This is a book about how politics, government - and much else - needs to change in response to the transition from the Holocene to the Anthropocene, the emerging epoch of human-induced instability in the Earth system and its life-support capacities.
A range of developing countries and international advocacy organizations have argued that wealthy countries, as a result of their greater historical contribution to human-induced climate change, owe a ?climate debt? to poor countries. Critics of this argument have claimed that it is incoherent or morally objectionable. In this essay we clarify the concept of climate debt and assess its value for conceptualizing responsibilities associated with global climate change and for guiding international climate negotiations. We conclude that the idea of a (...) climate debt can be coherently formulated, and that while some understandings of the idea of climate debt could lead to morally objectionable conclusions, other accounts would not. However, we argue that climate debt nevertheless provides an unhelpful frame for advancing global justice through international climate negotiations ? the only existing means of resolving political conflict over the collective action problems posed by human-induced climate change ? due to its retrospective and potentially adversarial emphasis, and to problems of measurement. (shrink)
At the United Nations climate change conference in 2011, parties decided to launch the “Durban Platform” to work towards a new long-term climate agreement. The decision was notable for the absence of any reference to “equity”, a prominent principle in all previous major climate agreements. Wealthy countries resisted the inclusion of equity on the grounds that the term had become too closely yoked to developing countries’ favored conception of equity. This conception, according to wealthy countries, exempts developing countries from making (...) commitments that are stringent enough for the collective effort needed to avoid dangerous climate change. In circumstances where even mentioning the term equity has become problematic, a critical question is whether scope for a fair agreement is being squeezed out of negotiations. To address this question we set out a conceptual framework for normative theorizing about fairness in international negotiations, accompanied by a set of minimal standards of fairness and plausible feasibility constraints for sharing the global climate change mitigation effort. We argue that a fair and feasible agreement may be reached by (i) reforming the current binary approach to differentiating developed and developing country groups, in tandem with (ii) introducing a more principled approach to differentiating the mitigation commitments of individual countries. These two priorities may provide the basis for a principled bargain between developed and developing countries that safeguards the opportunity to avoid dangerous climate change without sacrificing widely acceptable conceptions of equity. (shrink)
The urgent need to address climate change poses a range of complex moral and practical concerns, not least because rising to the challenge will require cooperation among countries that differ greatly in their wealth, the extent of their contributions to the problem, and their vulnerability to environmental and economic shocks. This thesis by publication in the field of climate ethics aims to characterise a range of national responsibilities associated with acting on climate change (Part I), and to identify proposals for (...) fulfilling those responsibilities through fair and feasible institutional arrangements (Part II). I aim not only to address substantive gaps in scholarly understanding of those responsibilities, but also to strengthen the ability of climate ethics to engage meaningfully with climate policy. Chapter 2 addresses the question of whether wealthy countries owe a “climate debt” to poor countries. It finds that even if climate debt (suitably interpreted) may provide a coherent and morally plausible concept, its political value as a discursive frame that can provide a basis for cooperation is limited. Chapter 3 investigates the role that equity may play in negotiations on a long-term climate change agreement. It argues that developed and developing countries may reach a “principled bargain” if both converge on a way of differentiating their responsibilities that places less emphasis on a rigid dichotomy between the two groups and more emphasis on objective criteria relating to their contribution to the problem and capacity to address it. Chapter 4 explores a question largely overlooked in climate ethics, namely whether wealthy countries owe compensation to those who are adversely affected by the climate policies which they enact. I find that enacting countries have responsibilities to compensate both domestic and foreign citizens who would suffer disproportionate losses from the effects of policies. Chapter 5 assesses whether wealthy countries may legitimately adopt unilateral (or “fragmented”) rather than multilaterally coordinated approaches to raising climate finance for developing countries. It finds that coordinated target-setting, effort sharing and oversight arrangements are essential, but that a mix of unilateral and coordinated approaches to raising funds will be necessary for securing legitimacy. In Chapter 6, through addressing the broader question of what should count as official aid, I consider whether wealthy countries may draw on aid budgets to support developing countries’ efforts to address climate change. I find that the current definition of official aid should be retained but supplemented by specified exclusions from eligibility in order to preserve the aid regime’s integrity. Nevertheless, some climate finance may justifiably be counted as aid provided that concerns relating to the diversion of aid funding are addressed. In addressing these research questions, the thesis seeks not only to make original theoretical contributions to climate ethics but also to strengthen broader scholarly understanding of the ways in which ethics and international public policy may inform one another, particularly by highlighting the role of framing considerations (Chapter 2), feasibility considerations (Chapter 3), and the ways in which principles of fairness and legitimacy map onto institutional functions (Chapters 4, 5 and 6). (shrink)