Year XXXVII, 1995, Number 2 - Page 106

 

 

 

WORLD GOVERNMENT, CLIMATIC RISK AND NUCLEAR PROLIFERATION
 
 
The states are increasingly obliged to admit their impotence to tackle alone the great challenges of this century. But this has not led them to give up defending what remains of their sovereignty and slowing down the march towards the creation of effective and democratic world government. The Berlin Mandate concluded at the Conference on climate and the renewal for an indefinite period of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty represent the most recent examples of this contradictory situation.
On 7th April in Berlin, after two weeks of negotiations, the representatives of 116 countries undertook to launch a world plan for the protection of the climate by 1997. In fact the Berlin Mandate, in recognising the inadequacy of the Convention signed in 1992 in Rio, commits the states to redefine their objectives for reducing emissions of those gases, primarily carbon dioxide, which condition the climate (greenhouse gases), and to fix deadlines (2005, 2010 and 2020) for the stabilisation and reduction of this type of pollution. The Mandate, in recognising the necessity of reducing gas emissions and stabilising them at world level, has also posed the problem of closer collaboration between developed and developing countries. In this connection three new institutions have been created: the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and a permanent secretariat which will establish its headquarters in Bonn in 1996. The reasons why this Mandate was arrived at are obvious. The Rio Convention did not define binding limits of pollution on a national and global scale, and produced an anomalous situation on the basis of which some states were actually able to interpret the Convention as an excuse to increase their respective quotas of national emissions (France, Japan, and the USA), choosing years of reference more favourable to them for the stabilisation of their emissions. Meanwhile the global situation has deteriorated. In the early nineties (1990-1994), the diminution of carbon dioxide pollution by the former USSR only partly compensated for (and hid) the parallel increase recorded in other parts of the world: +3 per cent in Western Europe, +5 per cent in North America, +8 per cent in Brazil, +13 per cent in India, +16 per cent in Turkey. As for China alone, in 1994 it became the world’s second polluter, increasing its emissions by 80 per cent since 1980 (Christopher Flavin, Worldwatch Magazine, March/April 1995). If China alone continued to develop at the current rhythm of growth, with the use of current technologies, this would suffice to triple the quantity of carbon dioxide emissions of all the other countries by the year 2100.
On the eve of the Berlin Conference the Vice-President of the USA, Al Gore, invited the governments to take note of the fact that the scientific world no longer asks whether, but when and how the gases emitted into the atmosphere will produce climatic changes. For this reason, “just as we recognise that there is a threshold for the global climatic system,” Gore went on, “so we must recognise that there is a threshold in politics for the governance of these problems.” According to the American Vice-President, it was therefore indispensable to emerge from the Conference with at least an international Mandate to renegotiate the control of carbon dioxide emissions at global level (George Washington University, 17th March 1995).
In Berlin however the parties failed to solve the crucial problem which will also constitute the principal element of conflict between developed and developing countries in the next world Conference on climate in 1997: the start of effective joint implementation of environmental policies, called for in the Convention on climate signed at Rio, but never put into effect. On the basis of this principle the developed countries could fulfil part of their future obligations to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by investing in reducing those of developing countries. But the states which supported the introduction of this principle at Rio most actively, primarily the USA, then opposed the fixing of precise and binding limits on emissions. Among less developed countries, Brazil, China and India have manifested their perplexity towards the putting into effect of “joint implementation”: allowing developed countries to invest at international level would be equivalent to authorising them to acquire the rights of emissions on the world market in order to maintain unchanged their own emission levels. For their part, the poorer countries, fearing they will be the greatest victims of possible effects of climatic change, insist instead on obtaining funds as soon as possible to enable them to promote the introduction and diffusion of cleaner systems of energy production; otherwise, warned the Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies of Bangladesh, Atig Rahman, “when the effects of the climatic change manifest themselves we will march with our feet wet towards your houses.”
The fact is that without agreements which imply binding limits and sanctions, “joint implementation” remains a principle whose realisation is entrusted to the good will of individual states. The deepening of international cooperation, for which the Mandate aims, no longer suffices in the ecological field to prevent the risks of an imminent change in climate. At the world Conference on climatic changes Chancellor Kohl noted how mankind must now not only ensure peace between men, but also with nature. The Berlin Mandate is set in this perspective, and confirms that natural resources can no longer be considered goods to be freely used by states and current generations, but common property which must be consumed with parsimony and which has a price. After all the seas, the atmosphere and genetic diversity are now becoming included among those goods which the states, through a series of conventions and treaties, are beginning to recognise as the common heritage of mankind. But the problem is precisely that the instruments for ensuring peace among men are no different from those for ensuring peace with nature. The time required for the ratification of ecological agreements and their uncertain application, not always verifiable because of the states’ resistance, offer no guarantee on the international community’s capacity to safeguard the natural goods essential for future generations. Just as peace treaties do not guarantee peace among men. It is necessary then to take the viewpoint of founding, in the context of the UN, a world ecological community whose final goal is world federation. In other words it is a question of repeating on world scale the qualitative leap undertaken by Europe in the fifties when, with the creation of the European Community, a first common institutional framework was defined for the various communities which were born or were coming into being (the ECSC, EURATOM, and the Common Market), with an embryo government and supranational Parliament. Only by moving into this viewpoint can the Berlin Mandate become an important part of the framework for effective world government.
 
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The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was drafted in 1968 and came into force in 1970 for a duration of 25 years, became permanent on 11th May 1995 by unanimous agreement, i.e. without a vote, of the 178 signatory countries. The proposal to extend the Treaty indefinitely was supported by Great Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, while a group of developing countries, including Iran, Nigeria and Indonesia, proposed extending the validity of the Treaty for a further twenty-five years. On a symbolic level, as remarked by the French delegate at the Conference, speaking also on behalf of the European Union, the renewal for an indefinite period represents another step forward on the road to reinforcing the context of international peacemaking. But the context in which it took place reveals that it is not yet a decisive step. Even the speakers at the Conference tried to reduce its significance in commenting on this result. The Canadian ambassador spoke of “permanence with accountability without division,” while the Philippine ambassador declared it a case of “sugar-coated mechanisms to make indefinite extension more palatable.” The representative from Iran considered this agreement as “conditional indefinite extension,” while the Iraqi representative saw in it the nth proof of the tyranny of the majority. The delegate from Libya actually denied having accepted any extension of the Treaty. Among those aiming for a further series of negotiations, China declared that the extension of the duration of the Treaty “should in no way be interpreted as perpetuating the nuclear weapon states’ prerogative to possess nuclear weapons,” while Mexico and Japan insisted on the necessity of abolishing nuclear tests and all nuclear weapons. Meanwhile India, Pakistan, Israel and Brazil, suspected for some time of possessing nuclear arms, continue not to adhere to the Treaty, while North Korea has suspended its status of adherent to the Treaty. How then can one judge the results of this conference?
In order to try and answer this question it is worth recalling that, as soon as the destructive potential of the nuclear weapon was revealed, the solution adequate to the problem of its control was also proposed: the creation of world government. It was Albert Einstein who first indicated it clearly, when he declared, after the first nuclear explosion on Hiroshima, that mankind must now set itself the objective of creating a world government able to guarantee the security of all countries on the basis of law and no longer of force (New York Times, 15/9/45). The problem, from the very beginning, was to create an effective system of control at international level. But at that time mankind failed to agree on the control and abolition of a dozen atomic bombs – the size of the United States nuclear arsenal at that time. Can it succeed today with thousands of nuclear warheads spread all over the world?
Bernard Brodie, the theoretician of United States nuclear strategy, immediately saw the risks of nuclear proliferation. Brodie did not deny the objective of world government, but not trusting to the capacity of the states to agree on the organisation of a valid system of international control, took the viewpoint of how to face a situation in which sooner or later all the states would reach the capacity to produce nuclear arms and to use them to threaten one another. In this context for Brodie it was indispensable to be able to answer crucial questions, such as: is the atomic bomb a deterrent against war? Is it possible to prevent their use? Is it possible to mitigate their terrifying effects if they should be used? The objective of the world federal union was for Brodie an “elementary truism,” not an instrument of political action. “It is a brutal but undeniable truth that we do not yet know whether a truly effective and workable international agreement on the subject is obtainable and, if it is, whether the price is one which the country as a whole will be prepared to pay... Naturally, our domestic policies concerning the atomic bomb and national defence generally should not be such as to prejudice real opportunities for achieving world security agreements of a worth-while sort.” “The problem of the atomic bomb,” Brodie went on to observe, “is inseparable from the problem of war, and instruments for the control of the bomb are useful mostly in so far as they reduce the likelihood of war. The strengthening of international machinery for the preservation of peace can be greatly accelerated by the sense of greater urgency which the atomic bomb produces, and the United States must spare no endeavour to assist such a movement. But so long as nations remain to a large degree sovereign and independent, no machinery can be a substitute for a wisely oriented and skilfully directed diplomacy” (The Absolute Weapon, pamphlet produced at Yale, October 1945).
The United States initially supported the federal solution at world level. In 1946 the American Secretary of State, Byrnes, gave a speech at the General Assembly of the United Nations in which he affirmed that the problems of the production and use of nuclear energy could not be solved by anyone country alone, as “they are common responsibility of all nations.” To this end Bernard Baruch, the USA representative at the UN Commission for atomic energy, in June 1946 presented the American proposal to institute an International Atomic Development Authority to which “should be entrusted all phases of the development and use of atomic energy starting with raw materials and including: managerial control or ownership of all atomic energy activities potentially dangerous to world security; power to control, inspect, and license all other atomic activities; the duty of fostering the beneficial uses of atomic energy; research and development responsibilities of an affirmative character intended to put the Authority in the forefront of atomic knowledge and thus enable it to comprehend, and therefore to detect, misuse of atomic energy.” The Authority should also have the power to sanction all states violating agreements or challenging the Authority: “There should be no veto to protect those who violate their solemn agreements not to develop or use atomic energy for destructive purposes,” concluded Baruch in his speech to the Commission. The Baruch plan, although approved by the Commission, never saw light of day, because of the crossed vetoes of the USA and the USSR and the ambiguous attitude of medium powers like Great Britain, who also aspired to become nuclear powers. In the sixties Baruch commented bitterly in his memoirs on the fruits of that defeat: “The atomic bomb makes all nations equal, just as the Smith & Wesson revolver made all men equal on the old frontier... The control of atomic energy remains one of the crucial elements in the making of a durable peace. As long as the threat of atomic destruction hangs over the world, there can be no peace.”
Einstein, Brodie and Baruch therefore have indicated the final objective to mankind for some time and the difficulties which the states would face whenever they passed up an opportunity to reach it by untying the knot of sovereignty. As a well-known Italian journalist remarked (Arrigo Levi, Corriere della Sera, 15/5/95), the renewal for an indefinite period of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is, however, a double-sided coin: on the one hand it recognises that it is not possible to put time limits on efforts to safeguard the world from the nuclear nightmare; on the other it admits the impossibility of freeing the world from nuclear arms. And since the only way out of this situation is by building a world government, as long as the states continue to pursue the simple logic of control outside the bounds of any political design, mankind will not be safe. The problem of international control, as Brodie explained in 1945, can be posed on three levels: publicity on all that concerns nuclear production and research without any claim to limit the production of nuclear arms; the limitation of the production of the number of nuclear arms; the suppression of the production of all those arms which imply the use of the nuclear reaction. The first level is by nature pre-political. It is the easiest to pursue, and has always been supported, but made the arms race and nuclear proliferation inevitable. The other two levels of control on the other hand, not being fully realisable without the states irreversibly renouncing the right to veto any inspection on their own territory by a specific International Authority, are only compatible with the consolidation of effective international institutions.
With the end of the Cold War, the USA and the USSR began bilateral involvement in the second level of control of nuclear arms. By making the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty permanent the great majority of the other states have also taken the first timid steps down this road. Certainly the states have not yet given up their sovereignty in the nuclear field, nor the defence of military secrets, nor their prerogative of control, which de facto make the respect of the treaty’s constraints voluntary, not obligatory. Nuclear war is therefore still possible, and with it, it is always possible to revoke the Treaty. On the other hand, the fact that some countries failed to participate in this kind of agreement means it is impossible for those countries which already have nuclear weapons to completely renounce a credible deterrence. But the fixing of a calendar for the Treaty’s revision, to take place by the year 2000, and for the enacting of a ban on all nuclear experiments by 1996, signals how difficult it is for the states at this stage to resist the logic of consolidating international constraints and of the progressive erosion of their sovereignty.
How long can such a favourable situation last? Unless an initiative returning to the objectives of the Baruch plan is affirmed as soon as possible, it is easy to foresee that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty cannot remain really permanent and will never become universal. Unlike the position in the 1940’s, the failures accumulated by national policies in controlling nuclear arms and their proliferation are so many and such as to have spread the idea in world public opinion and in the more conscious forces in society that there is no way out of the nuclear problem other than world government. And those who still consider this objective utopian may be reminded, in the words of Einstein, that “the only real step toward world government is world government itself’ (Open letter to the General Assembly of the United Nations, 1947).
 
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The five years that separate us from the year 2000 will see a practically uninterrupted series of international conferences, central to which will be the problems of redefining the continental regional institutions (in the first place the European Union and NAFTA) and the institutions of the UN, to guarantee greater ecological and military security and greater international democracy. On the outcome of these conferences will depend the acceleration or slowing down of the process of building world government. Only if it is able to present itself at these appointments as a subject, a federal State, recognised at world level and capable of acting, will the European Union be able to contribute to reinforce world institutions too in a federal sense and to resolve the challenges now facing mankind.
 
Franco Spoltore

 

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