Climate Change and International Law
Chapter 7: The way forward - incorporating intergenerational justice principles into international climate law
This book has proposed a suite of justice principles that need to be reflected in an international climate regime for that regime to ensure justice for future generations. These principles are respect for core human rights required to ensure respect for human dignity, responsibility for harm and capacity to pay, operating in conjunction with core distributional justice principles of equality and subsistence (Chapter 3). Whereas previous chapters have examined the content of these principles, this chapter examines how such principles should be incorporated in international law. There is a vast literature on proposals for a global climate change agreement and methods for distributing mitigation burdens. The focus here is on the role of international law and intergenerational justice in relation to such proposals. 'Effectiveness', as explained in Chapter 3, is of crucial importance. A global climate agreement may respect intragenerational justice in the distribution of emissions but fail to meet the requirements of intergenerational justice if emissions are reduced too slowly, or not at all, harming the interests of future generations. We have seen in the previous chapter that the weak embodiment of intergenerational justice in current international law rules on climate change reflects dominant discourses of market liberalism and weak sustainability underpinned by economic interests resistant to the structural change necessary to move towards a low-carbon global economy. This contextual dimension is vital in that meaningful reform proposals must take place within political-economic constraints. Proposals consistent with the dominant discourses have a greater chance of being accepted.
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