Ethics and Global Environmental Policy

Ethics and Global Environmental Policy

Cosmopolitan Conceptions of Climate Change

Edited by Paul G. Harris

This collection of provocative essays re-evaluates the world’s failed policy responses to climate change, in the process demonstrating how cosmopolitan ethics can inform global environmental governance.

Chapter 5: Cosmopolitan Solutions ‘From Below’: Climate Change, International Law and the Capitalist Challenge

Romain Felli

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy


Romain Felli INTRODUCTION International negotiations on climate change have yet to prove their ability to put the world on the much-needed track toward dramatic reductions in the level of greenhouse gas emissions. Since the Kyoto protocol was devised and implemented, climate change remains as dangerous as ever and the steps towards a real reduction in greenhouse gases emissions have been few. Some may even say that the steps have been mostly backwards. The failure of the Copenhagen Summit in 2009 reinforces such a view. It can therefore be argued that ‘[t]his failure can be attributed, at least in large part, to the nature of the climate change regime itself, which is premised on negotiations among states seeking to protect or promote their relatively narrow national interests’.1 This understanding leads to calls for a renewed approach on climate change, based on cosmopolitan ethics rather than on statist positions. Cosmopolitans tend to oppose state interests to cosmopolitan human interests and seek to make the second prevail over the first. While I generally agree with the cosmopolitan position, I believe that a simple opposition between states and individuals is misleading in understanding the current situation and acting upon it. This apparent opposition needs to be grounded, I will argue, in the capitalist relations of production that suppose the production and reproduction of two separate spheres, that of the ‘economy’ and that of the ‘political’. This separation is enacted at the international level, where the existence of a world market is paralleled with...

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