World federalists have been debating each other about the best way to achieve the goal of democratic world federal world government so that war can be outlawed and major global problems can be solved. Some argue that this should be done by transforming various organs of the confederal United Nations into a world federation through a system of weighted voting, while others argue for an incremental approach that would try to solve specific problems by means of some limited supranational agency. This book takes the latter approach.
The subtitle of this book is “Tackling Climate Change, Energy Distribution, and Nuclear Proliferation.” Ewing’s thesis is that since these major global problems that threaten life on Earth are not being solved under the current international system of sovereign nation-states, new systems of global governance are required in order to deal with these major problems.
The model she proposes is the European Coal and Steel Community that was created after the Second World War by several European countries in order to rebuild their economies and prevent future aggression. Jean Monnet convinced Robert Schuman of France and Konrad Adenauer of Germany of his plan to pool the coal and steel industries of France, Germany, and some other European countries. According to Monnet’s plan, these industries, necessary for rebuilding Europe, would be managed by a supranational institution, a politically and economically independent High Authority that would make legally binding decisions and would act for the collective benefit of its members. The gradual success of the ECSC was due to the founders’ courage, wisdom, perseverance, and willingness to work for the collective advantage. Because the ECSC worked in one sector of the economy, it eventually led to the European Union.
Ewing does a wonderful job explaining how the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), an expanding world population, and global energy demand are major factors in climate change. Competition over fossil fuels has increased pollution, poverty, and corruption within different countries as well as conflicts between different countries. Contrary to our current international system in which some countries unfairly control energy sources, Ewing argues that all nations should have fair access to energy and that equitable access to energy should be considered a basic human right. Because the Paris Agreement of 2016 is not binding and enforceable, a supranational agency modelled on the ECSC is therefore needed in order to regulate the production and distribution of oil, gas, and nuclear energy markets.
The world cannot now produce enough renewable energy cheaply to completely replace fossil fuels. Ewing agrees with many experts that until this is possible, nuclear energy is necessary in the short term. She spends one-third of this book answering many people’s fears of nuclear energy: the possibility of radioactive contamination, the location of nuclear plants, safety standards at nuclear plants, storage of nuclear waste, the transportation of nuclear materials, pollution caused by mining nuclear elements, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, terrorists acquiring “dirty bombs,” and nuclear war. Even though there have been a few nuclear plant accidents (Chernobyl in 1986, Fukushima in 2011), Ewing notes that modern designs of nuclear power plants make an accidental reactor core meltdown very improbable. But she admits that “we still lack standards that are mandatory and enforceable by penalties.” What is needed is “a system of vigilant and independent regulation of the nuclear energy industry worldwide.” (p. 97)
The Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty of 1968 has not led to nuclear disarmament because it and other international treaties are not universally binding. Contrary to the treaty, nations with nuclear weapons have not gotten rid of them while other nations have sought them. Some nations with nuclear weapons (Pakistan, India, and Israel) have not signed this treaty, and North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003. Ewing argues that the best way to universal disarmament and to keep terrorists from acquiring nuclear materials is “to pool all fissile, weapon-usable materials, such as highly enriched uranium and plutonium, in the hands of a supranational agency that would secure it properly, have sole control over it, and use it only to produce nuclear energy for the benefit of humanity.” (p. 149)
Ewing supports the proposal of some scientists about building nuclear reactors that use thorium. Unlike uranium or plutonium, thorium is not fissile and therefore hard to turn into a bomb. Thorium is several times more plentiful than uranium. It is also easier and cheaper to prepare. Thorium reactors can run non-stop for many years, and the waste is far less hazardous than the waste from reactors that use uranium or plutonium.
In order to create the needed Global Agency for regulating energy, Ewing proposes that the national legislature of each nation elect two individuals who would serve the best interests of humanity. Then all of these individuals would elect nineteen people amongst themselves who would serve in the Global Agency for six-year terms. Appeals concerning the democratic decisions of the Global Agency would be decided by a specialized division of the United Nations’ International Court of Justice. The Global Agency would need to set standards for all nuclear plants and inspect them without prior notice.
According to Ewing, nations should only be allowed to keep those armaments they need to maintain order within their borders. An international commission should determine the appropriate number and kind of weapons that a nation needs and propose a timetable for destroying the rest. Since nuclear weapons are not needed to maintain internal order, all nations need to agree on a plan to eliminate all nuclear weapons in verified phases. An enforcement system must be created to punish those nations, companies, and individuals who violate the international laws that apply to conventional and nuclear weapons as well as to nuclear energy. She believes that “this is an area where all nations must cede sovereignty for the collective good.” (p. 126)
I encourage those interested in global issues of peace and justice to read this well-researched and well-reasoned book. It is a significant contribution to the debates about how to best create a just legal peace system that world federalists believe is necessary in order to solve our many global problems. Following the model of the ECSC, Ewing stresses that what is also necessary is agreement on a set of global ethics which emphasizes unity, equality, and fairness that must be woven into the very structure of supranational institutions.