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24 Policies to End the Earth Emergency

Stephen Leahy
Inter Press Service / News Report
Published: Tuesday 5 June 2012
Ecologically ignorant policies are largely responsible for the interlinked crises that are unraveling the planet's life support system.
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Ecologically ignorant policies are largely responsible for the interlinked crises that are unraveling the planet's life support system.

The unintended consequences of such policies are climate change, desertification, biodiversity decline, ocean pollution and the destruction of forests, according to the policy advocacy organisation World Future Council. 

The solution is to eliminate “bad” policies and implement policies that ensure a healthy planet for future generations. On world environment Day, Jun. 5, the World Future Council will present an emergency policy agenda consisting of 24 tipping-point policies that need to be implemented globally to preserve a habitable planet. 

“We are in an Earth Emergency. It's an unbelievable crisis. Policies are the most important tool we have to change this,” Jakob von Uexkull, founder and chair of the World Future Council (WFC). 

The five-year old WFC is based in Hamburg, Germany and comprised of 50 eminent individual from around the globe who have already successfully promoted change. 

“Policy may be seen as dull and boring but they are the things that shape our societies,” von Uexkull told IPS. 

In 2000, the German government created the now famous feed-in tariff policy launching a renewable energy revolution. That policy has enabled Germany to generate 22 percent of its electricity from renewables today and created a new business sector employing more people than its automotive industry. 

“With the best laws and right policy incentives we can mobilise human inventiveness and entrepreneurship to safeguard a healthy planet for future generations,” he said. 

On the other hand bad government policies allow 3,000 of the world's biggest corporations to escape more than 2.2 trillion dollars in annual costs through their impacts on the natural environment, according to the U.N. Environment Programme. 

(A trillion is one thousand billion. A trillion seconds is nearly 32,000 years). 

The impacts of pollution and destruction of ecosystems are now undermining the very life support system humanity relies on, threatening the well-being of current and future generations. 

“If those companies had to account for those costs as they should, few would be profitable,” von Uexkull said. 

The WFC's 24 tipping-point policies include the best policies for speeding up the global transition to renewable energy, policies regulating financial instruments, securing sustainable ecosystems, granting equal educational opportunities for women and outlawing nuclear weapons. 

One of the more controversial may be a policy to require politicians, public officials, economists and business school graduates be tested for their eco-literacy. 

“Ecological literacy is vital for those in positions of power and influnce. How can they be taken seriously if they don't understand the real risks and dangers?”

Traditional economic theory puts the environment is a subset of the economy. Von Uexkull says it is “profoundly scary” that decisions are being made on that basis when reality is exactly opposite: the economic system we've created is wholly dependent on the natural environment. 

“Many economists actually believe that if food production collapses we can just make more iPods to keep the economy going,” he said. 

Ecological literacy needs to be a legal requirement and be a part of a basic education - just putting the idea out there isn't enough, he added. 

“We are the guardians of all future generations of life on earth," begins the short document with the 24 tipping-point policies titled "Saving our Shared Future – Best Policies to Regenerate our World”. 

The first needed policy is to establish the election of High Commissioners/Ombudspersons for Future Generations at the U.N. and in national governments to represent and protect the rights of future generations. 

The environment and future generations also need legal protection through changes at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to “criminalize acts that cause irreversible damage to our natural environment”. Activities causing widespread and long-term damage to the environment would be considered crimes against future generations, says Alexandra Wandel, director of the WFC. 

Bottom trawling, an industrial form of fishing that damages the ocean floor, is an example of a practice that could be outlawed by the court, Wandel told IPS. 

“We are now working with lawyers at the ICC to develop the appropriate amendments to the statutes of the court,” she says. 

Another crucial tipping-point policy is to require full-cost accounting for the energy sector and elimination of subsidies for the fossil fuel and nuclear energy industries. With policies like this in place to level the playing field, renewable energy deployment will “explode”, says von Uexkull. 

Governments also need to gradually shift taxes from labour (incomes) to resources, the WFC recommends. This “Green Tax Shift” increases the cost of non-rewewable resources while taxing pollution and includes a carbon tax

The Green Party of Canada has a well-thought out approach to this that was adopted by one Canada's major parties. However, they were unsuccessful in educating Canadians about its merits, he says. 

“There is no viable alternative to this in a world running out of resources,” von Uexkull said. 

The 24 policies are the result of more than five years of work by a very broad range of experts from different cultural backgrounds, some of whom have been working on these issues for two decades, said Wandel. 

The WFC has developed a specific methodology for assessing successful policies around the world and issues a “Future Policy Award” annually for year's best. Last year's winner was Rwanda's National Forest Policy that resulted in a 37 percent increase in forest cover, reduced erosion, and improved local water supplies and livelihoods. 

“Independent representatives from local civil society also provide their assessments of these policies,” Wandel said. 

Recognising that these are far-reaching proposals, the WFC proposes a five-year worldwide public education campaign to rapidly raise global awareness about the stark realities of the Earth Emergency, the choices we face, and to mobilise support for the key policy changes required. 

To reach both the global public and the key policy-makers, organisers estimate the cost at less than 100 million dollars. They are actively seeking partnerships and appeal to governments, inter-governmental and civil society organisations, academia, media and youth groups to work with them. 

These 24 are not nice-to-have policies. They are essential if we are to continue to have habitable planet, says von Uexkull. 

“This is a realistic message of hope. Big steps are easier than small steps,” he said. 

If somebody ignores the

If somebody ignores the catastrophic impact of human overpopulation (as Uexküll does), he's - sad to say - "ecologically ignorant" himself. Exaggerated demands in combination with exaggerated numbers of people result in the deadly potential of Earth Emergency. Uexküll's "24 methods" alone are fragmentary and not sufficient.
Take an example: The "energy transition" turns away from atomic energy. Today I read a totally disturbing article about how the search for alternatives threatens to destroy a wonderful alpine region beyond repair
(in German:
For this big number of energy consumers, there is - even if all of them lived on subsistence minimum! - no such thing as "sustainable use of energy".
Demands must decrease substantially, and population numbers must decline substantially - please in a peaceful way, as long as this is still possible. Efficient and sufficient birth control must become common standard all over the earth.
Thank you, Mozzie, for your comment!

Over-population is the

Over-population is the biggest problem for the Earth and Her resources. No one in a position of power I have ever heard about has ever, ever addressed this issue. It's as obvious as it can be, and yet we cling to the hopelessly outdated anthropocentric idea that mankind is the most important creature on the planet. "Man is the only animal who destroys his own nest", and at this point, this is a completely untenable position to be in.

This article makes sense. I

This article makes sense. I only wish it were stronger and clearer. And yet the first response is denial. The whole Global Warming thing is a 'man made scam'. The notion of making all officials have to pass some sort of ecological literacy test [how would Senator Inhofe fare?] is pleasant to consider but how do we go about enforcing it?
The nuclear threat has been dangling over our heads since WWII but the thread hasn't snapped. We've been warned that the window of opportunity to avoid climate disaster has been closing for 30+ years. Now there is no more talk of avoiding the results of our fossil fuel binge but of mitigating the inevitable disasters. To do so requires more immediate, comprehensive and expensive action than that which was required decades ago which we didn't do then and are not doing now. Agencies of the U S government which denies the seriousness of Climate Change are planning expensive contingency plans to address the flooding and chaos which they expect it to bring. Climate change is as serious as the threat of nuclear winter that we were warned could happen except that it is already happening. OK, it is slow but not nearly slow enough.
The idea of getting a handle on world expenditure on armaments seems wise and as more than half of that expenditure comes from our pockets and adds to our deficit we know where to start.
Since an uptick in environmental consciousness after An Inconvenient Truth the public has lost interest and the government has been unable to pass even the weakest watered down energy bill. I can't help but think of Al Gore ending his film with the reminder that all we need is political will and "political will is a renewable resource". Yea, like hen's teeth.
With out world leadership from the government of the largest economy with the highest per capita energy use what chance have we got?
How do we get started?

The entire 'Green' movement

The entire 'Green' movement has been hijacked by Marxist World Government and what you are seeing is nothing but distorted lies. The planetary orbit of the earth and sun combined with the earth's tilt and sun spots are what cause our weather here on earth.

These external forces change not only the direct rays but also the ocean currents which are what was melting the Artic Glaciers from the bottom, and not the top. And yes of course long term the earth is warming as we are in and have been in an Interglacial Period for thousands of years.

However the current Global Warming Concept is a 'Man Made Scam' promoted by a corrupt government and fostered by Educational and Research Institutions looking for grants.

And on whose behalf are you

And on whose behalf are you writing this? Even if you are right about climate change being a natural phenomenon (unlikely) there's still the manmade wanton destruction of the natural world, pollution, decrease of biodiversity not to mention the cynical exploitation of workers. All for the profit of a few. I think you should read this article again and pay attention this time instead of just spouting of lies you've been told by the military/industrial propaganda machine!

The filthy rich individuals

The filthy rich individuals and corporations are perfectly satisfied with the status quo, thank you very much -- it works for them, and they have no intention of allowing the changing of a winning game.

You're right, Jeffrey, but

You're right, Jeffrey, but don't forget that we outnumber them by a million to one. There is still hope, if only the majority wakes up to what is really going on and decides to no longer co-operate with the greedmongers.
I know how easy it is to become disillusioned and depressed, I grew up during the cold war. But we must not allow ourselves to be this way if we want to survive as a species on a healthy, beautiful planet.
Watch 'Thrive' on!

One of the tipping point

One of the tipping point policies is outlawing nuclear weapons and redirecting the trillions the world spends on military systems to human development needs.

Dr. David Krieger, co-founder and president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and one of the 50 founding World Future Council members, praised the plan for calling global attention to the interlocking crises facing life on planet Earth and, in particular, its focus on the continuing danger posed by nuclear weapons.

“Nuclear weapons present humanity with the possibility of extinction—indeed, of ecocide. Only the simplest life forms are likely to survive the nuclear winter that would follow a major nuclear war. But even a regional nuclear war could have horrendous global consequences, leading to a billion deaths from nuclear famine. The continuing threat of nuclear war, combined with the exorbitant amount of money the world is spending on military forces and hardware, rather than on meeting human needs, argue compellingly for the elimination of nuclear weapons and war.”

The full Global Policy Action Plan is available at and at

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