Earth System Treaty: Towards a positive human future 

Sep 13, 2023
Environmental law and international agreement about protocol for framework convention on climate change, world and environment sustainable conservation concept.

It is easy to be pessimistic about prospects for our children, in the face of the climatic events that are now confronting humans everywhere. But there is also some very good news around the idea of developing a Global “Earth System Treaty” (EST) that could radically alter the trajectory we humans are currently on.

Developing such a treaty will not be straightforward, but it could change our future prospects and set in train an exciting new set of possibilities for the human world. Australia is well placed to lead the way on an EST, preliminary ideas for which have been developed by Canberra science communicator, Julian Cribb, who has also been at the forefront of the argument that without radical change, our human days are seriously numbered.

An EST would be a global accord, negotiated, signed, and ratified by all the countries on Earth under the UN umbrella. Once declared, it could also be available for voluntary signature by individual citizens, corporations, non-government bodies and other groups and organisations and agencies worldwide, so that all would have a chance to affirm their commitment to a whole planet and the safer future it could provide for humans and other life.

The purpose of the Treaty would be to provide an international legal framework for protecting and restoring the Earth System. It would set the standards, objectives and boundaries that all can follow and abide by.

Cribb’s proposed elements of the EST, include a series of global plans, aimed at each of a group of interacting catastrophic threats, which are not yet being systematically and comprehensively dealt with by any country on earth. The threats, which he has documented carefully in a series of six, widely published books, constitute a daunting set of challenges and of course, there is much to debate about what should go into the treaty for each of twelve catastrophic threats.

The Council for The Human Future led by former politician John Hewson, has drawn heavily on Cribb’s thinking, and has proposed to the Prime Minister that Australia could be a world leader on the development of an EST by proposing such a development at the UN. The group is also suggesting to ACT politicians, that the ACT could assist other Australian governments to engage in this challenge by holding a Citizen Assembly to consider the components of an EST.

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