The Socialist International Commission for a Sustainable World Society, meeting in London on 19 November 2007, hosted by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Leader of the British Labour Party, discussed the priorities and emphases of its work to be undertaken in addressing global environmental concerns, climate change, policies on energy, and decisions on local, national and global governance required to deal with these urgent questions of our time.
The Commission began its work underlining that the international community finds itself on the threshold of a crucial decision. The earth is demanding the attention of all the planet’s inhabitants and the time for decisive action which will make a difference is now. The warming of the climate system around the world is an indisputable scientific fact. Equally, the substantial impact of human activity on the deteriorating state of the earth’s atmosphere is undeniable.
In the view of the Commission, climate change constitutes the greatest challenge of our time, and tackling it is the most vital priority before us. No country can deal with this issue alone, neither can the planet afford to leave any country behind. Climate change needs a common, adequate and effective multilateral response. This can only be provided by ensuring the necessary governance at all levels.
Two fundamental approaches must converge - on the one hand, the scientific, and on the other, the political. The latter must be inspired by the will, the vision and the commitment to build a sustainable future for all citizens of all nations – this we see as the task of the Commission, to articulate from the realm of politics responses which, taking into account all peoples, sets a course for the immediate and long-term policies to tackle these issues.
Climate change is a common responsibility, and an overall strategy to combat it must include active solidarity between rich and poor countries. Technical and economic support to countries with less capacity to reduce gas emissions is therefore necessary. Commitments for individual countries should be based on both the current level of emissions and the country’s economic capacity to reduce them, under the principle of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capacity. The richest countries with the largest emissions should reduce their emissions the most.
As never before, nations, particularly those with the largest emissions, must come to an agreement on how to mitigate them, how to adapt better to the reality of this change which will affect some countries, especially the most poor and vulnerable, and how to analyse future technological transfers and new ways of providing financial investment.
In the view of the Commission, the efforts to limit pollution emissions must go hand in hand with the worldwide fight against poverty. We believe in a model where economic development, combating poverty and protecting the environment are combined. We also believe that a socially and ecologically sustainable society can create new opportunities for economic growth, employment, social protection and a cohesive society.
A new spirit of North-South dialogue centred on environmental concerns and climate change should be encouraged to promote technological and financial transfers and to permit the preservation of threatened areas of our planet and the reforestation of other areas which are over-exploited or in danger of desertification.
A New Deal with Nature is needed to redress the balance in the relationship between humans and their environment, as is a new concept of governance to reflect the importance of this interdependence.
The forthcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in December in Bali, needs to put in motion a process that will lead to a successful agreement for a new set of international commitments post-2012. It is essential, however, that the commitments undertaken in Kyoto to reduce or stabilise emissions be effectively fulfilled by 2012 and realistic and ambitious efforts should be undertaken for a post-Kyoto treaty regime binding the countries with the largest gas emission.
The Commission shares the view that among the new targets to be set are limiting the total increase of the average global temperature of maximum 2 degrees above the pre-industrial level, which is linked to a reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions of at least 50 per cent below the 1990 level by 2050.
Measures against climate change in every country will inevitably have to include a change in life style and a substantial reduction of greenhouse gases. The use of flexible mechanisms should be limited in the post-Kyoto treaty regime. Efforts are also required to develop and implement renewable energy sources, ensuring a minimum of impact on the countryside and the eco-system; to further develop energy-efficient programmes and to encourage research and the implementation of alternative energy sources to fossil fuels, considering that the existing models bear substantial responsibility for climate change.
The environment and global governance agenda needs today clear definitions, objectives and timetables; shared sacrifices and collective generosity. It requires the participation of all – citizens, communities, institutions and governments. The goal of living in a Sustainable World Society, bringing a better quality of life for all, demands now the efforts, the creativity and the wisdom of the political, social and scientific world. Our Commission will strive to contribute, from a global progressive political perspective, to that end.