The clock is ticking: we must achieve an agreement on a Global Pact for the Environment in order to safeguard the sustainability of the Planet.
The meeting of the United Nations´ Ad Hoc Working Group whose task is to work towards a Global Pact for the Environment begins today in Nairobi, Kenya. This meeting, the second of this Working Group, offers a unique and critical opportunity to lay the groundwork for reaching an agreement at the next session of the United Nations General Assembly in September this year.
“This is a unique opportunity for the international community to bring about positive change for our Planet in order to establish an effective and efficient system of global governance for nature and to recognize the Earth System as the basis for our well-being and prosperity” said Paulo Magalhaes, observer at the meeting in Nairobi and Founder and Director of Common Home of Humanity, an international organization whose aim is to achieve legal recognition of the Earth System.
“It is urgent to achieve a Global Pact for the Environment to recalibrate the dependence of humanity on nature and its responsibility in the use of natural resources, on which we depend, through a system that ensures the maintenance of the biogeophysical conditions of our Planet. Thus, we must achieve legal recognition of the Earth System in an integrated and indivisible manner. Without this, the governance of the Earth simply does not work. It is our only hope to make Planet Earth a healthy and sustainable place for future generations.
“This second meeting will discuss what options exist for such a Global Environment Pact. Given the current state of emergency, as the GEO-6 report, presented last week at the United Nations Environment Assembly, warns, the only urgent option is to protect the Earth System. Therefore, the existence of this system must be recognised in a legally binding international agreement which, in turn, protects the so-called “safe operating space” of our Planet in order to keep it in the conditions of the Holocene, that is, within the so-called planetary limits. Otherwise, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals or the objectives of the Paris Agreement are seriously at risk” says Ana Barreira, observer at the working group meeting, Director of the International Institute of Law and Environment, and member of the Board of Directors of Common Home of Humanity, from Nairobi.
Why a Global Pact for the Environment, and why now?
- Time is ripe – the Paris agreement is recognised as insufficient to stabilise the climate, while pressures on the planet are dramatically increasing. New generations see the urgency and are staging climate strikes across the world.
- The global scale and multi-sector approach of the proposed Global Pact for the Environment offer a strong opportunity for the paradigm shift necessary to reverse environmental disruption and have a lasting impact.
- International political alignment seems closer than ever in considering how the Earth System functions as a whole, and therefore how the law must evolve to enable a successful environmental governance model.
- The initiative launched by Le Club des Juristes, proposing a legally binding international instrument to bring together principles articulated in a range of political declarations on the environment, is a key opportunity to harmonise science, law and economics for the health of the planet. As it currently stands, the proposed pact does not constitute a firm foundation for inaugurating or embedding the type of paradigm-shifting global juridical regime we critically need to address the perilous state of the Earth.
- Today it is possible to scientifically define the global environment. It is therefore inconceivable that any Global Pact for the Environment should not use existing scientific knowledge about the functioning of the Earth System.
- If a Global Pact for the Environment fails to come to fruition, recognising the functioning of the Earth System as a whole in an integrated way, the political momentum may not come again for several decades. It may also be impossible to advance the concepts underpinning the Paris agreement, moving from the exclusive consideration of CO2 towards the nine core drivers of Earth System function, the so-called Planetary Boundaries – all necessary to ensure a stable climate. It is essential to integrate scientific knowledge into these proposed legal instruments.
- Global Pact for the Environment negotiations must cover all drivers of decline, increasing the negotiating margin of each country and with it the prospect of success in addressing Earth System functioning. This will make this agreement fairer in terms of historical responsibilities and allow easier integration of bio-geophysical cycles in the functioning of the economy.
- Almost all nine Planetary Boundaries indicators already have their own silo legislation, but there is currently no legal framework to represent their interconnections and their way of operating within a complex and interconnected system. An effective Global Pact for the Environment would fill this breach.
- Why do we need an Earth System approach to guide the Global Pact for the Environment? Report by Common Home of Humanity and IIDMA, contribution for the second substantive session of the Ad Doc Working Group towards a Global Pact for the Environment, 20 February https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/27702/earth_pact.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.
- More information on the second substantive meeting of UN Working Group on Global Pact for the Environment in Nairobi on 18-20 March can be found here. The first meeting, in January, was reported on by UN Environment here.