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James C. Hathaway

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Climate capitalism: emissions, inequality, green growth

Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing

Ian Gough

Chapter 3 develops a political economy approach to understand ‘climate capitalism’, a model that aims to square capitalism’s need for profit and continual growth with rapid decarbonisation of the world economy. It analyses the major global drivers of emissions, including population growth, income growth, the eco-efficiency of production, and the global divide between emissions from production and consumption. It then turns to the role of inequalities – international and intra-national – and their impact on emissions and responsibilities for global warming. It outlines and critiques the current dominant perspective of ‘green growth’ powered by investment in renewables and carbon-saving technological change designed to decouple emissions from output. The chapter concludes by noting the current three-way contradiction between economic growth, ending poverty and dangerous climate change.

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Siobhán McInerney-Lankford

This chapter investigates the potential relevance of international human rights law to climate change and migration. As Siobhán McInerney-Lankford provocatively suggests, existing international law provides multiple entry-points to respond to the plight of individuals displaced either internally or through international borders as a result of climate change. The principle of equality and non-discrimination is of particular relevance because, in many cases, the populations most affected by climate change – those who have no choice but to migrate – are already populations subject to multiple forms of discrimination. Through the lens of this principle, Siobhán McInerney-Lankford explores the significance of the obligation of States to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights of climate migrants, showing that, despite important challenges (e.g. the contested extraterritorial application of human rights), international human rights law does provide at least general principles to inform responses to climate migration and, perhaps, guide further legal developments.

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Benoît Mayer

Under the international law of State responsibility, a State must pay reparation for the injury caused to other States by its internationally wrongful acts. This chapter questions whether this rule could provide grounds for normative arguments relating to the treatment of migrants in the context of climate change. It argues that it could not. Certainly, States bear some responsibilities, not just when and inasmuch as they fail to comply with their obligations under specific treaties such as the Kyoto Protocol, but also when they infringe norms of general international law such as the no-harm principle. States responsible for a breach of a primary international obligation bear a secondary obligation to make reparation, in particular by compensating the injured State(s). This, however, does not justify the imposition of specific obligations on the developing States affected by climate change to adopt particular policies on ‘climate migration’ beyond international human rights law. Measures allowing for the resettlement of foreign citizens as a form of reparation, on the other hand, appear unlikely to provide an effective protection to the human rights of the individuals concerned.

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Calum T.M. Nicholson

Increasingly, social science looks to be conducted through thematically-oriented fields such as ‘migration studies’ and ‘development studies’. This should not come as a surprise, given that specialisation and ‘expertise’ are now well established as shibboleths of our contemporary political life in democratic contexts – itself more technocratic and less ideological than it was in the twentieth century. As universities find themselves needing to demonstrate ‘outcomes’ and ‘impact’, it is perhaps inevitable that the content of research begins to reflect this technocratic turn so characteristic of the context in which the research is conducted. One result of all this is the proliferation of new explanatory concepts, which are held to be a prerequisite to both understanding and changing the world we live in, and as such are assumed to have an inherent utility. One such example is ‘climate-induced migration’, a term that gained significant currency in the past decade, linking as it did two grand themes of contemporary concern. Despite the currency of the term (and others that imply the same causal understanding), it is one that, on close examination, remains conceptually incoherent. This chapter does three things. First, it outlines the surface pattern and underlying structure of that incoherence. Second, it argues that, far from suffering problems peculiar to this field, the pattern and structure of the incoherence is one replicated across other categories endemic in and characteristic of our technocratic era. Third, it suggests an alternative approach to research, thus transcending the problem of this incoherence. This approach holds that the resolution of our predicament lies not in thinking different things (i.e. in new thematic categories), but in thinking differently. Explaining what this means will be the broader purpose of the chapter.

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Robert McLeman

This chapter reviews how relatively common climate-related phenomena such as floods, droughts, and extreme weather events influence migration and mobility patterns in vulnerable populations. Scientists expect that anthropogenic climate change will exacerbate existing environmental risks in many parts of the world and thereby increasing the frequency and scale of future environmental migration. Three recent examples of environmental migration – drought migration in the Sahel, flood-related migration in Bangladesh, and hurricane-related migration in Central America – are used to illustrate the complexity of interactions between climate and migration and the diversity of possible outcomes. Climate does not affect migration patterns in simple push-pull fashion; rather, migration outcomes are mediated by intervening economic, social, and political forces that affect the ability of exposed populations to adapt to climate-related threats to homes and livelihoods. With growing numbers of people living in areas highly exposed to the physical risks of climate change, there is growing urgency for policymakers, the legal community, and civil society to begin creating plans and establishing priorities for action.

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Conclusion: a three-stage transition

Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing

Ian Gough

Chapter 9 concludes. The idea of common human needs provides an essential alternative to the pursuit of unsustainable consumption growth within contemporary capitalism. Needs are limited; wants are limitless. Yet the pursuit of social welfare and climate stability today cannot be separated from the dynamics and future of capitalist economies. The chapter advocates a three-stage process to reconcile human wellbeing with planetary stability. The first, more eco-efficient green growth, requires a shift from liberal to more coordinated forms of capitalism. The second, recomposing consumption, would require at the least a shift from coordinated to a more ‘reflexive’ form of capitalism. The third, degrowth, is incompatible with the accumulation drive of any form of capitalism yet is ultimately – and quite soon – essential for our future prosperity, if not our very existence. It is for this reason, among others, that this book proposes an interim strategy to recompose consumption in rich countries towards low-carbon need satisfiers. It could provide a viable route from a dangerous present to a seemingly impossible future.

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Decarbonising consumption: needs, necessities and eco-social policies

Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing

Ian Gough

Chapter 7 turns from production to consumption and consumption-based emissions. This leads to another policy goal for the rich world: to ‘recompose’ consumption to make it more sustainable. Yet simply redistributing income to low-income households could raise, rather than lower, emissions. This chapter therefore returns to the theory of human need. It sets out a ‘dual strategy’ methodology for identifying a minimum bundle of necessary consumption items in the UK and suggesting how it might be used to identify a maximum bundle for sustainable consumption. In this way a ‘consumption corridor’ between upper unsustainable and lower unacceptable bounds can be charted. In the light of powerful corporate and other interests shaping consumer preferences a broad strategy of upstream prevention is advocated. To implement this approach, further eco-social policies are suggested, including taxing high-carbon luxuries, more social consumption, and household carbon rationing. The conclusion notes that this whole approach challenges some fundamental principles of orthodox economics.

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Decarbonising the economy and its social consequences

Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing

Ian Gough

Chapter 6 surveys climate mitigation programmes to reduce territorial emissions in the global North, building on the discussion of green growth in Chapter 3. It describes current policy frameworks for cutting carbon and surveys the major carbon mitigation strategies: pricing carbon, regulation, and strategic investment. It then charts some of the distributive and social consequences of these policies and the roles that social policies can and cannot play in counteracting them. It calls for a move from reactive social policies to integrated ‘eco-social’ policies, such as ‘green new deals’ to retrofit housing and provide sustainable domestic energy. It concludes that radical and fair carbon mitigation will require a shift from the neoliberal model towards a more coordinated and actively interventionist state.

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Sébastien Jodoin, Kathryn Hansen and Caylee Hong

This chapter analyses responses to climate change and their impacts on the human rights of displaced populations. As such, this chapter will chiefly examine issues of internal displacement and forced evictions, to be distinguished from the larger concern of climate-induced migration and debates about a possible concept of climate ‘refugees’. Section 2 reviews the risks of displacement associated with three diverse types of responses to climate change: first, displacement due to the Site C Clean Energy Project, a dam and hydroelectric generating station in northern British Columbia (BC), Canada; second, forced evictions in the Cherangani Hills, Kenya resulting from the implementation of REDD+ initiatives; and third, planned relocation programmes in the Republic of Maldives (Maldives) developed to adapt to extreme weather events like tsunamis. Section 3 discusses the legal parameters of forced evictions in international human rights law. Section 4 concludes by setting out how a rights-based approach may assist in creating responses to climate change that are rooted in international human rights norms.