Written evidence submitted by Earth Charter
This paper from Earth Charter UK introduces the Charter,
and its current position in the UK. It then addresses the two
key issues of Rio+20 (Greening the Economy and Institutional Frameworks)
informed both by international papers prepared for the Earth Charter
initiative on the issues and work currently being undertaken in
It contains three recommendations for consideration
by the Committee:
order to drive ambition in the run-up to the Conference and at
Rio, including its part in the EU the UK government should recognise
and support the Earth Charter as a means of inspiring commitment
and action by individuals and organisations.
UK government is asked to adopt the fifteen principles of a green
economy as providing a working framework. These principals individually
and together should form the basis of the UK transition towards
sustainability and a green economy.
the magnitude and multiplicity of environmental and social issues
facing our planet, the UK government is urged to support the call
at Rio for the establishment of a World Environment Organisation.
1.1 The Earth Charter itself was a direct outcome
of the 1992 Rio Summit, which called for a document which would
complement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but deal
with human responsibility to the planet and all forms of life.
1.2 Maurice Strong and Mikhail Gorbachev both
independently began work, and were then brought together by the
Dutch PM Ruud Lubbers. An international drafting committee, under
the leadership of Steven Rockefeller drew on the work of a decade
long, worldwide, cross-cultural conversation about common goals
and shared values. The drafting of the Earth Charter involved
the most open and participatory consultation process ever conducted
in connection with an international document. Thousands of individuals
and hundreds of organizations from all regions of the world, different
cultures and religions, and diverse sectors of society have participated.
The Charter has therefore been shaped by both experts and representatives
of grassroots communities and was published for the millennium
in June 2000, and endorsed by UNESCO in 2002. It has been recommended
by UNESCO as an authoritative source document for the Decade of
Education for Sustainable Development (2005-15)
1.3 The Charter provides an integrated ethical
approach to the crises which are currently facing usenvironmental,
financial, population, resources, inequity16 Principles
(distinct from, though overlapping, the 15 Green Economy Principles
below) and 61 detailed sub-principles grouped under the four
and Respect for the Community of Life;
and Economic Justice; and
Non-violence and Peace.
1.4 UK contributions came from numerous organisations,
encouraged by the Stakeholder Forum but until 2007 there was no
dissemination of the EC in UK or, perhaps more importantly, testing
of how the EC could foster change.
1.5 In 2007 a small organisation, Earth Charter
UK (www.earthcharteruk.org ), was set up to undertake these tasks
and five key areas were identified:
national and ngos,
1.6 Two key pieces of work have emerged since
Department for International Development has given a three year
grant to investigate the "Opportunities and Responsibilities
for Business in relation to climate change and the millennium
development goals", using the Earth Charter as a framework.
We are half-way through this work, with promising results emerging.
Borough Council has become the first in the UK to endorse the
Earth Charter providing exciting opportunities for in-depth, cross-cutting
work engaging all the target areas in 1.4 above. A brief report
1.7 The Preamble to the Earth Charter includes
the following paragraph on The Global Situation:
The dominant patterns of production and consumption
are causing environmental devastation, the depletion of resources,
and a massive extinction of species. Communities are being undermined.
The benefits of development are not shared equitably and the gap
between rich and poor is widening. Injustice, poverty, ignorance,
and violent conflict are widespread and the cause of great suffering.
An unprecedented rise in human population has overburdened ecological
and social systems. The foundations of global security are threatened.
These trends are perilousbut not inevitable.
Our overall hope for the Rio+20 meeting is:
effective challenges to the unquestioned assumption of continual
proposals for the replacement of GNP by wider instruments;
effective policies for establishing sustainable living (rather
than sustainable development); and
the replacement of wasteful consumerism by a developing emphasis
on reclamation and regeneration.
1.8 Commitment to and, where possible, endorsement
of the Earth Charter by individuals, organisations and national
governments (Portugal, 2010; Mexico 2009 and Tajikistan 2000)
is a major indicator of:
recognition of the need to embed an ethical approach at the core
of decision making; and
that the situation facing us, though perilous is not inevitable
and that work together collaboratively can bring about the necessary
We therefore recommend:
The Summit should recognise and support the Earth
Charter as a means of inspiring commitment and action by individuals
and organisations around the world.
In regard to the Committee's desire to investigate:
objectives and roles the UK Government should assume in order
to drive ambition in the run-up to the Conference and at Rio,
including its part in the EU
We recommend similar recognition and support by the
UK. This would be in line with the recommendations of the Opinion
of the European Economic and Social Committee of 15.09.2010 NAT/469
Paragraph 1.5 (appended).
2.0 After the Charter was published, while responsibility
for the text of the Charter remains in the hands of the Commission,
the Earth Charter Initiative www.earthcharter.org was set up,
with a Secretariat in Costa Rica alongside the UN University of
Peace and governed by an international Earth Charter Council,
to foster the Charter's endorsement, adoption and implementation.
2.1 A form of 'devolved empowerment' was adopted,
encouraging individual Charter groups all over the world to work
to achieve the Charter's aims of a Just, Sustainable and Peaceful
2.2 The Secretariat publishes research being
done on its behalf across the world and this Submission draws
upon that work. Work concerning Rio+20 can be found at http://bit.ly/nXoIKd
2.3 The Earth Charter Initiative has two goals
for Rio 2012:
emphasize the need for a comprehensive ethical framework, articulating
shared values and principles to inspire and guide different actors
in the transition to a sustainable future; and
demonstrate the relevance of the Earth Charter to the objectives
of the Rio 2012 Conference and its process.
2.4 At this time, three articles (appended)
have been published on the ECI web-site:
Earth Charter and the Green Economy by ECI Secretariat (March
for the Green Economy in the context of sustainable development
and poverty eradication by ECI Secretariat, Stakeholder Forum
a Flourishing Earth: Challenges for the Green Economy, Opportunities
for Global Governance by Bosselmann, Brown and Mackey.
3.0 Principles for a Green Global Economy
3.1 Drawing upon the Earth Charter (and providing
a consolidated chart comparing other key instruments: The Stockholm
Declaration, the Rio Declaration, The Johannesburg Declaration,
The One Planet Living Principles, The Green Economy Coalition,
the TUC "Just Transition" principles, and The New Economics
Foundation), the Earth Charter Initiative, in conjunction with
Stakeholder Forum, has identified and published 15 Principles
which together help define a global green economy. They are reproduced
here, for convenience:
distribution of wealth: Promote the equitable distribution
of wealth within nations and among nations, to reduce disparities
between rich and poor, and achieve social and economic justice,
within a sustainable and fair share of the world's resources and
leaving sufficient space for wildlife and wilderness.
equity and fairness: Guided by the principle of common but
differentiated responsibilities, create economic partnerships
that would transfer substantial financial and technological assistance
to less developed countries, to help minimize the gap between
the developed and developing world and support the environmental
sustainability of both.
Equity: Environmental resources and ecosystems must be carefully
managed and safeguarded so as to enhance the value of environmental
assets for future generations, thereby equitably meeting their
needs and allowing them to flourish.
Approach: Science should be utilized to enhance social and
environmental outcomes, through the identification of environmental
risk. Scientific uncertainty of environmental impacts shall not
lead to avoidance of measures to prevent environmental degradation.
The 'burden of proof' should lie with those claiming that there
will not be significant environmental impacts
Right to Development: Human development in harmony with the
environment is fundamental to the achievement of sustainable development,
so that individuals and societies are empowered to achieve positive
social and environmental outcomes.
of Externalities: Building true social and environmental value
should be the central goal of policy. To this end, market prices
must reflect real social and environmental costs and benefits,
so that that the polluter bears the cost of pollution. Tax regimes
and regulatory frameworks should be used to "tilt the playing
field", making "good" things cheap and "bad"
things very expensive.
Cooperation: The application of environmental standards within
nation States must be undertaken in a cooperative manner with
the international community, based on an understanding of the
possible impact on the development potential of other States.
Environmental measures relating to trade should avoid unfair protectionism,
but overall should ensure that trade supports sustainable resource
use, environmental protection and progressive labour standards,
promoting a "race to the top" rather than the bottom.
liability: Acknowledging that actions within national boundaries
can cause environmental impacts beyond national jurisdictions,
requiring cooperation in the development of international law
that allows for independent judicial remedies in such cases.
participation and accountability: All citizens should have
access to information concerning the environment, as well as the
opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. To ensure
that environmental issues are handled with the participation of
all concerned citizens, institutions at all levels (national and
international) must be democratic and accountable, and make use
of tools that enable civil society to hold them to account. In
this regard, the access to justice by citizens for redress and
remedy in environmental matters is a cornerstone of enhancing
Consumption and Production: Introduce sustainable production
and consumption with sustainable and equitable resource use. Reduce
and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production and consumption,
i.e. reduce, reuse, and recycle the materials used, acknowledge
the scarcity of the Earth resources and implement activities accordingly.
co-ordinated and integrated planning to deliver sustainable development,
the green economy and poverty alleviation: An integrated approach
must be adopted at all levels to expedite the achievement of socio-economic
and environmental sustainability through strategic planning with
civil society and stakeholders, and across all relevant government
Transition: There will be costs in making the transition to
a low carbon, green economy in the pursuit of sustainable development.
Some States and actors are better able to bear those costs than
others and are more resilient to transitional changes. In the
process of change, the most vulnerable must be supported and protecteddeveloping
countries must have access to appropriate financial and technical
assistance, citizens and communities must also have access to
new skills and jobs.
Well-being: GDP is an inadequate tool for measuring social
wellbeing and environmental integrity. Many socially and environmentally
damaging activities enhance GDPsuch as fossil fuel exploitation
and financial speculation. Human wellbeing and quality of life,
and environmental health should be the guiding objectives of economic
Equality: Gender equality and equity are prerequisites to
the transition to a green economy and the achievement of sustainable
development. Women have a vital role to play as agents of change
for environmental management and development and their actions
must be rewarded accordingly and their skills enhanced.
biodiversity and prevent pollution of any part of the environment:
Protect and restore biodiversity and natural habitats as integral
to development and human wellbeing, and develop a system of governance
that protects the resilience of ecosystems to prevent irreversible
The Committee is respectfully encouraged to draw
the attention of HM Government to the above 15 Principles in all
its work towards fostering and developing the Green Economy and
to champion their adoption in Rio.
Further each of the Principles should be studied
individually and in conjunction with the others to see where they
may be further implemented across the UK economy in order to ensure
a swift transition towards sustainability.
4.0 The institutional framework for sustainable
This section is drawn from the appended paper prepared
for the Earth Charter Initiative by Klaus Bosselmann (Professor
of Environmental Law at the University of Auckland, who, with
J. Ronald Engel, the Emeritus Professor of Theology and Senior
Research Fellow at the Centre for Humans and Nature in Chicago
has published a textbook, The Earth Charter: A framework for
Global Governance); Peter G Brown, (Professor of Geography
and Environmental Ethics, McGill); Brendan Mackey (Prof of Environmental
Biogeography Australian National Univ, IUCN Council, Co-Chair,
EC Council). The paper has full, detailed and very helpful references.
4.1 The magnitude of the issues we face globally
is truly immense. As yet, we are far from addressing the negative
environmental and social outcomes as manifested by the climate
change problem, the biodiversity extinction crisis, the ongoing
crippling effects on human wellbeing of poverty, violence and
war, along with water and food security and other resource concerns.
The scale and complexity of our problems has pushed solutions
beyond the grasp of current governance mechanisms.
4.2 We need integrated responses that are framed
by the reality that Earth is our common home with natural limits
to its exploitation, and that people in all nations have a common
destiny and share interest in how their world is governed. As
noted in the Earth Charter:
To realize these aspirations we must decide
to live with a sense of universal responsibility, identifying
ourselves with the whole Earth community as well as our local
communities. We are at once citizens of different nations and
of one world in which the local and global are linked. Everyone
shares responsibility for the present and future well-being of
the human family and the larger living world.
4.3 We concur with those world leaders who have
concluded that the global scope of the challenges, together with
the special requirements of the "goods of the commons"
(air, water, the oceans, the atmosphere, healthy soil, the diversity
of life), will require a new world organisation, identified here
as WEO (World Environment Organisation).
4.4 The mandate of such a WEO would provide a
trusteeship function over global public goals and common goodsthat
is, those portions of the planet and its surrounding space which
lie above and beyond the recognized territorial claims of any
nation. The trusteeship duties will include:
obligations for the integrity of planetary boundaries and the
wellbeing of the greater community of life.
markets to ensure that they are protective of non-market common
impartiality of all interestsindividual, civil society,
corporate, nationalalong with respect for human rights
and ecological well-being.
The WEO could act in a similar way to that in which
the UN trusteeship council acted as a "guardian" of
interests of states transitioning from colonisation to independence,
that is for entities which have not, as yet, legal standing.
4.5 The legitimacy of such a powerful environmental
institution will depend upon its being widely democratic, representative
and participatory. As recent geopolitical events illustrate, Earth
Charter principle 13 is rapidly becoming an international norm
in all the cultures of the world:
Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels,
and provide transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive
participation in decision making, and access to justice.
This democratic principle is particularly important
with relation to the environment as it is an issue which will
affect everyone and often particularly those with the least power.
4.6 Finance must be sufficient, predictable and
coherent best secured by a Global Commons Trust Fund, levied on
those who are the proximate generators of global environmental
and social harm, together with a tax on financial transactions.
(Details are provided in footnotes 25-29 of the Bosselmann
4.7 The creation of such a WEO at the present
time, against what might be considered as the current thinking
both of nation-states and multi-national corporations, may seem
impossible to envisage. Nothing, however, could do more to reassure
people worldwide, particularly young people, that change is possible,
given the magnitude and urgency of global environmental problems.
To quote again the Earth Charter:
The choice is ours: form a global partnership to
care for Earth and one another or risk the destruction of ourselves
and the diversity of life. Fundamental changes are needed in our
values, institutions, and ways of living. We must realize that
when basic needs have been met, human development is primarily
about being more, not having more. We have the knowledge and technology
to provide for all and to reduce our impacts on the environment.
The emergence of a global civil society is creating new opportunities
to build a democratic and humane world. Our environmental, economic,
political, social, and spiritual challenges are interconnected,
and together we can forge inclusive solutions.
Given the magnitude and multiplicity of environmental
and social issues facing our planet, the UK government is urged
to support the call at Rio for the establishment of a World Environment
28 September 2011