Precedent for CapGlobalCarbon: the International Campaign to Ban Landmines

CapGlobalCarbon may seem dauntingly ambitious, but it isn’t by any means the first global-level initiative to be led by civil society, and important lessons can be learnt from past experience. In a series of blog posts I’ll be examining several of these precedents. Let’s start with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL).

The ICBL was founded in 1998. Here are a list of points in common that the CGC could have with the ICBL:

1. The ICBL is an independent global organisation that was formed by a coalition of NGOs. It defines itself as a ‘campaign’ and works with the UN and with individual governments but isn’t a government body itself.

2. Its goal is to eliminate from the entire planet something noxious and widespread which is causing harm to humanity. This quote from the ICBL website reminded me of our argument for a binding cap on fossil fuel extraction: “…It soon became apparent that the only real solution to address the landmine crisis was a complete ban on antipersonnel mines. No technical changes or changes to the rules on their use could change the fact that an antipersonnel mine is inherently indiscriminate.”

3. The ICBL puts pressure on governments to sign and ratify a treaty that implements their overall goal, and it has made meaningful progress towards achieving it. Since it was founded in 1992, 39 out of the 50 landmine-producing countries at the time have stopped producing landmines and landmine use has dramatically dropped (according to their website). Tens of millions of landmines have been destroyed.

4. This one isn’t included in our core description of CGC, but I think it also has potential as a precedent. The ICBL has a sister organisation which works as a monitor, the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, which is described as the “innovative civil society research and monitoring arm of the ICBL-CMC”. (CMC focusses on cluster bombs). This organisation does the work of tracking down who is using landmines and where they are.

This seems relevant to CGC in two ways:

(a) The effectiveness of this body’s work is proof that it’s possible to organise competent independent monitoring on a global level. Indeed, GCCT monitors wouldn’t have nearly such a difficult job as the ICBL’s Monitor does, since the former would merely have to keep track of upstream fossil fuel extraction which is carried out by a relatively small number of companies around the planet and already well-documented. The ICBL’s monitor has to try and track down down all the landmines which is a bit like trying to plug downstream emissions; it’s an enormous task.

(b) The monitors’ work is also a counter to the argument that any international monitoring organisation would have a tendency to become overly controlling, perhaps even totalitarian. By necessity, the ICBL monitors’ work is actually rather more invasive than the GCCT’s monitoring would be; but it’s hard to imagine anything more benign. (And another factor to bear in mind is that CGC doesn’t force people to spend their money in any particular way or even fix any prices; the only thing being controlled is upstream fossil fuel extraction).

Then there’s a less positive point – but as suggested above, I think we could draw a valuable lesson from it:

5. The ICBL has some difficulty in enforcing the treaty. Not all the countries are signatories, and of those who have, there are sometimes violations although the only really serious one so far appears to have been Yemen in 2011. By its own admission, the ICBL lacks a formal mechanism to address violations. They’re exploring ways to deal with this at present.

How could CGC ensure that its rules are enforced? Should it in fact have the responsibility for doing so, or should that fall to some other organisation? I’ve some suggestions about that in my next post on precedents for CGC, and in the meantime, would very much welcome comments.

 

Featured image from the Acceptance International website.

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