Press release: Feasta climate group response to the Working Group 3 contribution to the IPCC’s fifth assessment report

Report’s emphasis on climate change as a “global commons problem” helpful and constructive

The economy must break its dependency on GDP growth in order to achieve emissions reduction without economic collapse

The potential exists for significant co-benefits from climate mitigation, including poverty alleviation and reduced inequality

Grassroots legal action could help give teeth to the international institutions needed for cooperation

Feasta climate group members today welcomed the new IPCC report’s recognition that climate change is a ‘global commons problem’ and that a complete phasing out of fossil fuel use will be necessary. We find the report’s reference to commons constructive and helpful as we believe that the climate is essentially an unmanaged global commons and that any search for solutions must take this fully into account.

However we question the report’s assumption that economic growth can and must continue in a zero-emissions economy. “[Working group co-chair] Youba Sokona states in today’s press release that the core task of climate change mitigation is decoupling greenhouse gas emissions from the growth of economies and population. However, this is a misplaced priority which could actually create further problems,” said Caroline Whyte, co-author of the Feasta Climate Group book Sharing for Survival: Restoring the Climate, the Commons and Society.

Climate group members argue that the link between fossil fuel use and GDP growth is very tight and that trying to completely decouple the two would be a Herculean task. The solution is rather to reconfigure the economy as a whole so that it ceases to be dependent on continual economic growth, while placing an enforceable and tightening cap on greenhouse gas emissions. “Growth is not the same as progress and we should not pin all our hopes on it. A well-designed climate mitigation strategy could potentially produce co-benefits that go well beyond job creation and energy independence, helping to alleviate broader structural problems such as worldwide inequality and poverty,” claimed Whyte.

John Jopling, a co-founder of Feasta who also contributed to Sharing for Survival, commented that “[Working Group co-chair] Ottmar Edenhofer makes an all-too-apt reference in the report summary to the inherent challenges with regard to putting in place the international institutions needed for cooperation. However, if we take a commons-based approach we can begin to envisage solutions.” Jopling argued that grassroots legal action could obtain court injunctions to compel cooperation of the fossil fuel companies with the proposed system of capping and licensing emissions. This system could be administered by an independent global trust, thus avoiding the structural flaws inherent to the UNFCCC.


Sharing for Survival: Restoring the Climate, the Commons and Society is a collection of essays by nine Feasta Climate Group members, taking the premise that the climate is a type of commons which everybody has a share in and that this needs to be reflected in climate policy.

Feasta press release on IPCC Working Group report, September 2013

Commentary on IPCC Working Group 2 report, April 2014

Feasta submission to Consultation on Heads of Climate Action and Carbon Development Bill

Feasta Response to the European Commission consultation on a 2030 framework for climate and energy policies

Cap and Share (framework proposed by Feasta energy group and developed in Sharing for Survival, which combines emissions caps with fund distribution)

An article by John Jopling on capping global carbon emissions will be published in the peer-reviewed science journal Carbon Management in August 2014.

Note: Feasta is a forum for exchanging ideas. By posting on its site Feasta agrees that the ideas expressed by authors are worthy of consideration. However, there is no one ‘Feasta line’. The views of the article do not necessarily represent the views of all Feasta members.