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Expert Group Input

Improving the Coherence and Synergies of the International Financing Architecture for the Global Commons.

 A Self-Financing Shift to an Economy within Planetary Boundaries Managed by and for the Benefit of All People and Nature

Shortcomings and gaps in financing for sustainable development at the international and every other level exist where these are embedded in our present debt-based economy. This debt-based economy drives people to patterns of production and consumption that have grown increasingly unsustainable since the early 1950s. As a result it seems we have now transgressed 3 planetary boundaries that must be respected if human beings are to exist safely: those for climate change, the rate of biodiversity loss  and changes to the Nitrogen cycle.” (See  attached article: Planetary Boundaries: Exploring the Safe Operating Space for Humanity by 29 eminent scientists in the field)

This debt-based economy is leading to a widening gap between the haves and have nots or,looked at from a different perspective: those who tend to be spiritually impoverished and thereby feel compelled to fill the inner void through symbols of status and material possessions; and those who are materially impoverished and often feel forced to contribute to the destruction and depletion of environmental resources in order for them and their families to survive.

Yet experts on Planetary Boundaries (See above mentioned article) point out that if we can keep the impact of our activities to within pre-1950 levels (those of the Holocene Era), we will be creating an environment in which human life can flourish for hundreds  of thousands of years.

Making the necessary changes will require all people to participate in the management of the whole of the Earth’s System of which we are each an integral part. For its present quality is the result of the combined actions of all people together. There are ways of making parts of the shift gradually.

A number of UN Major Group Commons Cluster participants propose the following steps.

Possible Steps to Enable All People to Become Accountable for their Individual Impact on the Earth System.

Below please find first the larger steps that we recommend followed by ways of introducing the metrics gradually.

1. The Earth’s System is proclaimed a global commons to be managed by and for the benefit of all people and nature. This is necessary because all aspects of the Earth System: the biosphere, the cryosphere, the anthropsphere, the stratosphere, etc. are integrally interconnected so that changes in one aspect affect all others. It is therefore necessary to have an integrated approach if we are to keep planetary boundaries such that they will support human life.

2. Ecocide is adopted as a Crime Against Peace. See http://eradicatingecocide.com/

3. The use of depletable resources are strictly capped. One way to proceed would be as follows:

  • Every year permits to use parts of the amount that falls below the cap can be auctioned off..
  • Those purchasing the right to access parts of these resources would manufacture their goods and pass the cost of the permit on to those who buy those goods.
  • In this way those using the Earth System Resources at each phase  would all pay for their fair share of their use.

4. Each person (country or both) is apportioned a non-transferable share of the global footprint allowable if we are to stay within safe planetary boundaries so as to guarantee that human’s impact would stay within pre-1950 limits (that of the Holocene Era.) Although many aspects of the solutions to global problems have not yet been worked out, much work is already in progress.  Please see the following article whose author, Alessandro Galli, it seems, plans to be working together increasingly closely with scientists who contributed to the above article on Planetary Boundaries..


5. Instead of being taxed on our work, we would pay a rental fee (or tax) for the use of any part of the global commons. This is already being done in 18 municipalities in Pennsylvania, USA; and also in Australia and other places in the world. See how the tax or global commons rent/tax might work in attached article: Alanna Hartzok: Financing Local to Global

6. The monies collected would go to a Fund to compensate local communities affected by excavations, restore the global commons and a possible basic income for all people. Such a fund:

  • Would facilitate the mobilization of additional international public resources for sustainable development.
  • Is an innovative source of development finance that makes use of taxes and would tend to lower taxes overall in nations where social services are paid for by taxes;
  • Would constantly be fed by rental fees or taxes from people worldwide. It would not be sponsored by the rich and powerful and so would not divide the world into haves (the powerful) and the have-nots (those that feel at effect of those who fund them.) This would be a true global partnership for sustainable development consisting of the input of all people.
  • Would allow businesses to pay their fair share toward sustainable development. And because of the cap they would not be able to endanger the essential well being of the Earth or others.
  • Would be a much less complicated way of financing sustainable development than is common today with the vast array of financial institutions, and other means that are in use today.
  • Would obviate fees for consultants, since the system would be fairly uniform worldwide despite CBDR.

7. The Fund could be administered by the UN’s Trusteeship Council. Internationally, the UN is the most universal organization we have. It should without doubt be considered as the administrator of the sustainable development goals and other mechanisms for sustainable development. It would be a natural step that the Earth System itself should be proclaimed a global commons to be administered  by and for the benefit of all people and the management itself be entrusted to the UN’s Trusteeship Council which has completed its original mandate. Other ways of administering such a fund might be more complicated than the amendment of the relevant part of the UN Charter. (See attached article: Kul Gautam: Keynote on Trusteeship Council)

8. An SDG could be adopted: All People Become Accountable for their Individual Impact on the Earth System.  Since this step is likely to be too much for many Governments to be able to take in one go. The following interim steps could be considered.

Gradual steps to introduce a global metric to measure all people’s individual impact on the Earth System:

  • Governments make it mandatory for each person every year to report on the size of their global footprint (See article above by Alessandro Galli); This could have the following favorable results:
    • All would become aware that it is  possible to measure their individual impact on the Earth System;
    • People would become aware of the economic and financial advantages of staying within their footprint.
    • People will realize that having a low global footprint can improve their social acceptability and this will also increase the impetus to choose behaviours that lower their global footprint.
    • Corporations would be even more motivated than individuals for financial and social reasons to lower their global footprint.
  • The  motivation to lower ones global footprint and the social pressure to make others follow suite will increase as global crises become more evident.
  • There is likely to be a drift to more constructive behaviour.
  • It might become clear to Governments that just one or two industries need to shift for their nation to remain within their fair share of the Global Footprint.
  • When the idea of metrics has become more acceptable; remaining below a certain metric can become mandatory.


  • Governments who have taken the initiative to remain within their individual global footprint and prosper as a result, can decide to trade mainly with other Governments that are doing likewise. As this group of nations that accord one another most favoured nations’ trading status grows, the number of governments wishing to join this group will escalate.

And so without great outside pressure the transition can be made

A Panel of Eminent Personalities

A huge amount of work is taking place worldwide to facilitate the steps mentioned here. To bring all this together a Panel of Eminent Personalities could work with the UN Secretariat and the input of people globally on the development and implementation of such a system. After the 11 global consultations the UN’s Secretariat has conducted so painstakingly this process has become viable as never before. This Panel as has happened so often in the past can be created outside the UN but work closely with the UN Secretariat.

The above steps are a way to align financing for development and financing for the global commons (climate change, forests, oceans, biodiversity) so that these are  better integrated and aligned. 

The time for incremental change has passed. Our survival is at stake

For more information, please contact Commons Cluster Coordinator, Lisinka Ulatowska at 1 718 510 5187 or via email Lisinka.Ulatowska@gmail.com with a copy to Rob Wheeler, robwheeler22@gmail.com; and Myra Jackson, CommonsActionUN@gmail.com.