This presentation was given in Maynooth on March 19th as part of the Alternatives for Tranformation conference.
There is now no doubt whatsoever that we are currently heading for calamitous unstoppable run-away climate change. To avoid this outcome, there is also no doubt that the use of fossil fuels must be drastically reduced and fast – within the next few years, well before 2020.
It should be the responsibility of governments to achieve this. But can we rely on governments, given that since 1992, when they committed to taking action, emissions from the use of fossil fuels have been allowed to increase year after year? Too much is at stake to rely on governments to take effective action.
In this extremely dangerous situation, the initiative is going to have to come from civil society. Just as the actions of Henri Dunant and his friends led to the setting up of the International Commission of the Red Cross, so an independent Global Climate Commons Regime can be established by citizens without government assistance. The new regime’s most urgent task will be to establish a global permit scheme controlling the entry of fossil fuels onto the market anywhere in the world, the total number of permits being reduced each year, the permits being sold for market value and the proceeds divided between citizens everywhere. The role of governments will simply be to police the scheme.
That’s the outcome we need to aim for. Achieving it will require ‘people power’. A wide range of non-governmental organisations will have to cooperate in establishing the new regime. Like all commons regimes, it will require “a cooperative and participatory process”, initiated and developed by non-state and non-corporate actors who are not fatally compromised by their deep involvement in the fossil fuel economy and who share common values. We can knit together the connections between multiple organisations, groups and commoners, creating a dense network with multiple peer to peer climate related commons nodes based on real activities, eg.
- existing indigenous commons organisations and support networks
- organisations taking legal actions relating to climate eg coastal communities, port cities, island states, farmers
- people collecting information on fossil fuel industry, identifying where and by whom fossil fuels are introduced into the economy eg coalswarm
- people researching the constitution and modus operandi of a Global Climate Commons Trust
The unparalleled emergency we are faced with is an opportunity to start working in new ways that reflect that.
Featured image: industrial smokestacks. Author: Michael & Christa Richert. Source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1401832
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For 30 years John practiced as a barrister in London advising clients about the law of trusts. Increasing awareness of the deep-seated flaws in mainstream economic and political systems led to using his professional expertise to help establish a number of new institutions, including FIELD the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development and Feasta the Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability. Publications included two Feasta Reviews, edited jointly with Richard Douthwaite, and the Schumacher Briefing Gaian Democracies, written jointly with Roy Madron. An article of his on the global governance systems needed to tackle climate change appears in the Feasta book Sharing for Survival, published in April 2012. John passed away in November 2019 at the age of eighty-four. You can read tributes to him and find out more about his life here.