“One people on one planet” — which rules (for a sustainable world) do we need and how do we get them into place? On a global political movement
David Fopp, firstname.lastname@example.org, Oktober 2019
Let us not miss a historic chance. We could really change the world. Stop doing what you are doing and think about it: we are in thousands of places, striking, blocking streets, marching — we could much more coordinated build one unified political global movement. Instead we still organize a huge march in a local place, even hundreds at the same time, parallel, but not enough as an expression of one idea, despite the young people of FridayForFuture making clear that the young generation act as a global one.
There is a risk, that we just go on, and a lot of us get tired or even burned out. We wait some months. A new big march or blockade. New full stop. Let us change this logic, use this beautiful sprinkles and build a unified global movement which goes on even when nobody is marching and which links us together and gives a halt to the ongoing destruction of our living planet.
This can happen in different ways, but the core should be that we express and fight politically for the idea that we are one people on one planet. That is it. One interconnected people living in one complex earth system which we call our planet. If not enough people get this idea in their heads, there will be no change. Because the change we need has to be based on social justice and fairness or equity, and this means that some have to give up privileges to help others and we all have to build up a sustainable society together. One people on one planet: sharing the absurd small amount of CO2 which we can put into the air, by fair emission budgets; stopping the emission together. Helping to finance the new infrastructure. Exchanging the wise knowledge of how to provide food and shelter for everybody´s life in dignity within the planetary boundaries. This project is fun. Because it is fun to be part of a common enterprise. As one people on one planet. But nobody can stand up for this or fight for this idea now, because there is no global political movement expressing this thought.
There are our new movements which we need more than anything else. FFF and XR with their basic demands. And we should join them where ever we are because they express the urgency of the climate and ecological breakdown. And we need the projects of green new deals in the countries – if they really are transformational, and dont just pump in money into the same absurd system based on exponential growth. But we need a third unifying dimension inbetween. A truly political movement which stands up for the basic core idea in the movements and behind the green new deal: standing up for a new political framework for a sustainable world. So that everybody can join it on a daily basis. So, let us put this idea out and into the people´s hearts and minds. It is this what makes us strong and which gives us legitimacy to set stop to the fossil insanity. Here comes a sketch of this framework.
For the new movements FridaysForFuture and ExtinctionRebellion, this is a main question: how should the link look like between the civil disobedience (the strike and the blockade) on the one hand and the new rules on the other. And how to mobilize so that the rules finally are changed. These new movements don’t come with policy-catalogues, which is a big part of their strength. If they would, they could be treated as political parties or traditional NGOs. Using school strikes and the blockade of capitals as methods is much more powerful: the voice of generations not accepting the governments inaction confronted with the climate and ecological crisis.
But in addition, from outside, but even from within the movements, the questions comes up how the link can look like to the sketch of the rules and politics we need. This problem become seven more urgent because these movements get a huge resonance in the population, even concerning the civil disobedience as long as it is directed towards the government (schoolstriking in front of parliaments and blocking the main places) — but the governments don’t act. The main reaction until now is that some of them declared climate emergency, without real consequences. The question what the link to changed politics could look like, is not only a question for the movements themselves (they can and maybe should say: we will go on rebelling until the change comes), but for everyone: also because of a lot of politicians and people from civil society now propose solutions like a “green new deal”. These propositions come with possibilities but also huge risks and problems.
One People On One Planet (OPOP) vs green new deal (GND)
I call the solution which I want to sketch a political global movement: “one people on one planet” (OPOP). To explain what it consists of, I would like to compare it to the idea of a green new deal.
Some are now presenting the concept of a green new deal (GND). This comes in different shapes (American, Australian, Labour-British, Diem-European, …) but tries to give an answer to the question about the changed politics. How to react to the ecological and climate breakdown, to create social justice and prosperity for all?
Normally, the GND has the shape of a political plan (1) which is in between the levels of specific policy and more general politics (2) and often avoids ideological foundations (3), so that it can be voted through parliaments by all parties. It focuses on the combination between investments into the transformation of the society into a sustainable one, the phasing out of the fossil economy, and the creation of jobs in the sustainable transformation of society.
There are some variations of a GND which would lead to real transformation; but it can also be designed in a “greenwashing” way: so that basically everything is going on like now, heading towards 3 or 4 degrees warming, but just in a slightly greener version, a Keynesian “pumping” of money into the economy; keeping the eternal exponential growth-logic of the economy; not really dealing with social injustice, not stopping the fossil industry, but just giving “incentives” to change, and so on. This seems for some to be a price which has to be paid to get it through legislation in the parliaments. The danger is that the causes for the ecological and climate breakdown are not tackled.
To avoid this, we need a deeper understanding of the transformation needed.
What most people, which take the crisis serious, can agree upon, is that there needs to be a change of the relation of ecological, economic and social aspects of politics so that the ecological and social dimension inform and shape the economic, not the other way around. Or as Susan George puts it: the pyramid must be put on the head, consisting of the biosphere as ground, than the social connected lives, meaningful work, the economy and the financial sector with the monetary system on top; now, it works the other way around. And this transformation has to be linked to the value of justice. So far, so good. But how should this look like more specific?
The “One people on one planet”-idea consists of four parts.
1 Framework: the three principles
We can´t just jump over values and principles.
Two of them are quite established in the discussions (even about the GND) but by no means in the politics by our governments, not even in seemingly progressive states like Sweden. These two principles are known in the context of Maja Göpels Mindshift- and Kate Raworth “Doughnut”-economics as the compass for all society-transformation, replacing the traditional question about BNP-growth with the question: how to transform society, so that it gets into a “just and safe space”
A: within the planetary boundaries (avoiding climate breakdown, biodiversity-loss, and so on),
B: while avoiding human lifes without dignity, establishing climate and social justice, equality, good education, enough food, shelter and so on: caring for everyone´s needs. (One should specify this concept of “need” in a rigth way; else, one confirms just an unequal neoliberal image of living together.)
To go for this mindshift (Göpel, Raworth), a changed goal for economics and a changed vision for societies would already force governments to change the policies in all sectors. But there is a third principle lacking in nowadays political reality, and in the literature about the sustainable transformation. I would like to call it
C: non-domination-principle (or meeting-on-eyelevel/democratizing -principle). It focuses on one aspect which one could say is implicit already there in the second Doughnut-principle of “a life in dignity for everyone”. But it is absent in a lot of concepts of the green new deal and of for example the 2030 agenda.
Non-domination can come in obvious forms like a global structural one (1): reacting to the history of colonialization and the ongoing exploitation of the global south; or stopping the oppression of women; or reacting to the injustice in the relation between the global north and south, and the rich and poor within countries.
But it is valid equally for economic systems (2) and for institutions (3) like the educational, the workplace and so on, and not at last for social interpersonal relations (4). For example, economic systems can not be sustainable which allow some people which just own capital (often 10 percent of the population of western countries own over 80 percent of all wealth) to get even more wealth by the work of others, and producing at the same time and for the same reason a mechanism of exponential growth on a planet with limited resources.
One important aspect of the non-domination principle is that we cannot accept solutions to the climate crisis like geoengineering which establishes a form of domination of the planetary systems; we have to go for the solutions which respect the planetary live-cycles, in a holistic systemic way.
At last, even for and within the new movements like FridaysForFuture and ExtinctionRebellions themselves, the principle of non-domination is obviously important for their development and internal organization, from the global scale to the local, from structural features to personal relations. Here we see a direct link between the new politics and the internal logic of the movements themselves.
These three principles (A,B,C) build the framework for the OPOP (and are stronger than most of the Green New Deal principles; therefore, in any versions of a GND, these should be implemented.)
2 The double-strategy concerning climate breakdown
Now, even within the framework of the GND, most people just focus on one strategy (important enough so), namely the emission-control and -stopping. We should follow a second one too; to keep the coal, oil and gas in the ground.
2.1 Emission-stop via budgets
But first to my proposal how to formulate the emission-stop-strategy, because it can be framed in very different ways, and some of them are not sustainable. (You can read the following thoughts also as formulation of the content of a Climate Emergency Declaration.)
The most important and first step is: we need to relate to emission budgets, and not only to abstract goals like the 2050 net-zero-emission-goal by Germany, or the 2045 by Sweden etc. which are not in line with the Paris agreement if one follows IPCC SR1.5, scenario 1 (especially if they are formulated as “net-zero”-emission-goals which should be replaced by “near-zero” to avoid the irresponsible promise of future non-existing and not-“scaleable” carbon capture technologies.)
These emission-budgets (Anderson, Rahmstorf etc.) have to be known and politically relevant on global, national and local levels — which is not the case now. (There are very good reasons and arguments to say that there is no emission budget left: that we already produced so much CO2 that the living planet will warm up far more than 1.5 degrees; because of “committed emissions”, hidden ones; tipping points and feedback loops; and so on. And I agree basically with this analysis; a well to the one which highlights that already now, thouands and thouand people in the global South suffer because of a one degree warming which the North i repsonsible for. )
But if we hold on to the IPCC-SR-1.5-report, we can start with saying that we as “one people on one planet” have probably less than 400 GT CO2 left, and we put out around 45 GT per year. And these numbers are linked to an enormous risk-coefficient, which is far over 30 percent of failing (which is in itself irresponsible to future generations: so the numbers are more 370 GT and 50 GT output now, if one goes for 50 percent risk of failing the 1.5-goal).
These numbers show that the states now, even with the promised contributions, are not at all on the way to fulfill the Paris agreement, but more likely on a pathway towards 3 or more degrees warming. And almost no country follows even these wrong targets. In Sweden, the emissions havent gone down at all under the past five years (with a green-red government).
The second step is: this emission budgets cannot just be counted equally for every country; in the Paris agreement, there is a clear principle of equity/social justice which means several different things (often linked to the concept of climate justice): poorer people withon countries should be helped by richer; poorer countries shouldn’t be forced to contribute as much as richer and should be helped; countries with historic debts (colonial, but also emission-debts) should contribute more. This considered, richer countries must decrease their emissions with more than ten percent per year; being at near-zero (not net-zero) around 2030; poorer countries around 2040 (following Schellnhuber). No country has a plan for this kind of transformation; and in most GND (like the European one by Diem) this dimension is not even mentioned. Not to follow these emission budgets means: to sacrifice the young generation; just to put the children into a catastrophic situation.
The third step: This simple idea of a limited budgets should be followed up in policies, mostly by setting new standards by laws which get more and more strict, so that the emissions are zero in ten years. We have to count in limited and rationalizible budgets: on global, national, local and individual scale, which lead to new rules; banning the building of new fossil infrastructure.
The other non-budgetary way, which is followed by most governments, is just to set goals, and to fail them. This happens even in the richest countries in the world like Germany which failed its goal for 2020 with 8 percent.
2.2 Keep it in the ground
One task is to stop the emissions. But this task is extremely risky, even if we take care of the mentioned aspects.
We have to keep the oil, gas and coal in the ground; it is as simple as this. We cannot just give up this perspective which is the most obvious one. It opens up for a much more solidaric and engaging pathway. The Lofoten declaration is a step in this direction.
We should — as “one people on one planet” — decide which coal, gas and oil stays in the ground. Obviously, such a decision making process is linked to huge problems. But this cannot be a reason to stop following this path, as a complement to the emission-stopping one.
The decision of keeping the fossils in the ground, must be linked to the parallel process of a solidaric help to build up the renewable energy system, in global, national and local scale.
This is what it means that we live as one people on one planet. The UN-institutions, as for example the security council, don’t seem to be near to go into such a process; even if these questions are very much linked to global security aspects.
But our movements like FFF and XR should push for that: that we as one people need a different UN-charter, a new foundation of our lives on this planet, a new article 1, which defines nature as to be seen as the place where we together live, which we have to take care of by sharing its wealth which we call for resources. The definition of peace as territorial integrity is too poor as the foundation of our global coexistence.
3 Political content in different sectors
Finally, we come to the definition and implementation of the specific politics, to the concrete policy-propositions in all sectors, from energy to transport, food, building, and so on. As I said, the movements of FFF and XR shouldn’t go into this kind of discussions, else they change into party-political movements and lose their force; but other parts of the climate movement and civil society, including academia, should.
What I described until now, the framework with the three principles (planetary boundaries; human dignity; non-domination) and the double strategy to stop climate breakdown (emission-stop by budgets; and “keep it in the ground”), can now be linked to the question which new politics we need in every sector of society. There is a huge risk if one jumps over the two dimensions which I have developed until now, especially if one ignores the non-domination-principle and the emission-budgets, as the most propositions for GND do, and most party politics of established parties: the risk is that one gets a set of policies which reinforce a status-quo which is not sustainable and not just, not locally, and not globally. Just to examine singular sectors with singular policies is often “clouding” the holistic approach we need (especially in political economics), and ignoring the specific boundaries by the emission-budgets and the non-domination-principle.
Concerning all the different sectors, there is the insight of thinkers like Susan George and Maja Göpel or Kate Raworth that they are dependent, and especially that not only the logic of the economy (see “framework”) but the logic and form of the financial sector and the monetary system are even dominating the logic of the other ones; which means that we can´t lose out of sight a systemic and holistic approach.
Here is again a huge danger hidden: one could just come up with a policy-proposal, like: ban all building of fossil infrastructure; introduce carbon tax and an emission allowance-budget for nations and individuals; make flying exponentially more costly or forbid the production of “fossil” cars by more and more strict standards; implement “positive” money and forbid private banks to produce money; transform the banking system so that it is focused on real economy; give central banks direction to involve in green funds and direct investments in the economy; introduce universal basic income; pay it partly in “local money”; transform the building sector away from cement to trees; transform the food-sector away from slaughtering animals ; and democratize the ownership of businesses and workplaces; — which I think are all understandable solutions.
Some of these examples are no-brainers. We have to get away at least in big parts from the animal food-system which is established now. And we have to ban the building of all new fossil infrastructure, helping each other out in building renewables. And so on. What we in general need, is basically a 10 percent standard-change per year for all fossil products and sectors so that we are down at near zero emision within ten to fifteen years.
But for most of them, the exact formulation can and should be seen as the result of a common democratic process. The danger lies in the following: if one formulates all these policies in a very specific way, one becomes a small political party. But to become just another political party would be destructive: the governments can just say, oh thanks for your plan, but we have another one. And one loses the whole power of speaking up for a life in dignity for all on a living planet; which all people could tand up and take stance against their government for. Therefore, we need a new political global movement, the OnePeopleOnePlanet-movement which operates in the middle-ground between the general demand of FFF and XR (tell the truth; zero emissions 2025/30; follow Paris, IPCC 1.5; equity, social justice) and the party politics or GreenNewDeal-policies.
To solve this task of etsbalishing such a political global movement, which unites the force of the non-party-political social climate movements with the clear sketch of the new rules, we need the fourth principle, which I present soon.
So, we should force our governments to implement the three principles of the sketched framework and to implement the double-strategy to avoid climate breakdown. This is lacking in all politics now, even within the green or red parties in Sweden or Germany. And to formulate these framework and strategy is specific enough to challenge the governments into action; it gives the framework for all policy-making, for the new rules, so that everybody everywhere can stand behind it. We can fight for it on a local and national level, but because of the non-domination principle and the “keep it in the ground”-principle, they need always a global perspective.
4 Democratization (citizen assemblies, legislation processes and so on)
We need the fourth and last principle of the OPOP. The exact formulation of the new rules for a sustainable society must come into place in a process which strengthens democracy. This can consist of citizen assemblies or other forms of deliberating processes where all citizens can participate and come with their experience, needs and ideas — within the given framework of the three principles which guarantee the substance of a democratic life. (This is also meant as a critique of XRs demand of citizen assemblies — without any further framework.)
We can read or see the three principles sketched above as the framework for this process. Citizen assemblies and legislation can not start from zero. Democracy needs the democratization-principles which give a framework so that all policy-proposals together really build the legislation for a life in dignity for all within the planetary boundaries. One cannot in formal votes ignore the basic science (of the emission budgets for example) which sets the boundaries for all democracies. That is why we must go out in the streets; as long as governments don’t accept the principles, they lack the legitimacy as the ones protecting their people.
One cannot ignore the democracy-principle of non-domination when discussing about the rules for the economy; for example the idea that it is often female care work which is not paid and therefore has no place in the todays economy of domination; and so on.
In these citizen assemblies and in the cooperation of scientists and civil society (especially including the young ones striking in the streets), there is a guarantee that the policies and new rules fulfill not only the criteria of the planetary boundaries and the humane needs, but give them also a new and better foundation in society itself, being not a result of lobby-work or short-term-thinking.
A global political movement
If one wants to stand up for the content of these principles (like standing up for a world which keeps the fossils in the ground and respects the emission budgets; which makes rules according to the planetary boundaries, and sets a life in dignity and non-domination first; according to the science of the emission budgets and so on): there is no place to go now. How can one as potentially global citizen fight for that? There is no party, no movement. That is why we need a global political movement, and the movement of movements which was built around the rebellion-week in september, unitying all possible social justice and climate movements and organizations, is a good starting point.
There is a huge need to answer the question: what do you want — and the OPOP-principles are an answer to that question which is specific enough (more specific than the demands by XR and FFF) to make clear in which way the governments fail; and at the same time provides the framework for the new rules. We have to change the rules so that we are on a safe pathway to a 1.5-degree-world, keep the Paris agreement and do it with social justice and equity by implementing the OPOP-principles. This framework, for which everyone should be able to stand up, could be the foundation of a global movement representing these ideas, showing on the one side that the governments don’t listen to the science; don’t follow the basic democratic principles of non-domination and participation and so on. They reveal the disastrous inaction of the governments — by giving on the other side the principles for the new rules. These are principles which everybody can stand up for, in solidarity with all the other inhabitants and the living planet; in form of a democratic global political movement. There is nothing like this now. We need it. But to get it, we need to go out and rebel.
Anderson, Kevin (2018): Cambridge Climate lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIODRrnHQxg
Göpel, Maja (2016): The great mindshift. Springer, Berlin
Raworth, Kate (2017): Doughnut economics. Random house, London
Thunberg, Greta (et. al.): “Think we should be at school?”, The Guardian, March 15
Wallace-Wells, David (2019): The uninhabitable earth. Tim Duggan books, New York