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Edited by Paul G. Harris

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Edited by Paul G. Harris

Climate change will bring great suffering to communities, individuals and ecosystems. Those least responsible for the problem will suffer the most. Justice demands urgent action to reverse its causes and impacts. In this provocative new book, Paul G. Harris brings together a collection of original essays to explore alternative, innovative approaches to understanding and implementing climate justice in the future. Through investigations informed by philosophy, politics, sociology, law and economics, this Research Agenda reveals how climate change is a matter of justice and makes concrete proposals for more effective mitigation.
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Negotiating Climate Change

A Forensic Analysis

Aynsley Kellow

This book examines how an error in global meta-policy set climate change negotiations on an unproductive course. The decision to base negotiations on the Montreal Protocol and overlook the importance of interests, it argues, institutionalised an approach doomed to fail. By analysing interests, science and norms in the process, and the neglect of ‘interactive minilateralism’, learning was delayed until the more promising Paris Agreement was finally concluded, only to encounter a Trump Presidency, which (ironically) might offer further learning opportunities.
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Beyond justice

Proposals, Arguments and Justification

Olivier Godard

This last chapter points out the political impasse of a certain moralist approach to climate justice. This is due to its lack of attention to the structure of the situation in which claims of justice are raised, and to the proliferation of a whimsical moralist rhetoric. Given the urgency of engaging in serious climate action, states would benefit from passing controversial claims, worded in the name of what some believe to be justice, to a framework of acceptability aimed at defining operational and effective climate strategies, which at the same time would reduce international inequalities by assuming a sustainable development perspective. Relations with generations to come are a matter of the desire of living persons to create indirect links with future persons with whom they cannot have face-to-face relationships, and not of moral obligations placed under the aegis of justice. There are only two orders of justification which give an explicit place to a time going beyond the present time: the industrial and domestic orders. The promises to be made to future generations should then be supported by a compromise encompassing these two orders in a coherent sustainable development project, despite the limitations inherent in each of these orders. The less an international regime of climate protection is integrated, relying more on the loose articulation of fragmented and specialized coordination scenes, the less it can integrate in depth the objectives of international distributive justice. The Paris 2015 agreement that followed the turn of the Copenhagen Conference of the Parties (COP) in 2009 in favour of a bottom-up approach does not leave much room for redistributive justice between countries.

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Climate justice in the light of justification theory

Proposals, Arguments and Justification

Olivier Godard

The French school of justification considers the type of arguments and tests used by ordinary people to overcome conflicts or find terms of agreements for cooperative action. It reveals the existence of a limited number of orders of justification which coexist in modern democratic societies. Each order is articulated around a specific common good and calls for coherence between the nature of the common good and the regulatory means used in a situation. For example, the market cannot be accepted in relation to the civic order (votes are not supposed to be for sale). The six legitimate orders are characterized by the following words: ‘inspired’, ‘domestic’, ‘celebrity’, ‘civic’, ‘industrial’ and ‘market’. Those orders share a common structure of principles, which is the architecture of the ‘polity’ model. In intermediate situations, hesitation about the right order of worth gives a critical role to the choice of an instrumental regime, which becomes an implicit decision on the relevant order. In turn, this choice reframes the issues of justice related to the situation. This is what happens with the construction of a new international regime for climate protection. Components of the civic, industrial, domestic and market orders are found. But the nature of the source of the problem, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, makes the industrial order the central element. Therefore, the current economic needs of each country should be the main reference. By contrast, an equal per capita allocation is the least appropriate. In any case, because of the uncertainty about long-term demographic dynamics, the per capita egalitarian approach is impossible to apply ex ante in an intertemporal context. The development of a global carbon market would reconfigure justice problems, mainly because carbon trading transforms a narrow justice problem focused on GHG emissions into a broader one of equitable distribution of economic wealth across the world. Climate justice is then condemned to incoherence or instability, oscillating between narrow and wide definitions.

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The equitable sharing of a carbon budget

Proposals, Arguments and Justification

Olivier Godard

The idea of a carbon budget to be shared equitably between countries has led to the identification of four possible principles: respect for pre-existing rights; proportionality to capabilities; responsibility for the creation of the climate threat; and equity, to take account of the relevant circumstances of each country. This chapter pays attention to the issue of human rights and their links with climate change, before considering the other principles. With a human rights approach, conflicts arise between the right to emit greenhouse gases and the right to benefit from the local environmental amenities. Common ownership does not imply an equal individual access right, and individual equality of emission levels is not a justified goal if we are interested in human well-being (unequal needs). Moreover, the assumption of the atmosphere as a common property of mankind is incompatible with the postulate of the sovereignty of states over their natural resources. Greenhouse gas emissions up to 1990 can be defended as expressing customary rights that should not be forgotten when the future regime is to be built. The conditions of John Locke’s Proviso 1 (leave ‘enough and as good’ in common for others) are not valid through historical time and should be read with an eye on Proviso 2 (there is no injustice if people deprived of access are at least as well-off as they would be if natural resources remained in open access). A universal right to a stable local climate, proposed by some, would be a scientific and moral monstrosity. Ability to pay is ambiguous in terms of its motivation and expression. As for the principle of responsibility, it can only be defended in relation to emissions since 1988. But terrestrial sinks must also be considered as a partial counterpart. Finally, once false solutions are put aside, no criterion is proven to be naturally superior to the others. Ultimate choices about which hierarchy of social values should prevail are needed.

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Global Climate Justice

Proposals, Arguments and Justification

Olivier Godard

In this thoughtful and original book, social scientist Olivier Godard considers the ways in which arguments of justice cling to international efforts to address global climate change. Proposals made by governments, experts and NGOs as well as concepts and arguments born of moral and political philosophy are introduced and critically examined. Godard contributes to this important debate by showing why global climate justice is still controversial, despite it being a key issue of our times.
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Historical responsibility for climate change

Proposals, Arguments and Justification

Olivier Godard

The exclusive historical responsibility (before 1990) of the developed countries in the creation of the climate threat is a leitmotiv shared by many in the South, and by some philosophers. It gives rise to the demand for repayment of this climate debt. Is this claim justified? The moral conditions for challenging a person’s liability are considered first. Then, a key parable proposed by Henry Shue is shown not to be a satisfactory and appropriate metaphor for the issue of climate change. It exemplifies the generic failure of a rhetorical approach involving intuition based on false analogies or approximate data. The factors of possible exemption from historical responsibility are then examined: ignorance of past generations; the lack of control of past generations on past behaviours. The counter-argument of the ‘beneficiary pays’ principle is shown to be unconvincing as the current populations of the developed countries are not the beneficiaries of the climatic damages that would possibly be suffered by emerging and developing countries. An intrinsic weakness of the thesis of historical responsibility is to be caught up in a retrospective illusion. This illusion operates when the results of a historical process are attributed deterministically to early actions in the same terms as the most recent ones, whereas other historical outcomes were possible and the end-result did not yet have any reality. This misrepresentation of history is blind to the fact that emissions that began to cause climatic disturbances are only those that have occurred since 1988 when the atmospheric concentration of gas exceeded the threshold of 350 ppm. The ideology of a climate debt to be repaid for emissions before 1990 is interpreted as a case of confusion between two notions of debts, one archaic and the other modern.

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Justice and climate change: data and proposals

Proposals, Arguments and Justification

Olivier Godard

This descriptive chapter focuses on background information about global climate change and the proposals made by various stakeholders and researchers for a fair and equitable sharing of rights and obligations. It recalls the structural and historical characteristics of the climate threat as an object of concern and international negotiations. It presents the main data on the evolution of greenhouse gas emissions and concentrations and the implications of the choice of scope, dates and bases for framing data, revealing the underlying political positions. Then it covers the main proposals of governments, non-governmental organizations (the Bali and Oslo Principles) and experts for equitable burden sharing. There are three main variables that need to be referenced: population, gross domestic product (GDP) and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at a given date; but there are a variety of criteria for an equitable distribution of rights and obligations. On the cosmopolitanist side, proposals retrospectively determine the ‘fair share’ of each country’s emissions from 1850 to determine the future rights of countries, and put the population at the forefront with the concept of equal individual GHG emission rights through history. Proposals from an international point of view, considering justice between sovereign nation states which legitimately hold their natural resources, including the atmosphere, do not validate the idea of unjust excess emissions prior to 1990 and look at approaches based on ‘grandfathering’ or GDP. The most critical points are linked to the equal per capita approach and the historical retroactive allocation of equal rights to individuals in order to determine the ‘fair share’ of each state.

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Justice and international coordination

Proposals, Arguments and Justification

Olivier Godard

This chapter combines two intellectual approaches. The first questions how the considerations of justice can enter the models of thinking about international coordination. To this end, it considers three models of international coordination: forming an epistemic community, seeking an interest-based and mutually beneficial agreement and referring to an imaginary institution of humankind as a single political community. The second approach follows the reverse path: how do theories of justice consider issues of international coordination? This exercise underlines the variety of links. The model of the epistemic community primarily solicits an ethic of virtue and commutative justice, avoiding any focus on the comparison of respective policies. On the contrary, with the interest-based model, it is intrinsic for each state to look at what others are doing. The spirit of comparison excites feelings of distributive injustice and leads to various demands for compensation for presumed injustices attached to the situation of reference. Theories attached to nation state sovereignty reject strong conceptions of distributive justice in international relations, but recognize the general obligation to respect the sovereignty of other states, and admit obligations to assist states facing difficulties in developing a strong internal order responding to the demands of justice or to cover the basic needs of their people (the Rawlsian ‘Law of Peoples’). Risse’s pluralist internationalism, and above all the new radical cosmopolitanism, go much further by putting forward international obligations to meet the natural rights of everyone in the world and to respond to redistributive demands in the name of equality of all ‘citizens of the world’. Eventually, we have to face a choice between universal, egalitarian, individualistic moralism and a political concern for equality of respect between sovereign states.