Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Political Science professor pushes for UN Sustainable Council

By Nancy Pierce

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Peter Haas, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts, is part of a group of 32 governance experts proposing the creation of a United Nations Sustainable Development Council to coordinate global policy in an economically and environmentally changing world.

At an Earth System Governance conference last May, Haas and the other 31 experts met and collaborated to submit the proposal for the Sustainable Development Council to the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Haas has co-authored papers published in a March 16 issue of “Science” titled “Navigating the Anthropocene: Improving Earth System Governance” calling for a “constitutional moment” of reform comparable in scale to reform following World War II, according to a March 20 news release.

The proposal for the UN Sustainability Council was also a demand for a strengthened agency responsible for environmental policy. Haas said the council would integrate environmental policy, economic development and human justice and that the current organization responsible for those issues doesn’t have that necessary interconnectedness.

Current political realities, such as the increased prosperity and development of countries such as China, India, Brazil and Russia call for political reform on a global scale, according to Haas.  Including the developing countries into the sustainability council as stakeholders is essential for the health of the planet, he said.

“If they continue to pursue economic growth without paying attention to environmental consequences, the health of their citizens will be endangered and the future health of people elsewhere will be in danger also,” said Haas.

Haas pointed out that global ecosystems are threatened as they are being stressed beyond capacity. This could cause a lack of biodiversity. Climate change and the depletion of natural resource are also prominent issues.

He said looking into the future, countries need to plan for these threats.

The trends in global climate change and decreasing biodiversity are pressing issues for the global economy, and according to Haas, policy reform needs to happen in order to stave off worse consequences in the future.

“Regardless of anything the world governments do right now, we’re still going to have a two degree change in average climate by the end of the century,” he said.

Haas will be attending the UN conference in Brazil in June this year with hopes that the submitted sustainability council proposal will be implemented.

He hopes that “a strong declaration calling for a sustainable development movement towards a green economy and a development for the refinement of UN institutions to promote that occurs,” will be made at the upcoming UN conference in Rio.

“You’ve got a lot of existing powerful UN organizations that have been around since WWII that are responsible for their traditional areas and are very protective of their responsibilities,” he said.

Haas said for the proposed sustainable council to be implemented, the General Assembly would have to require it,which would require a lot of pressure from citizens,.

Nancy Pierce can be reached at [email protected]

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