HAUPPAUGE, N.Y., Nov. 13, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Dr. David E. McClean, Senior Lecturer at Rutgers University (United States), where he teaches philosophy and business ethics, and Sr. Consultant at Business and Government Ethics International, believes that COP26 will likely prove a disappointment. This is because the COP process continues to rely on voluntary compliance to meet climate targets. Dr. McClean has been pushing, quite publicly, for the creation of a global climate authority to enforce climate agreements rather than have the world rely on voluntary actions. “It’s too soon to declare COP26 an utter failure, and it would be wrong to denigrate the sincere efforts of those in attendance,” says McClean. “But if COP26 yields no more than another string of promises and pledges to meet again to do in the future what should have been done this November, there is little hope that we will stay under 1.5C.”
Dr. McClean worries that the “dangerous lack of urgency” expressed by former President Barack Obama during the COP26 sessions will lead activists and others to lose patience with the current process. Says McClean, “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that we are in a climate emergency, declare in report after report the devastating impacts on human populations and thousands of other species, fret publicly and loudly that we have only a few years left before irreversible and damaging chain reactions are set-off in the Earth’s climate-regulating systems, and then expect the global citizenry to sit on its hands as the can is kicked down the road yet again.”
Dr. McClean, who has spent the past week discussing the climate emergency with his Rutgers students, has discussed his views concerning a global climate authority on CBC radio, in several broadcasts of its IDEAS program, and sets down his arguments in his monograph “Climate Change: The Moral and Political Imperatives,” which he published on-line in 2017. “No country relies on voluntary compliance when it comes to taxation and commercial contracts, but rather robust enforcement mechanisms are used to assure compliance,” says McClean. “How can it be,” he queries, “that we understand the need for enforcement mechanisms to assure that taxes are collected, yet when it comes to saving the world from the worst that climate change will cause we are content to rely on mere voluntary compliance? Knowing the political pressures faced at home, how can voluntary compliance be a proper moral response?”
McClean argues that a global climate authority would not be a step toward “world government” (a claim that he calls a “canard”) but would be a sensible, pragmatic, and adaptive tool created by the world’s states and which could sunset at a date certain. He believes the global climate authority should be created by the UN Security Council, perhaps using and expanding its “Responsibility to Protect” principle as the basis. The coercive mechanisms would include requiring states to fund an international escrow fund whereby states would forfeit some of their deposit when they fail to meet certain material targets, with the forfeited sums going to poorer countries to help them in their efforts to meet their commitments. With various negotiation algorithms, states could be assured that they could avoid the problem of free-riding. Concerning the UN Security Council, McClean says “I am aware of the political hurdles and do not wish to minimize them. I am also aware that if the word “Security” in Security Council is to mean anything it must mean that the Council plays a leading role to address the climate emergency. If the Security Council can’t or won’t address the biggest threat to global security since the commencement of the nuclear arms race, then what, exactly, is it good for?
Dr. McClean joins William Nordhaus (2018 Nobel Prize in Economics) in arguing that voluntary compliance and pledges will almost certainly fail to prevent runaway and catastrophic warming. Nordhaus has proposed a “climate club” of states that would create mutual incentives to comply with climate agreements. Likewise, Dr. McClean says that he agrees with Stewart M. Patrick (Sr. Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations) that current international political mechanisms are maladapted to the climate emergency (Patrick has called for a “new planetary politics” in the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs). He also points out that he is not alone in calling for a global climate authority. The idea was also floated by Gabriel Weil (Sr. Research Associate at the Climate Leadership Council) in his peer-reviewed 2018 article, “Incentive Compatible Climate Change Mitigation: Moving Beyond the Pledge and Review Model” (William & Mary Environmental Law and Policy Review, Volume 42, Issue 3). In that article, Weil points out that worries about national sovereignty infringement can be overcome, as it was with the establishing of the World Trade Organization. Thus, canards about “world government” and “national sovereignty” should not determine the fate of the Earth. Likewise, says McClean, “We can no longer use maladapted diplomatic tools, designed for ordinary conflicts and tensions, to address a global planetary crisis.”
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