The United Nations has just issued yet another scaremongering assessment of the world’s environment. It was put together by the UN’s principal environmental agency, known as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). The best way to engineer transformation of the current legal system to global governance of the environment, under the auspices of the UN, is for its “experts” to first create the mass perception of an imminent cosmic cataclysm if humanity continues on its present course.
The UNEP report, known as “Global Environment Outlook: Environment for Development (GEO-4)”, covers not just global warming. It covers all dimensions of environmental deterioration that UNEP claims are imminently putting “humanity at risk”. The report warns that we are in mortal danger of passing “unknown points of no return” on climate change, the rate of extinction of species, loss of fertile land through degradation, unsustainable pressure on resources and the challenge of feeding a growing population.
UNEP’s GEO-4 report places primary blame on over-population and the “the rising consumption of the rich”. The solution, according to the authors of the report, requires “fundamental changes in social and economic structures, including lifestyle changes.”
UNEP is serving up repackaged socialism, which one could call eco-socialism. Essentially it is saying that we have to choose between the capitalist free market or a habitable planet.
Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma put it more bluntly during the United Nations meeting on Climate Change in New York last month:
“I think that capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity and if we do not change the model, change the system, then our presence, our debate, our exchange, and the proposals that we make in these meetings at the United Nations will be totally in vain… Where does this pollution come from? It comes from, and is generated by, the unsustainable development of a system which destroys the planet: in other words, capitalism.
I feel that it is important to organise an international movement to deal with the environment, a movement that will be above institutions, businesses and countries that just talk about commerce, that only think about accumulating capital. We have to organize a movement that will defend life, defend humanity, and save the earth.
I think that it is important to think about some regions, some sectors and some countries repaying what has often been called the ecological debt.”
The UNEP report adopts the Bolivian president’s eco-socialist philosophy. Its authors have little faith in free market technological solutions to environmental problems, or what they call “the technology-centred development paradigm". They are bringing back to life the long discredited economic theory of Thomas Robert Malthus, who predicted in the late eighteenth century that population growth would outstrip the growth of the world’s food supply, leading to a catastrophe of subsistence-level living conditions.
UNEP’s answer to its Malthusian dilemma is to re-organize political and economic institutions around an international structure dedicated to saving humanity and the planet. It is building on earlier UN-sponsored reports that criticized the political and economic principles of national sovereignty and free market institutions on the grounds that they prevented serious attention to the international dimensions of man-made environmental problems.
The UN Environmental Programme agency is positioning itself to serve as the “focal point” for concerted international action under what its website describes as “a coherent system of international environmental governance.” A grand vision for UNEP is to be on par with the World Trade Organization, with powers to require member states to act in accordance with established international norms and to take legal action it deems necessary against member states and private persons who violate these norms.
In the same week as the UNEP report was issued, the president of the UN General Assembly delivered a speech at the Harvard Business School which attacked traditional notions of national sovereignty. In his words, we need to “disaggregate, redistribute and devolve sovereignty, particularly at the individual and international level”. Under this scheme, the UN would have an “overarching role”. Although denying that he was calling for world government, he proclaimed that a “globalized world requires some degree of global governance.”
What would this mean in the environmental sphere? It would mean the creation of new mechanisms to “redistribute and devolve” national sovereignty to a much more powerful UNEP or some other global environmental organization overseeing a special world environment court. This court would have binding enforcement powers over member states and private parties.
Indeed, just a month ago it was reported that as “the United Nations takes an increasingly dominant role in guiding the climate change debate, there is renewed interest in a longstanding proposal for the creation of an international court to try environmental crimes.”
Momentum is on the side of the environmental advocates who are relentlessly pushing for such a special court to try states, companies and individuals for environmental crimes. Based on the model of the International Criminal Court, which can try individuals for violations of international law, an environmental court would be the supreme legal authority for settling issues regarding harm to the environment of any sort. The basis of its legal operations would be a global environmental charter.
Make no mistake about the likely outcome of such global court decisions. Americans will be the losers. As in all UN bodies except the Security Council, where we retain our veto power, the anti-American bloc will usually prevail. There will be no appeal to our own courts established under the U.S. Constitution, including the Supreme Court.
We can address common problems like the environment that transcend national borders without forfeiting self-government under our own Constitution. Each country should be able to enact and enforce its own laws under that country's governmental process rather than submit to some supra-national rulemaking or judicial behemoth, run through the United Nations or a spin-off international body. This is in keeping with the UN Charter's original goal-setting approach to global problems that transcend national boundaries, to be achieved through cooperation among sovereign nations. It is also the only way to keep faith with our own Constitution. Global interdependence can be acknowledged without giving up national independence.
The United Nations and its backers around the world have a very different agenda. They are trying to bring about a paradigm shift in international relations. They want to move away from state-to-state dealings, where only the UN’s member states have been the subjects of binding treaties and international law dispute resolution. Instead, on every issue that they believe affects human rights, including the environment, they want to establish a body of international law prescribing basic universal rights and obligations. These international norms would be enforceable against any transgressor in one or more global forums that are open to individuals who claim that their rights have been detrimentally affected. The global forums would be vested with authority to assign individual liability to defendants and to generate enforceable remedies.
This is the direction that we may be heading, particularly if the left re-captures the White House. Even President Bush is bowing to political pressure. He supports the UN’s Law of the Sea Treaty that is now sailing through the Senate for ratification. Just imagine what President Hillary Clinton will do when she takes office. What scarier thought can there be during this Halloween season!
 It should be noted that this report is in addition to the alarmist global warming report issued several months ago by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared the Nobel peace prize with its fellow alarmist, Al Gore.
 Environment: An Int'l Court to Try Ecological Crimes? by Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service (September 24, 2007).