Op-ed by Johan Rockström, Stefan Löfven and Jens Orback
An op-ed by renowned scientist Johan Rockström, who is a board member of the Global Challenges Foundation and director at PIK, along with Stefan Löfven, co-chair of HLAB and former prime minister of Sweden, and Jens Orback, executive director of the Global Challenges Foundation, was published in Swedish media on Tuesday, May 9.
The article highlights the need for better multilateralism and proposes changes to address the current crisis. More detailed proposals can be found in the latest HLAB report, which was released earlier this spring. The op-ed can be read in English below.
We must restore balance with nature
Heat waves, rising sea levels and pandemics have at least two things in common: they do not respect national boundaries, and they cannot be solved by one country. For the first time in human history, we have created global crises that threaten our and future generations’ existence. In Sweden, a change in average temperatures by just a few degrees could radically change our lives, with increased incidence of disease and impacts on the food supply. If the gulf stream collapsed or diminished, it would be our turn to ask ourselves where we would emigrate.
Fully aware of these challenges, the UN Secretary General set out an agenda for change and appointed a high-level group to work on proposals for effective and inclusive co-operation. The High Level Advisory Board (HLAB), chaired by Stefan Löfven and Liberia’s former president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, has now delivered its report with the following key proposals:
Ideas explored in the report include:
- To avoid causing irrevocable damage to the conditions necessary to sustain life on Earth, we need to rapidly restore balance to how we interact with nature. We must accelerate the phase-out of fossil fuels. On the way to achieving this, measures such as improved incentives for cleaner energy use and new trade rules that reward circular economic activity, and the spread of new technologies are proposed. The green transition offers considerable opportunities for growth and job creation in support of Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
- The global financial institutions must be reformed so that they guarantee availability of financing to achieve sustainability goals. The World Bank and the IMF must increase their representativeness and legitimacy while paving the way for sustainable environmental and climate investment. This also includes a strengthened regulatory framework for global tax reforms.
- Establish a global commission to support the fair development of digitalisation. This would include establishing global standards and regulations for the development and use of AI.
- The UN Security Council must meet the demands of legitimacy, fairness and transparency. Its mandate must be broadened to new areas where humanity is threatened, and it must increase co-operation with regional actors. The report calls on world leaders to set a date for the total abolition of nuclear weapons and that the road there be accompanied by concrete proposals such as pledges on non-use and no first use
Nations should decide on their own affairs, just as municipalities, associations and local communities do. However, it is unacceptable to pursue narrow Swedish interests or to support international institutions in their current state. The global cross-border risks that now threaten humanity require fair and more effective global co-operation that protects and manages our common assets. The foundations of the UN Charter must be protected but making them more fit-for-purpose would be beneficial for development and prosperity in more and less advanced economies. This includes proposals for majority decision making and greater gender equality.
Sweden has a long tradition of standing up for and promoting multilateral co-operation, which also serves a small, open economy in the northern hemisphere, like Sweden’s.
We therefore urge all those who are engaged in societal development to read and share the panel’s report (editor’s note: link below) for further discussion ahead of the Summit of the Future, which the UN plans to hold in the autumn of 2024. Only by working together can we address the threats facing humanity.