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Common Assets: Asserting Rights to Our Shared Inheritance

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Watt, Helen Payne
Conference: Constituting the Commons: Crafting Sustainable Commons in the New Millennium, the Eighth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Bloomington, Indiana, USA
Conf. Date: May 31-June 4
Date: 2000
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/641
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Region: North America
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
resource management
institutional analysis
environmental policy
Abstract: "Many of what we consider to be valuable natural assets existed for millennia without our ever being aware of their usefulness or value. For example, the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb pollution has only become useful to us in recent decades as the limits of that environmental service have become evident. Resources that were once perceived as limitless, and for which ownership need not be an issue, have been turned, by the advance of civilization and technology, into resources that are becoming increasingly scarce and distressed. The technology for extracting value from these assets has developed more rapidly than the legal and property rights to protect common resources and their shared status. "As a result, there are few ownership, governance or benefit sharing arrangements in place to manage the use of these assets. Instead, uses that are inequitable and unsustainable prevail and threaten the health of the asset itself and the community of owners. Our response to this crisis it is a crisis of global proportions is to modernize the ancient notion of 'the commons' with a new class of ownership in the U.S. called common assets. "Common Assets represent a whole new generation of environmental and development policies that treat natural resources and ecosystem services as assets to be protected and managed. Literature on the commons describes a wide variety of natural resources and ecosystem services, such as the atmosphere, fresh water and ocean fisheries, that are becoming scarce and stressed through environmental degradation. But there is an even greater risk. These assets the common inheritance of all people are being expropriated and transformed for their monetary value into private and corporate wealth for a small percentage of the population. This paper proposes a new class of ownership that would mean that common resources are owned by 'all of us' "To introduce common assets we begin with a description of the Sky Trust Initiative, a common assets approach to the need to reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. economy. Next, we explore some of the characteristics of the common assets concept ownership, governance, valuation and benefit sharing arrangements. Then, we consider the application of the concept. Finally, we review the policy tools and implications of this approach. The last section considers some of the next steps for expanding and demonstrating a common assets approach."

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