Kimberly White
Hello and welcome to Common Home Conversations. Today we are joined by Paulo Magalhães, Founder and President of the Common Home of Humanity. Thank you for joining us today, Paolo.

Paulo Magalhães
Thank you. Thank you so much for your invitation, so kind. Thank you.

Kimberly White
So Paulo, can you tell us what inspired you and your organization to launch this global call for a legal framework?

Paulo Magalhães
The main idea, the starting point was when I saw a legal dysfunction one incapacity for law to explain the law, and this happened in 2002, when the oil tanker that crashed near the border between Portugal and Spain, in the north of Portugal, and the crash was on Spanish waters. And the first reaction of the Spanish authorities was to push the boat for Portuguese waters, they tried to push, and after our army sent the boats, and the reality was that there were several boats on the water in the middle of the oil spill and the oil went to both sides. This is when this reality of having one line that is abstract, that is a legal obstruction that divides the sea. The sea, we cannot divide the sea; we cannot, we can divide the space of the sea, but we cannot divide the water; we cannot divide the system; we cannot divide the quality of the water or the fishes. So this is really one incapacity of law to explain the reality of this planet, of this interconnected planet, for so when we do lose the connection between the abstraction and the legal figuration and the reality of the planet, we have to look for solutions. This is what you need a new legal abstraction that is able to represent the interconnections of the planet.

Kimberly White
So, we have had agreements to address the climate crisis such as the Kyoto Protocol, and of course, the Paris Climate accord. However, we’re still struggling to move the needle. The annual emissions gap report from the UN environment released last year found that global greenhouse gas emissions must fall by more than 7% each year over the next decade if we’re to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. And we recently learned that we have failed to achieve any of the global biodiversity targets set a decade ago. What do you believe has prevented us from moving forward and finding the solution?

Paulo Magalhães
One of the main mistakes is to consider and our mental inability to address the global, you understand? To accept, we can say but to accept and to view that the things are all interconnected. The question is the same problem that I talked about before about the absence of one legal abstraction that is able to represent the interconnects, the interdependence of this planet is the same reason or is the structural reason for not achieving any results, in my view, on the climate emergency, or biodiversity. The question is, when climate for the first time entered the UN discussions in the 80s, the first question that was raised was ‘what is climate from a legal point of view.’ Climate, as you can imagine, is something absolutely different for international law because climate is not a territory, it is a system; it is more than a system, it is a well-functioning system. It is a pattern of stability of the function of the system that is predictable that we can have seasons, well-defined seasons, and all the years, the same pattern repeats and repeats again. And we have an envelope of temperatures that stay inside these limits of temperature. Climate is for so it’s a well-function, a well functioning Earth System. It is a way of functioning of the system that is favorable for humans and other species. And this model, operating model of the system is intangible, it is a software. It’s not a territory; it is not the hardware, it is the software.

The great question is that from a legal point of view, we still look at the planet as we did in the 18th century, in the 17th century, in the 16th century, or more. The question is we are still looking at this planet only as a territory, divided between states, where the leftovers of the territories are the global commons. And this is not true. This is not absolutely true. What makes this planet different from all the planets that we know is the system. All the planets have a territory, bigger or smaller than Earth, all the planets have a territory. What the other planets do not have, and we have here on this planet, is the system that supports life. The system, the Earth System in a well-function way or function, is our main heritage. It is our main and most valuable thing that we have on Earth because it supports life and supports us. And for the law, this system does not exist, does not exist because it’s intangible, because you cannot divide it, because we cannot appropriate it, we cannot properly privatize these things. And if we can divide the space of the sea, as we have made on the territorial waters, we can divide the space, but we cannot divide the system that operates inside the water of the oceans; we cannot divide the system that operates on the airspace, we can divide space, we cannot divide the system. Okay. And this is the great difference. Because we do not accept that we have a global common without borders, we do not manage climate as a global common. This is the great quest.

And when climate entered in the UN negotiations in the 80s, the first proposal from Malta was to propose to recognize a stable climate as a common heritage of mankind. The question was in 1992, in the Rio summit, the decision was to consider climate change as a common concern of humankind. And this makes all the difference. This is the main reason why we still do not have any results in tackling, tackling climate change, because, with this decision, we decide that climate is not a common good, we decide that climate is an issue, an issue like any issue, and from a legal point of view, no one knows what is a concern from a legal point of view, in terms of flights and in terms of duties. And the main question, because we do not accept that climate is a system that exists in the real world and not an issue, we do not accept that it is a global common and we do not manage it as a global common. And the great question is again, because we do not recognize the stable climate as a global public good, all the benefits that maintain and produce a stable climate do not exist for the law, and for so do not exist for the economy.

For example, the question of Amazon, I call it the paradox of Amazon. Everyone knows that the forest of Amazon is one of the key ecosystems on the planet that maintain and produce a stable climate. This forest has the highest value for humanity. A great question is this value that everyone feels this value, everyone knows about this value, but this value is not visible for the economy. Why? Because when we talk about the value of Amazon, we are talking about the intangible work that these ecosystems and other ecosystems around the world make on the function on the model of operating of the Earth System, on the intangible work of nature, on the chemical changes that the forest made on the air, on the water, on the soil. And these chemical changes, this intangible work does not exist because the common does not exist. From a legal point of view, this work is made in a global legal gap; the global does not exist. Law considers the global commons are only the leftovers of the territories. Sorry, sorry. This planet is more than a territory. No jurist in the world, no legal expert in the world can say that that is not true. The truth is that this planet is more than a territory, and nature is not wrong; what is wrong is the law, the law is wrong.

Without changing this, it will be totally impossible to restore the system because we do not have a legal framework to restore a global common, no one will make improvements on a global common that does not exist, that will not be compensated for these, no one will produce benefits on a legal gap. This is the great question. The result of the concern approach is not a decision to manage a global common that implies a congress between the rules of appropriation of the global commons and also a congress from appropriation with the providing the global public good, we need rules for providing the global public rules and for the appropriation, the result because we do not have the global common, the result is one system of mitigation between states. And the system of mitigation is we will try to make less emissions. But in the end, this is a negative-sum game, we will continue to make emissions, and this is the only way our economy works. Because to make positive, to make benefits on the Earth System, to restore the Earth System it’s invisible for the economy, without changing this legal framework, we will not restore the Earth System. We will not ensure the future for the next generation.

Kimberly White
Now, when discussing an intangible global common without borders, one initial misconception regarding this deals with national borders and sovereignty. Can you address this?

Paulo Magalhães
We must understand, some way, explain that these are two different realities. One is the division of the space, and the other is the system, two different realities. And this is the great secret somehow for the condominium, why in the condominium it’s possible to have common property inside the space of private property. Because there are different things. One thing is the space is my apartment, another thing is the system of electricity or the system of water, okay. Or the system of the elevators. One is the functional division, another is a space division. And we can conciliate both. This is what we need to do on the planet. We need to consider the system as a global common that exists inside and outside all the sovereignties, and this does not mean that we have to finish with the borders, with the sovereignties.

To be honest, the only way to keep sovereignty under the territories is to keep the system in a well-functioning way. Without a well-functioning Earth System, there is no sovereignty that can say I do not agree with climate change. The climate change is there; the system is there; this is the reality of this planet. And this is not under the sovereignty of any state. This is not under the jurisdiction of any state. The only way to manage one common is, as Professor Elinor Ostrom tells us, the first step is to define the commons. What is the common that is the state that we have to manage? This is the first step, and I think it is to define the Earth System as a common heritage of mankind. And now, we have the scientific tools that are needed to define this common heritage. The safe operating space for humankind, I think, is the scientific tool to define this intangible common heritage of mankind that supports life. The second step is to create congruence between the rules for appropriation and the rules for provision of the common good. Without this, it’s impossible to have a collective action. This is the structural conditions for a collective action. Climate change is not a problem of CO2. Climate change, before being a problem of CO2 or economic problem, is a problem of commons, of managing commons. Without creating the conditions to be possible, as successful management of commons, we will not address, we will not win this war against climate change. Because this is a problem that no one’s talked about, that is behind all the problems. And people consider, take it as something given that climate change is a common concern with an oil waiver, without no one knows what is a concern.

Kimberly White
So climate change is essentially a symptom, not the root cause of the illness.

Paulo Magalhães
It’s a symptom. Yeah, you are right; this is the difficulty of accepting from a sovereignty feeling that we have a common inside our territory. Independently, if you accept or not, the commons is there, its function, we have no sovereignty under the common system and our future, the future of the next generations depend on this commons.

Kimberly White
Now historically, economic growth has come at a devastating cost to the Earth’s natural systems, or global commons. Essentially, when we destroy the environment, we create wealth with no penalty, but at the same time, there are no incentives in place to reward nature positive solutions. And recent studies have found that nature could create trillions of dollars in annual business opportunities. This system is dysfunctional. How do we reconcile economic development with growing environmental concerns?

Paulo Magalhães
And this is, again, a legal question. A legal question that is behind the conception of value, the conception of what is wealth creation in our society. If we accept that we have a common without borders, intangible, that is not a threat to the sovereignties. That is the only way to keep the sovereignties working for the future and driving for the future. If we accept this, and we accept that the climate that I have inside my country depends on what others made on the other side of the planet, it depends on the ecosystems that are in other countries. If we accept this common, we put some competencies in one institution that will manage, that I think should be United Nations, that should manage what are the positive impacts that each one makes and the negative impacts that each one makes on the common system to create the system of accountancy of these impacts, to create a global public policy of the maintenance of this, of this climate, we can change the rule of the game where the wealth creation, the wealth creation in our society only happens if we destroy nature. If we recognize the commons, we can give value to the work of nature; we can give value to the intangible work of nature. And we must distinguish that Amazon, the rainforest, I only talk about Amazon because this is the biggest Okay, all the ecosystems are this. This is the same thinking for the rest of the ecosystems. But I talk about Amazon because it’s the biggest one.

Kimberly White
The lungs of the Earth.

Paulo Magalhães
Yeah, the question is, the forest of the Amazon belongs to the nine countries that share this space on Earth. The work that is made there is common because there are no borders for the work of nature. There are no borders for the evapotranspiration; there are no borders for the absorption of CO2; there are no borders for the oxygen; there are no borders for the organic that goes to the water that after all the organic material that goes to the water and after feeds all the oceans. There are no words for this. But these forests belong to the countries that are there. The question is, we need to make one accountancy of the system that compensates this work. For the benefits that these territories made to all the systems that we all share the benefits, we all share the benefits of these ecosystems in the same way that we all share the damage that the pollution or the emissions of fuels all over the place, we share the benefits, and we share the damage. So the only way to harmonize this question is to recognize the common, and after to make a system of governance of the use of this common. And to think if we accept the benefits, if you introduce the benefits on the accountancy, all the accountancy will change. It will have cascade effects on the emissions, on the logic of the emissions, on the logic of what is on the GDP of countries. Without changing this rule, we will continue on the negative-sum game, we will try to reduce emissions, but we will never restore the system. Because we will not, we will not create one caring activity of the Earth System in the countries, and the carrying activity of the Earth System should be compensated and should become visible on the GDP of the countries. And we must have a balance between the positive impacts and the negative impacts. And the question is if we introduce the positive impacts, what will be the consequences, the cascade conscripts on the negative? Because these will change the rule of the game is to touch on one initial condition of the system that will have cascading effects, that will have domino effects in all the economy, in all the relations between North and South, in all the relations inside the countries, it’s a paradigm shift. And to have results, I think it’s inevitable that we need a paradigm shift. We have so many paradigm shifts along history, why cannot we have another one?

And think of this, we have already recognized the existence of, we have a legal status for the common heritage of mankind, we have already recognized legal objects of law, intangible legal objects of law, in outer space law. We have already defined the safe operating space that is the space when we are talking about the safe operating space with the planet boundaries framework. We are not talking about a space, this space is not a territorial space, it’s a quality space of the system. We have the quantity and quality parameters that define a well functioning Earth System. We have all the tools that we need to recognize the global common, to measure the impacts, to define the global common, to change. The only obstruct that we have, in our heads, in our ideas, is to accept that we have a global common without borders. This is the only obstruct we have. The obstruct between to give the opportunity for the next generations to thrive and to live or to be in the disruption, in the climate disruption, The only obstruct in this moment is one long-held belief that we have borders and we do not have a global common without borders.

The great question is, we are not talking about territories. We have to leave our mindsets from the territory and to embrace the idea of the system. We need to keep the borders on the territories to have peace, to maintain the peace that we can get, but at the same time, we need to build a legal framework that is able to represent the global function of the Earth System; we need something, a legal abstraction, that is not Earth System, when we propose to recognize the Earth System as a common heritage, is not saying that the common heritage will be the Earth System, this these will be a representation of the Earth System with the knowledge that we have now, that is the safe operating space that is the best knowledge that we have now, the reality is, what we can have for sure is that this planet is not only a territory and we need to represent the functionality of the system from a legal point of view and after to build a system of global governance of this global common.

So, by introducing in our accountancy, in our GDP, the work of nature, we can make a paradigm shift in what is value. And by doing so, we can build one economy not only to reduce emissions, that we are already starting to do, but also one economy of restoring the Earth System. The countries that have used ecosystems, the key ecosystems of the planet, of course, they must be compensated okay, but they must be compensated because they are providing one service that supports life for everyone. And this will create new jobs, new ways of wealth creation. And, you know, you have to work on both sides reducing the impacts and restoring the ecosystems, and they will work together but to work together and to work on both sides, you need that the results, outcome of these works, the outcomes of these activities become visible in the economic system, in the global economic system. And do not forget, when we are investing in less emissions, in the equipment with less emissions with/or capturing CO2, you are working on intangibles, natural intangibles, like producing benefits on the Earth System, or less emissions or negative or capturing CO2. So we are always working when we are reducing with new technologies to avoid emissions; we are living with intact natural intangibles, and we are living to avoid emissions of natural tangibles. So what we are talking about is about one economy of natural intangibles, more than commodities, that are support of life. And we should build this new economy around this. So it’s a new economy that will have new jobs, new economic activities that are different from the previous one, okay. So, there is no contradiction between economy and nature. The contradiction is between what we conceive as value, what we consider as wealth creation, and nature. Economy is not a new position to nature. What is the new position is our concept of what is value for nature, what is value for an economy, what is the concept of wealth creation.

Kimberly White
Now, I think that’s a really great point. And I know the World Economic Forum recently came out with a report on how nature-positive solutions are good for our economy. So essentially shifting away from business as usual, which is a hot topic right now with COVID-19 and the green recovery, and adopting these nature-positive solutions could create trillions of dollars in annual business opportunities and create nearly 400 million jobs over the next 10 years alone. So, this will be very beneficial for us as a global community and also our local communities.

Paulo Magalhães
Yes, with some great advantages, Kimberly, very good technologies with zero emissions are capturing CO2 with no damage or nature-based solutions to boost the programs of nature-based solutions, you need a legal framework that captures what are the positive externalities, okay to have many to invest in nature-based solutions, okay. No one will put millions and millions and millions of dollars in nature-based solutions because the outcomes of nature-based solutions are natural intangibles, benefits on the Earth System that needs to be compensated okay. So, to talk about one conflict between the economy and nature is absolutely madness, in the sense that the problem is not economy, the problem is what has value. And I ask again, what has value for humankind? More iPods or more commodities or more the biology of physical conditions that support life? We can continue to produce commodities, we need to produce commodities, but we need to produce less commodities and to produce more intangibles, the natural intangibles that support life because without this, in the end, no one will earn money, because the system will collapse. So, the problem is the system of what has value for us, what really matters for us, okay, this is the question we give value to what? And although it is evident for us, but the systems do not change, the only one that can change is economy, the one that can change is the law, the laws of nature will not change. So the only solution is to adapt our laws, to adapt our economy to support life and the next generations. There is no excuse to not do it. There is no excuse.

Kimberly White
I like that- we must change because the laws of nature will not change. Thank you, Paulo. This was enlightening. Do you have any final thoughts to share with our audience?

Paulo Magalhães
Yes, yes. We can manage the system without undermining the territory, the sovereignty of states. This is from a legal point of view, from a political point of view, one new solution, because this is the time also to connect the new science about the function of the Earth System, the reality of the Earth System, with the legal concepts, with the political solutions, with the designing of policies, and the designing of organic institutions, of institutions designing global governance, so only connecting of all of these science, with law, with the consequences in economy, by recognizing the work of nature that support life, and also connecting with the political and institutional solutions that we need to manage the system. This is the new society that we need, the evolution that we need to have 100% where we can live, where the next generations can live. We cannot think that in the Anthropocene, we will live in the same way, with the same thought that we lived 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 5 years ago. And do not forget also, that all that we are seeing now, the nationalists and so on are also one outcome of not having a solution for this fact of being, we are all connected, we will depend on each other on a global scale. And because we have no solutions for this, we have no design, we have no governance design for this reality of the planet, that the outcome is each one is trying to close themselves in their borders thinking that this is the best solution for them. And we know that this, this is not true. Climate change, pandemics do not respect any border. For so, only building something that represents a world without borders, the systemic approach, and keeping the borders on the territory and allowing the system to exist without borders, we can find new solutions.

Kimberly White
All right, and there you have it. Our planet is more than a territory, and the great quest moving forward is to recognize the existence of the Earth System as a Common Heritage of Humankind. By recognizing our global commons, we can give value to the intangible work of nature and take the first step to restoring a stable climate, a visible manifestation of a well-functioning Earth System. That is all for today, and thank you for joining us for this episode of Common Home Conversations Beyond UN75. Please subscribe, share, and be sure to tune in next Wednesday to continue the conversation with our special guest, Karl Burkart, Co-Founder and Managing Director of One Earth. And visit us at www.ThePlanetaryPress.com for more episodes and the latest news in sustainability, climate change, and the environment.

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