November 28, 2023. The Climate Governance Commission (CGC) today released Governing our Planetary Emergency, a ground-breaking report which highlights that current policies are failing to address the global climate emergency, and which puts forward a platform of climate governance proposals in order to ensure more effective cooperative action to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C or less.
“The world faces a deepening planetary emergency—and is on a reckless path toward runaway, catastrophic climate change—having already over-shot six of nine scientifically-identified Planetary Boundaries,” according to the Report. “Collectively, we must chart a safe and sustainable path for a workable future for all of humanity.”
The report provides a package of fifteen near-and-medium-term proposals for vital and substantial governance improvements across the international system. These include, amongst others, Climate COP reform, declaration of planetary emergency and establishment of an international court for the environment.
“We stand at the cusp of a green energy transformation, poised to shape a fairer, cleaner, healthier future. The means to finance the climate action we need to see are within reach, but it is good governance that holds the key,” says Mary Robinson, Commission co-chair, former President of Ireland and Chair of The Elders.
The Report notes that we are “facing a crossroads in human history” and that “we need novel approaches to global governance. Employing new and existing governance levers in more creative and technically robust ways—that harness the combined talents and commitments of governments and non-state actors—is necessary to meet our shared, colossal challenges.”
“The science is clear. It is telling us that we are already living within an extinction crisis and a climate crisis. Life on Earth as we know it, and even our own survival as a species, is at risk,” says María Fernanda Espinosa, Co-Chair of the Climate Governance Commission and President of the UN General Assembly 2018-2019. “What we need is a reflection on and reconsideration of our global governance architecture, to ensure it is fit for purpose and adequate to the tasks ahead.”
The Commission will form diverse, high-level working groups to refine its recommendations and advocate for their associated transformations. This will be done in conjunction with Mobilizing an Earth Governance Alliance (MEGA) a new global alliance the Climate Governance Commission is establishing in partnership with the World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP) and Citizens for Global Solutions with a number of other cosponsoring organizations.
“At root, it is not an environmental crisis. Humanity has created a global governance crisis,” says John Vlasto, Chair of the WFM-IGP Executive Committee and Co-founder of MEGA. “Resolve this and we can unite to live in harmony with each other and with nature.”
Among the near-term recommendations proposed by the Commission of experts:
- Urgent improvements of climate COPs for delivery, action, and accountability to focus, reconfigure, and streamline the annual conference, currently expected to attract more than 70,000 delegates in its 28th year. The Commission also calls for the adoption of proven mediation mechanisms and majority/supermajority voting approaches to avoid logjams and prevent “a watered-down, least common denominator dynamic.”
- The declaration of a “planetary emergency” by the UN General Assembly at next year’s Summit of the Future, as well as the activation of an Emergency Platform, elaborating on a proposal by the UN Secretary-General.
- A Grand Bargain among the “Big Four” GHG-emitting nations (China, the U.S., India, and the EU), joined by other high-emission nations. The Commission calls for the linking, improvement, and – where needed – establishment of institutional infrastructures to evaluate the climate performance of goods and companies, and for the responsible engagement by and accountability of fossil fuel companies, executives, and associations.
- Renewed efforts to bridge the great climate finance divide, including through debt forgiveness, reforms to multilateral development banks, and balanced global carbon taxes and tariffs to fund climate mitigation and adaptation in low and middle-income countries.
“We are in for a bumpy ride. Just how bumpy depends on our ability to safeguard the buffering capacity of our planet,” says Johan Rockström, report co-author and Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “There’s no safe climate without protecting nature on land and in the ocean, reducing fertilizer run-off and pollution, and ensuring a robust hydrological cycle.”
Still, the report authors remain hopeful that an “all-of-society emergency effort” can adopt their fifteen specific and near-term actions in months, not decades, to make critical reforms and engage the relevant stakeholders in building a safer and more just tomorrow.
“In the face of a deepening planetary crisis, it falls upon us to be the architects of brighter and safer societies. With bold climate and environmental governance transformations suggested in the new Climate Governance Commission report, we can build low-carbon and fairer economies…and ensure a secure, flourishing future for all,” says Maria Fernanda Espinosa. “The time to avert the climate crisis is now.”