preconditions for positive radical change. We are in fact 80% of the way to forming the Global Planet Authority. We have no one to ask except ourselves in order to take the last step, to vote the GPA into existence.

It will involve hard work and sacrifice in the short term, of that there is no doubt, but I believe that we are in fact desperate to live in a world of clear biophysical boundaries, to show that we can shoulder this, our greatest intergenerational responsibility. After all, we are all just humans and all part of the biosphere. As we damage it, we damage ourselves. If we restore and look after it, we restore and look after ourselves.

We must, and can, overcome our limitations by an evolutionary leap in governance. My book, ‘Global Planet Authority: How we are about to save the biosphere’, is available to order now. “

2 Comments

  • Steven Myburgh July 31, 2019 9:56 am

    Angus, I think it is a noble idea, but the reality is that there is no appetite for it, at the level of politicians or citizenry – perhaps because of fears of centralised political control. We are seeing increasing ambition in global environmental treaties in some areas (not fast enough of course), and going backwards in other areas (like climate change). I agree with you that the problem is fragmentation, and another big problem is bad faith actors within the multilateral system, where 100% consensus is needed for any progress or increase in ambition (think Russia, the US, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in failing to acknowledge the findings of the 1.5C climate change report last COP in Poland). One possible way to fill the gap until we have global common standards is to integrate sufficiently strong environmental regulation into trade deals. One example of this is the border carbon adjustment, where an exporter in one country faces a carbon tax to reflect that paid by manufacturers in the importer country (so as not to disadvantage them through national legislation). We require these border adjustments not just for carbon and greenhouse gases, but for biodiversity and other ecosystem services. We might have similar border adjustments for people, where a minimum standard of living or well-being is considered (think fulfillment of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, still remaining unfulfilled decades later). In other words, we need to prevent a race to the bottom, which is essentially what has been happening over the last few decades, as countries try to economically out-compete each other by cannibalising the environment and sacrificing worker and citizen well-being.

  • Trackback: Is it time for a Global Planetary Authority? | threegenerationsleft

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate »