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The Idea of (Climate) Justice, neoliberalism and the Talanoa Dialogue

Rosemary Lyster

Keywords: Paris Agreement; climate justice; neoliberalism; the capabilities approach; deliberative democracy; the temperature goal; the Talanoa Dialogue

Climate change requires global leaders to take domestic action to drastically reduce emissions and to engage urgently in adaptation and in disaster risk reduction, while developed countries need to fund developing countries to support their efforts. It also requires facing the prospect that the loss and damage resulting from climate disasters will not be avoided through adaptation alone, that there will be extensive uncompensated losses, and that millions of climate displaced people may be on the move. The Paris Agreement is the international community's attempt to deal with these challenges. Yet, this article claims that the Agreement, which sets the parameters for the way forward, is a largely neoliberal document that undermines the corrective and distributive ideals of climate justice. Relying on the capabilities approach and a modified version of Amartya Sen's The Idea of Justice, this article teases out the ‘clash of civilizations’ between neoliberalism and climate justice. It sets out the concerns about neoliberalism in the climate change space and proceeds to interrogate the claim that the Paris Agreement is a neoliberal document. Essentially, climate justice demands state-based responses, developed through democratic deliberation and participation, to ensure the survival, functioning and flourishing of humans and non-humans. Neoliberalism, meanwhile, posits that government is too large and complex and that regulatory activities unnecessarily disrupt the efficient operation of the market economy. Furthermore, libertarian ideas of justice undermine climate justice principles as the valorization of market mechanisms, private property rights and private sector actors remove the issues from political contention and democratic participation. Ultimately, I question whether any justice-based normative meta-consensus or discursive meta-consensus, such as the Talanoa Dialogue, might be found in the Paris Agreement to disrupt the international neoliberal agenda.

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