Quick, a World Environment Organization to save the climate (and the COP21)

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Translation of an article published in Libération on April 21

This Friday 22nd of April, in New York, invited by the General Secretary of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, the signing ceremony of the Paris agreement takes place, with world-wide heads of governments. A little more than 4 months after the great fanfare at the Bourget putting an end to this COP21, the meeting must mark the starting point of the ratification process and show the will of the international community to concretely implement this agreement. That is to say, pursuing the present activity to “limit the raise of temperature by 1.5°C”. Concretely this agreement imposes on all the countries to increase their climatic objectives.

But from paper to reality, there’s a gap: at the present time, on the field, absolutely nothing is changing. Two examples sadly illustrate this observation: while in the middle of the ‘diesel-gates” scandal, French authorities pressured Brussels to decrease the emission thresholds of air pollution, that is to say changing the rules rather than punishing cheating behaviors, for the interest of car manufacturers, and not the one of climate or Europeans’ health. More recently, the world largest firms of offshore oil production met at Pau from the 5th to the 7th of April to coordinate their global strategy in order to dig and drill ever more in the oceans seeking for oil.

States and multinationals agree: the Paris agreement was a beautiful moment of formal communication but never a world historic date to finally start changing our model in order to save our climate. Every minute, the possibility to limit the raise of temperature to 1.5°C escapes a little more despites the great promises. Like a smoker always smokes a last one before quitting and despites all warnings about his health, the global economic system continues its blind and mortal race for productivism and growth in complete contradiction with the COP21’s objectives. The negotiations for the Transatlantic Agreement to increase commercial exchanges between the European Union and the United States of America is an unmistakable proof of the priority given to business and trade over our planet, our climate and future generations.

It is long past time to whistle an end to this recreation. If neither the states, the international institutions nor the multinational companies accept to play the game by its rules, we must institute an international police guard with mandatory power and unquestionable authority to implement the objectives of COP21 as well as the 300 and more conventions and international agreements about environmental law, in force but never applied because not a priority in comparison to growth, GDP or the external trade balance numbers.

We thus call for the relaunching of the World Environment Organization. This beautiful idea, carried by environmentalist NGOs and associations during the 2000’s, taken up by heads of governments even in France, was finally swept away by the global economic crisis from 2008 and abandoned in absence of political courage. Nevertheless, if this WEO would exist to recall their duties concerning climate and environment to other international institutions, states and global companies, it could greatly help to deliver a simple message: in the current state of our planet, business and trade cannot constitute an absolute priority over the survival of life on Earth.

Like the World Trade Organization that started to impose from 1995 the disappearance of custom duties all around the planet thanks to the “most favored nation clause”, we need a WEO that could provide for instance a “most favored environmentally nation clause” for the signatory State who is the most exemplary in environmental and climate matters to be able to progressively impose to all its partners to align with the most rigorous criteria. It is a way to promote a race to best behavior.

Of course, we do not particularly congratulate international institutions and are perfectly aware of their limits as we observe the United Nations’ impotence in front of the crimes against humanity perpetuated in Syria for example. Nevertheless, the existence of such institutions represents without a doubt a step forward. If we want to remain consistent and truly really implement the objectives of COP21 by any means and finally put environmental law before corporate law, we cannot afford to do without this World Environment Organization. The program of the United Nations for the Environment already exists: only remains to transform it in order for it to finally get the powers and legitimacy of its role and objectives. So, long life to the rights of the WEO!

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