Climate measuring tools (Photo: GettyImages)Stronger global governance is needed to mitigate human impact on the earth's climate and to ensure sustainable development. This is the statement of 32 scientists who published a paper in the journal Science.

The article criticizes institutions around the world, including the United Nations, as inadequate for facing the issue.

Lead author Frank Biermann, an environmental policy specialist from VU University in Amsterdam, cites climate change as the most prominent example of the failure of global governance to meet the needs of global society.

"It just takes a long time normally to get new agreements in place," Biermann says. "One example is climate change where the first Framework Convention has been negotiated in 1992. And since then, there is no change in the emissions trends of major countries."

"I mean the current state of global climate governance is surely not effective in dealing with the challenge of global warming that we see today."

The scientists recommend changes both within and outside of the United Nations, including:
 - A shift in the UN from consensus decision making, which requires all nations to agree to a new treaty, to qualified majority voting: "Not necessarily majority voting on the one country-one vote principle, but a system of voting where also larger countries can protect their own interest in a more meaningful way."

- Creation of a new council within the UN, the Council on Sustainable Development, that would consolidate the many agencies and more than 900 environmental treaties currently in effect. The call for environmental policy to be administered on the model of global economic governance—the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund. "We also argue for the upgrading of the existing U.N. environment program toward full-fledged specialized U.N. agencies, which would give this agency better possibilities, better mandate to influence norm setting processes, a better source of funding, and a higher influence in the international governance."

 - A stronger role for civil society—for non-governmental organizations—in international decision making. This is necessary, Biermann says, in part to ensure accountability: ”The key question that we also have to ask ourselves is, ‘How can we hold these global systems of governance accountable to citizens? I mean, how can we invent in a way democracy, accountability, legitimacy at the global level?’ Civil society organizations should gain more rights in getting information and assessing information and also a stronger right to be heard in international norm setting procedures.”

The authors are primarily public policy experts affiliated with universities including Yale, Oxford, the University of California, the University of Oregon, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Colorado State University, among others.



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