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Scholars call for global governance overhaul to ensure Earth's sustainability

A group of the world's leading environmental scholars are sounding the alarm that human societies need to transform their national and international environmental institutions into a more coherent and robust planetary stewardship model in order to steer away from rapid and irreversible changes to the Earth's subsystems.

University of Toronto political scientist Steven Bernstein is one of the authors of a paper which appears in Science on March 16, 2012.

In the article, 32 international scholars warn that incremental change is not sufficient to bring about societal change at the level and with the speed necessary. "Structural change in global governance is needed, both inside and outside the United Nations (UN) system and involving both public and private actors."

Among their recommendations:

  • Reform and upgrade the environmental agencies and programs of the UN to ensure a strong environmental organization with a sizeable role in agenda-setting, norm-development, compliance management, science assessment and capacity-building.

  • More strongly integrate the social, economic and environmental pillars of sustainable development from local to global levels and create a new Sustainable Development Council that gives special predominance to the largest economies the Group of 20 countries as primary members that hold 50 per cent of the votes, with the rest distributed among smaller states.

  • Close remaining regulatory gaps at the global level, including in the development and deployment of emerging technology like nanotechnology, synthetic biology and geo-engineering, to ensure transparency, information-sharing, engage multiple stakeholders in policy dialogues and ensure that environmental considerations are fully respected.

Possible reforms of the intergovernmental government system will be a key focus of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio De Janeiro in Jun

Contact: Kim Luke
University of Toronto

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