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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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Chapter 4: Justice and climate change: data and proposals

Proposals, Arguments and Justification

Olivier Godard

Extract

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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