World Federalism and the Environment
The greatest problem facing humanity today is climate change. As we produce more and more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, the earth is heating up at an unprecedented rate. The ice caps are melting, sea levels are rising and changing weather patterns are leading to more storms, hurricanes and floods, which in turn cause widespread damage and death. Farming systems the world over are in turmoil because the rains no longer come at the right time. Pacific islands and coastal areas are in danger of disappearing under water. As usual it is the poor who are the most vulnerable, but these changes are truly global, and they will affect everyone.
It is thus imperative that we have a truly global, democratic, system to deal with this problem. The current system is based on international agreements, where national governments agree to implement changes within their own borders. This system is ineffective for many reasons. Firstly, the agreements themselves are voluntary and non-binding. Many countries routinely ignore them or refuse to sign up to them in the first place. Secondly, in a world with a globalized economy, a globalized production system and global corporations, it is ridiculous to ask national governments to solve the problem within their own borders and to allocate targets at the national level. The UK, for example, claims to have reduced its CO2 emissions in recent years. However, if we look at all the goods produced globally that are then consumed in the UK and then look at the CO2 emissions for all this production, we find that the CO2 emissions that the UK is responsible for have substantially increased. This is the same for many Northern countries. But this is not taken into account in the current system, which instead blames China and other emerging economies for emitting so much CO2 whilst not acknowledging that it is on behalf of all the other countries.
Pollution does not stop at borders. Factories or mines or fracking operations can be based in one country and yet cause pollution in neighbouring countries, or even further afield. There is no global authority to enforce a standardized regulation everywhere. We also require a new accounting system such that the polluter pays. At present many types of pollution are simply ‘externalities’ - a corporation might cause the pollution, but it is the state or the people, who end up suffering, or paying to clean it up.
We believe that a global democratic system is necessary to deal with the challenges of climate change and other global environmental problems. It is important that all people are represented in these discussions and that all countries have a voice and a vote. A global system, where decisions are taken democratically, will enable more just solutions to be decided upon such that the costs of dealing with climate change are spread fairly and equitably. A global Department of the Environment in a Federal World Government would be able to make environmental laws and most crucially, to enforce them. These issues are too important to be left to voluntary agreements. they require binding regulations and enforceable laws. These are the systems that we use at the national level, and whilst they are not perfect, they do function to keep pollution and environmental damage under control. We need now to apply them also at the global level.