I recently put myself in the running for the Executive Secretary position of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon is looking for Christiana Figueres’ replacement, and I think I could, at the very least, do as well as she did. And I didn’t even do it sarcastically. The way I see it, the UN has nothing to lose, which is exactly what I told them.
Since their work began (1991), carbon emissions have gone through the roof, the Arctic, Greenland and everything else which is supposed to be frozen is melting, and literally, not one single thing has gotten better – it’s all gotten worse. I daresay that the energy and resources expended in this endeavor of saving the planet have got to be roughly equivalent to a million diesel trucks on the road every day, for a few years. Not only have we lost decades of time which could have been spent gradually reducing emissions, but the entire process is just rotten, from the inside out, riddled with impotent pronouncements, toothless remedies, and watered down warnings. But how could it be otherwise when the proverbial foxes have embedded themselves in the hen house?
Much like the International Criminal Court, the United Nations is nothing if not very polite. So I’ve got the confirmation that my documents have been received and are under consideration (don’t laugh).
And it’s not like I don’t have a plan for what needs to be done (which I also told them). Here is the UN’s job description for the position. I took the liberty marking it up and adjusting it with some notes of my own (in blue).
And while it may be foolish to give away the strategy I
will would use as the new UNFCCC Executive Secretary (in case any of the other applicants should read this), I’m going to risk it. I can see you rolling your eyes, by the way, so knock it off. So, what I told my boss Secretary Ban Ki-moon was that I was available for a trial run as head of the UN’s climate change initiative and I would do the following, in a hurry this order:
1st – Utilize the International Criminal Court in The Hague to begin investigating the fossil fuel industry for crimes against humanity. Indeed, the mere whiff of such an investigation would (further) kill future investments into oil and gas projects;
2nd – Gather my own Advisory Council of 4-5 people who are not currently involved in the process to help me get stuff done. I know who these people would be, and
they are available interested I would beg ask them to join me;
3rd – There needs to be new procedures in place, immediately to vet those who are involved in this international fight against catastrophic global warming. This is super important because, as it stands, the fossil fuel and extractive industries and those who have a financial incentive to mess up anything actually getting done are thoroughly embedded within and throughout the UNFCCC organization. Two things: everyone involved, from top to bottom, must pass the sniff test which means that they submit their personal finances for inspection and scrutiny to be sure that they have not ever worked for the fossil fuel/extractive industry, nor have their family members. Not ever. Not one penny received. There has to be complete transparency. Also in this regard, there needs to be a “No Contact Rule” whereby those involved in the UNFCCC have zero contact with those same fossil fuel/extractive/polluting industries, much like how things work in the US legal system. The fact (and it is a fact) that such people and organizations have input into what gets done regarding the environment is ridiculous. It’s like having El Chapo oversee the DEA. THAT is never going to work, right? So why does it happen in governments and regulatory bodies – while the actual environmentalists are shut out. It is total madness.
4th – Whatever “goals,” limits, or parameters regarding climatic tipping points, acceptable amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the insanely complicated ranking of risk by percentages of “certainty”– basically all the guideposts and recommendations created by the UNFCCC have been either blown past or they were ridiculously inadequate from the start. That whole mess gets scrapped. Stop rolling your eyes again! Just think about it: what good has it done? If anyone can name ONE thing that has actually been accomplished, I’ll give them 20 bucks. One actual, concrete thing, other than countless hours wasted, I’m all ears. The more wiggle room there is, and the more there exists any bit of uncertainty about just how dire the situation is, the less gets done. I can boil it down into one paragraph, and that’s how straightforward the accounting and reporting needs to be. It would go something like this:
We have run out of time to gradually move away from burning fossil fuels. We have set into motion catastrophic and extinction-level changes to the natural world which will persist for hundreds of thousands of years. Since we are out of time, we need to make drastic and extreme changes to how we consume energy and other natural resources.
My The job title and powers of the Executive Secretary must be elevated and strengthened, otherwise it’s just a symbolic position with no “teeth.”
6th – Number six is very, very important. Let’s face it: money talks and everything else walks, or c-r-a-w-l-s. No one cares what agreements and pronouncements come out of the UN climate talks because they’re non-binding. But do you know whose rules are binding and who multinational corporations and major governments actually fear and listen to? Organizations like the World Trade Organization, that’s who. The amount of power that the WTO, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund wield is insanely undemocratic and absolute. And while the WTO doesn’t even bother to use proper English (look at the last sentence in the first paragraph, which is repeated in other places by these guys, on their website), much like a honey badger, they just don’t give a shit. Why? Because they don’t have to, that’s why. They’ve even concocted terms like “automaticity” to explain just how fast and easy they need to be able to make decisions (three quarters down this page). I had to look it up, because I thought it was a made up word. In fact, the definition explains just how busy they are by the implication of the words they use:
In 1991, Bill Clinton (correctly) balked at how dangerous and bad for the environment NAFTA would be if it were to be signed into law. He did this, by the way, so that he could get his sorry ass elected president in 1992. No sooner was he sworn into office than he did a complete 360, changed his tune and NAFTA went forward and was signed into law as written which not only killed jobs in America, but, more importantly, ushered in a huge jump in carbon emissions, committing signatories to trade policies which literally guarantee worsening of the climate. Thanks to policies like NAFTA, and with the help of organizations who help enforce the rules, like the WTO, no one can get away with passing ordinances to safeguard “buying local” or even incentivize local sourcing of people or materials without getting brought before nameless, faceless Investor State Dispute Tribunals. If the Trans-Pacific Partnership gets shoved through Congress (Hillary Clinton was a supporter, but, a little bit of deja vu here, she’s now stated she’s against it in order to get herself elected) legislation like New York State’s anti-fracking ban will be struck down and made illegal faster than you can say “here we go again.”
When people think that there is absolutely no way that anything will get done on a global scale to actually combat climate change, they are either not remembering, or perhaps they’re unaware of, how ruthlessly efficient, how wholly undemocratic, and how entirely unyielding things like international trade agreements are. The average American has never heard of, nor understood the absolute power ensconced in Investor State Tribunals, which render what most consider worthy democratic processes about as effective as giving baby aspirin to someone with a brain tumor. If humanity is going to even marginally save itself, in both the short and long term,
I the next Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC needs to have the same authority that those who enforce trade policy have. Anything less than that will result in (the continuation of) no one paying any attention to what comes out of the United Nations.
While my six part strategy when chosen isn’t going to be easy, it’s clearly not impossible. Changing the laws of physics is impossible. Changing a bunch of rules written on paper that we humans just made up, out of thin air, is entirely possible. And this is the reason that someone like me needs to have a shot at this job, because if a lifelong diplomat and/or bureaucrat gets
my the job, they are utterly and inherently incapable of getting anything actually done since, by necessity, they’ve been following rules and procedures which prevent disruptive change their whole professional lives. Now is not the time to keep doing what has been done for years and years.
We are totally out of time. As Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”