Friday, November 18, 2011

Local Sustainability 2012 - Rebuilding a Communitarian World

I'm working on the final updates to the Agenda 21 chapter of 2020. Here's one of the things that struck me as important enough to add. Konrad Otto-Zimmermann, Secretary General of ICLEI — Local Governance for Sustainability based in Bonn, advised future attendees that the focus of Rio has to be to find new ways to tie local governments to the process. He wrote, in 2011:
"Let’s tie local governments, subnational governments and business into a global framework of policy setting, implementation and accountability, and link this to the multilateral structure national governments are part of."
In his opinion, Otto-Zimmermann sees difficulties in achieving the goals of global environmental governance, and in a section titled Governance Upgrade through Responsive Evolution he explains how he would revise the UN Charter:

So let’s look at international climate governance involving national governments, subnational and local governments, business and civil society stakeholders. Again I will focus on cities and local governments as it is my specialty. Would we start by revising the UN Charter, adding a Local Government Chamber to the UN General Assembly, and adding a new constituency to the UN? There are already models for this. One example is the Council of Europe, an inter-governmental body that maintains the Congress of European Municipalities and Regions as a chamber. The European Union maintains a Committee of the Regions as a standing reference body. Could this regional European approach be scaled up to the global level? As one can easily appreciate this might be the preferred approach for experts in international law and the law-makers guild.

According to Otto-Zimmermann, he's been talking to many key players, and there is

... talk about merging functions of International Environmental Governance into one single World Environment Organization modeled on the World Trade Organization.

The WTO began expanding its role in global governance, climate change and social justice legislation during the Doha Round:

In the Doha Round, countries decided to combine the positive role that opening up trade plays in efficiently allocating resources, with a set of negotiations specifically targeted at the environment — the first time environmental issues have ever featured in the context of a multilateral trade round. The negotiations include the relationship between WTO rules and multilateral environmental agreements. While there is no conflict between trade and environmental regimes — and the Appellate Body has repeatedly confirmed that the WTO can take other bodies of international law into account when interpreting its own rules — they nevertheless seek to ensure that these legal regimes operate harmoniously. They also encompass the issue of accelerating the opening of trade in goods and services that can help protect the environment or conserve natural resources – such as air filters, catalytic converters, windmills," OUR PLANET MAGAZINE GLOBALIZATION AND THE ENVIRONMENT,

Numerous high level calls for a WEO make it seem likely the Rio+20 Earth Summit will include this "idea" on some level, either up front on the public agenda or in private meetings.

The globalization of environmental problems means that environmentalists -- and economists, labor leaders, and other citizens -- need to embrace a concept increasingly being touted, albeit in rarefied policy circles: a single global group with real power, a World Environment Organization.

Global problems require international strategies and coordination, particularly for such goals as maintaining biodiversity, keeping the oceans clean, and lowering carbon emissions. But all too often, national sovereignty divides the world into untenable slices. The European Union, for instance, has developed a coordinated approach to tackling greenhouse gases through conservation measures and technological development. Yet, absent cooperation from the United States, China, and other major powers, such a task might come to seem quixotic. The formation of a World Environment Organization would provide global environmental standards with real teeth. It would also provide an umbrella for environmental organizations, and counteract the problem of single-issue solutions for linked problems.

… Internationalizing knowledge is the easy part. Granting a WEO real authority to enforce best practices, and to punish those who most harm the environment, is the hard part. Following what the WTO says rather than what it does, a WEO must be intensely democratic, transparent, and take into consideration the needs of developing countries. It must provide for an inclusive spectrum of voices and look beyond short-term business interests. It must be run by leading environmental thinkers who occupy a place of real power. And it must have a guaranteed source of substantial funding, perhaps partly via an international tax on polluters." Are WEO There Yet? Why we need a World Environment Organization, by Ethan Goffman,

While the UNEP and other United Nations organizations push the agenda from the top down, there are just as many organizations pushing the agenda from the streets. These are the kinds of "locals" who will have a seat at the UN's new enforcement agency:

It goes without saying that politics is a dirty system. It's so dirty that I believe there are only three reasonable approaches to politics: apathy/despair, overthrowing the system, or playing dirty to win. I'll assume that the apathetics either aren't reading this or will soon stop reading to go watch cat videos on YouTube. The second option, revolution, is growing more plausible, and the climate movement should fully support those efforts. The occupations of Wall Street and D.C. have found a weak spot in the wall of corporate power that keeps people out of the halls of influence. Everyone needs to push that spot until we break through the wall and have a new constitutional convention to establish a democracy in this country. 11/14/11

Tim DeChristopher is a climate activist and cofounder of Peaceful Uprising. He has been beatified as a saint in the Church of Earthalujah by the Reverend Billy and convicted as a felon by the United States Government.

So who trains Americans like Tim DeChristopher to become criminal activists calling for a new "democracy" in the United States? Academics like James Gustave Speth, Dean of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University...who wrote in UNEP Magazine Our Planet, Connected Dreams, February 2011:
Individuals and communities can also exert influence as voters and citizens, as investors, as consumers, as association members, as workers, as activists, and as educators. This is already beginning to happen in the United States, where citizen initiatives and local action are beginning to address the global problems of energy and climate change. Meanwhile, Washington itself does little.
Before the big Rio+20 conference, there is a preparation for the Rio+20 conference:
Local Sustainability 2012

The Local Sustainability 2012 study will lay the ground for the local government contribution to the Rio+20 conference:

  • documenting the variety of local processes for sustainability that have emerged all over the world, across the most diverse political and economic cultures;
  • analysing the impacts of such local processes and their success or failure to initiate the necessary transition process towards more sustainable cities;
  • proposing new ways forward for local governments to make their cities more resource-efficient, resilient and people-friendly, and to green their urban economies;
  • outlining the governance framework necessary to be implemented on national and international levels in order for local governments to successfully contribute to global sustainability.

The study will consist of a global overview report, outlining a typology of local sustainability processes and a collection of local innovation case studies from all over the world.

Watch this space - first results available soon!

Based on the results of the study, ICLEI will develop policy recommendations to be presented in the run up to the Rio+20 conference.

The study is co-funded by The Charles Leopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind and the Rio+20 vor Ort project, coordinated by the Institute for Future Studies and Technology Assessment.

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