Justice for Future Generations

Justice for Future Generations

Climate Change and International Law

Peter Lawrence

Peter Lawrence’s Justice for Future Generations breaks new ground by using a multidisciplinary approach to tackle the issue of what ethical obligations current generations have towards future generations in addressing the threat of climate change. This insightful book draws on contemporary theories of justice to develop a number of principles which are used to critique the existing global climate change treaties. These principles are also used as a blueprint for suggestions on how to develop a much-needed global treaty on climate change. The approach is pragmatic in that the justice–ethics argument rests on widely shared values and is informed by the author’s extensive experience in the negotiation of global environmental treaties as an Australian diplomat.

Chapter 8: Conclusion

Peter Lawrence

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental law, environmental politics and policy, law - academic, environmental law, human rights, law and society, legal philosophy, public international law, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy


This book has argued that an effective climate change regime which ensures justice for future generations is possible if built on acceptable combinations of justice-based principles. To attain such an agreement it is essential to identify shared understandings of justice and ethics. Central in the justice-based framework developed in this book have been notions of core human rights, equality and subsistence. We have seen in the analysis of climate change discourses that normative arguments are integral to countries' negotiating positions and these in turn are underpinned by powerful economic interests. Both of the above factors suggest that analysis of justice and ethics in relation to climate change is not just a theoretical philosophical exercise but a practical and pragmatic task. A key element of the approach of this book has been to seek to understand international climate law in its political and economic context to ensure reform proposals are well grounded. This approach is dictated by the inherently multidisciplinary nature of the problem of climate change. In spite of the obvious multidisciplinary nature of the climate change problem, much of the literature on climate change has been undertaken in silos, whether the silos be those of the international lawyer, economist, philosopher or international relations scholar. The risk of such narrow approaches is that they result in either hopelessly utopian proposals, irrelevant to the real world, or alternatively that they are based - explicitly or implicitly - on ethical assumptions which may be difficult to justify.

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