Cunsumer/Polluter Sovereignty

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In one of the longest letters ever published in the Guardian June 12th 1992
Linking 'Consumer Sovereignty to Polluter Sovereignty'

Signatories to this letter
(now in the GCI Archive 1989-2004)
Opposed polluter sovereignty at Rio UNCED 2

THE heads of government in the G7 countries:
As you depart for Rio, please will you consider this. Rio is not
the “start of a process”, it is the culmination of a long and
arduous effort by countless concerned people over at least
20 years. These people have sought to bring governments,
business and industry to their senses and face up to the reality
of the global survival crisis we all collectively face.

There is no point in any of us continuing to duck the main cause of
this crisis — the wasteful consumption and destruction of natural
resources by the so-called industrial development process and its
economic mirror image in “growth”. It does seem scarcely believable
that through this process, humans have actually affected the
metabolism of the biosphere and started to change global climate,
but the evidence for this is growing relentlessly.

It will be an act of folly and deceit if in Rio you declare yourselves
in favour of a global ecological recovery programme while
you commit us to intensifying the causes of global ecological
degradation and the political imbalances which are caught up
in this. Nothing makes this prospect clearer than the climate
convention text crafted by UK environment minister Michael
Howard that he intends co-signing with White House US.
Signing this text is merely institutionalising “polluter sovereignty”
for the US as it has said it has no intention of reducing emissions.
On the contrary it is going to increase emissions as will all
signatories, as the text commits them to maintain strong and
sustainable economic growth. You should note carefully that
for G7 as well as globally, the C02/GDP growth-link remains
consistently unbroken over the last 30 years.

A year ago on this page a statement demanding US emission
restraint was published with about 20 cosignatories. One year
on over 300 people have co-signed as a consequence. Over
50 of these are European MPs (and UK MPs of all parties,
including three party leaders) along with eminent scientists and
environment development specialists from all over the world.
They said, “we believe that all people present and future,
should have rights to life and sustainable livelihoods which are
free from the threat and the reality of human-induced climate
disruption.” They also said “We stress that responsibility for taking
corrective action and reducing bad practice lies with those who
created and who continue to exacerbate this global crisis. We
demand that their response should be immediate and without

Polluter sovereignty is not a satisfactory response.
In the context of global climate change, more than half the
world’s population emit greenhouse gases at insignificantly
low levels, while a minority — reflecting runaway consumption
patterns — emit greenhouse gases at excessive levels,
provoking potentially runaway climate changes and obliterating
any remaining potential for globally equal survival rights.
The cosignatories pointed out that this inequity is particularly
unacceptable when the majority of the world’s people are
already struggling to meet basic human needs. Last but not
least, we also caution you against pursuing arguments about
population growth which imply (or may be taken as implying)
that the onus is on people in developing countries to breed less
so as the present profligate consumption-pollution patterns can
be maintained by populations in the industrialised countries of
the North. The anger of people some have described as “less fortunate
than ourselves’’ (most but not all of whom are in the so-called
developing countries) will in no way be mitigated by these
smoke-screen arguments. On the contrary, the adverse political
consequences of this anger will steadily combine with the
adverse ecological consequences of polluter sovereignty and
overwhelm any remaining possibilities of a rational political
response to this primarily consumption-pollution driven global
crisis. The leadership required (and which we urge you to
give) can only be based on honestly admitting the extent of
our responsibility in the North and unconditionally committing
ourselves to an equitable recovery.

This recovery cannot be based on the economics of increasing
competition-led growth of demand for the precious finite
resources of life. Recovery can only be based on sharing
these fairly at sustainable rates of use. Advocacy of this basic
principle and rejecting polluter sovereignty is common sense. It
is the prerequisite of future survival prospects for us all.

Aubrey Meyer, Dave Bradney, Global Commons Institute
Tom Barker, Alt. Tech Assoc:
Dilwyn Jenkins, Ctr Alt Tech
Anandi Sharan, World Clean Energy Coalition
Ed Mayo, New Economics Fdn:
Kate Young, Womankind
Nicholas Hildyard, The Ecologist
Susan George, A Dir TNI Jason Wilson, UCL
Jakob von Uexkull, Right Livelihood Award
Tony Cooper, Green Party global warming working group:
Jim Berreen, Green Party environment speaker;
Sara Parkin, UK Green Party Executive:
George Monbiot, author Amazon Watershed:
Kate Cameron-Daum, North Atlantic Network:
Hemansu Roy Trivedi, Indian Tribal Women’s Trust;
Titus Alexander, End Global Apartheid.