Justice for Future Generations
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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.
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Chapter 4: Current international law, intergenerational justice and climate change

Peter Lawrence


This chapter assesses current international law rules in terms of the extent to which they incorporate and satisfy the 'justice principles', effectiveness imperative and implementation principles essential for current generations to safeguard the welfare of future generations in relation to climate change set out in the previous chapter. The starting point for this assessment is the current climate change treaty regime, focusing particularly on the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol including relevant Conference of Party (COP) decisions up to and including the UNFCCC Doha COP18 held in December 2012 (4.2). We saw in Chapter 1 that a global treaty is essential for achieving climate change mitigation to ensure justice for future generations owing to trade competitiveness concerns and the need to mobilise technology and finance. An effective global climate regime that meets the imperatives of intergenerational justice requires stringent emission targets and timetables, a funding mechanism to facilitate technology transfer, and a strong compliance and enforcement mechanism (4.2). However, these elements are only found in fragmentary form in the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol. The latter only covers the EU and a few other industrialised countries. The Durban mandate for a new global agreement has ambiguities in terms of the legal form of this instrument. Furthermore, while scientists have concluded that global GHG emissions must peak by 2015 and begin declining after that, the Durban mandate only requires a global climate treaty to be negotiated by 2015 with entry into force by 2020 (4.2.1).

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