Kennedy Graham is very experienced and knowledgeable in international law and process, but would his framework achieve what he claims?

Kennedy Graham has published a series of posts on Frog Blog where he has described his experiences of Rio's 3rd Earth Summit, expressed frustration at the lack of determination and resolve from the attending states (our own government sent a junior Minister) and offered his own solution to addressing climate change.

I have huge respect for Kennedy, he is very experienced at operating in international and diplomatic forums and is very knowledgeable about international law and process. He suggests an organising framework that will enable a closer working relationship between the scientific community and the United Nations and greater powers and commitment to address the anthropogenic causes of climate change: 

  • UN Security Council attention to all components of the Ecological Crisis as a threat to international peace and security;
  • an empowered Secretary-General, taking more personal initiative as sanctioned under the Charter; and
  • a high-level panel, acting on behalf of the Secretary-General, operating as intermediary between the scientific community and the policy-making community with regard to the nine planetary boundaries (or any revised version of this as recommended by the scientific community).
Kennedy explains how binding protocols have been successful for managing ozone depletion and they that would be effective in dealing with climate change if there was a real commitment to do so. 

While I fully support the organising framework Kennedy proposes, I have real doubts about how effective the framework would be, even if it was supported by the majority of UN member states. Given the battle it took to recognize anthropogenic ozone depletion and the fact that the world's economy is so heavily reliant on fossil fuel, this is a hugely problematic issue. 

The world’s largest powers have a history of ignoring the UN if directives would have a negative impact on their economies and national interests. The US is currently refusing to give up control of the internet to the UN mainly because of the impact it will have on US businesses.

We also have the issue of how we manage the dominant multinational corporates and the world’s largest banks (Exxon Mobil is the most profitable company with JP Morgan Chase a close second). Oil and gas, mineral mining and banks continue to dominate our richest companies and because they also operate as multinationals they are effectively beyond the influence of individual governments or the UN.

With government debt soaring, individual companies’ wealth and assets now exceed the countries where they operate and that wealth buys huge political influence.

New Zealand is held to be the least corrupt country in the world and yet we still see attempts to legislate responsibly for our national good being successfully stymied by wealthy companies and industries that will potentially suffer economically. Despite the collapse of financial institutions due to poor regulatory controls (causing substantial suffering to ordinary New Zealanders who lost their life savings) the industry has successfully lobbied to have much needed regulations watered down.The alcohol industry has clearly managed to water down the Law Commission's recommendations in legislation designed to address our huge issues around alcohol consumption. This is despite the fact that there are massive health and legal costs that the government has to cover due to misuse of alcohol. Yes, the international community of states may indeed reach a consensus around the actions necessary to save our planet. But how do you propose they can convince Exxon Mobil and JP Morgan Chase that business as usual is no longer an option?

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