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UN overhaul required to govern planet's life support system: Experts

new organizations and global standards, including the U.N., the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (later the World Trade Organization), and others."

"The current destruction of the Earth's natural systems warrants today a similar 'constitutional moment' to revise and transform the architecture of global governance."

Says IHDP executive director Anantha Duraiappah: "The governance systems created post-war have helped resolve conflict, promote globalization and spur unprecedented economic growth. Many societies have progressed in the past decades with an increase in well-being. The magic question is can this continue? As the world continues to become ever more interdependent we need new forms of governance."

Improving international co-ordination is essential to deal not only with global-scale environmental and consequent security problems but to regulate proposed technological fixes, including nanotechnology, biotechnology and climate engineering.

Global-scale geo-engineering proposals to address climate change are too far-reaching and potentially dangerous to be left to the discretion of national governments or corporations, Dr. Biermann says. Multilateral frameworks are instead urgently needed.

"Tinkering with the existing international governance system is unlikely to improve matters sufficiently," he says. "Fundamental reform is required for effective Earth-system governance."

Among several recommendations:

Strengthen the system of international organizations for sustainable development by, for example:

  • Upgrading the UN Commission on Sustainable Development to a Council of the UN General Assembly, to handle emerging issues such as water, climate, energy and food security, natural disasters and the linkages among these issues;

  • Elevating the Nairobi-based UN Environment Programme to the status of the World Health Organization and International Labour

Contact: Terry Collins
Earth System Science Partnership

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