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Climate justice, between global and international justice -Insights from justification theory

  • Olivier Godard

For 20 years, climate negotiations have faced the difficult task of designing an international regime accepted by the main parties as fair, equitable and efficient. Climate justice is called for from all sides, but there is no agreement as to what justice actually requires. The goal of this paper is to propose a critical overview of the intellectual landscape surrounding the concept of climate justice, and to clarify the challenges, positions, arguments and theoretical background of a concept that is dramatically exposed to the risk of being reduced to either naive moral calls, simple ideological slogans or political gesticulations from stakeholders and parties to negotiations. I will dispute the idea that moral intuition offers a sufficient basis to elicit the correct standard of justice. To begin with, I will underline the sharp contrasts between four rival intellectual constructs: utilitarianism, cosmopolitanism, international justice and the rejection of the relevance of the concept of justice in the context of international relations. In particular, cosmopolitan justice is shown to be inconsistent with and wholly inappropriate to the situation of climate negotiations. The second part of the paper develops an alternative analysis based on justification theory: the pluralism of justification is consubstantial with complex societies, but the criterion of the appropriateness of norms of justice to situations helps us to understand which norms of justice can be supported and which should be disregarded. In particular, the choice of a given coordination regime is shown to have huge implications for the appropriate norms of justice, taking the case of international carbon trading in a Kyoto Protocol-type regime as an example.

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Paper provided by European University Institute in its series RSCAS Working Papers with number 2011/56.

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Date of creation: 28 Oct 2011
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Handle: RePEc:rsc:rsceui:2011/56
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  1. S. Streeten, Paul, 1979. "Basics needs: Premises and promises," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 136-146, January.
  2. Ringius, Lasse & Torvanger, Asbjorn & Holtsmark, Bjart, 1998. "Can multi-criteria rules fairly distribute climate burdens?: OECD results from three burden sharing rules," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(10), pages 777-793, August.
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  7. Mustafa Babiker, John Reilly and Laurent Viguier, 2004. "Is International Emissions Trading Always Beneficial?," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2), pages 33-56.
  8. Elster, Jon, 1991. "Local justice : How institutions allocate scarce goods and necessary burdens," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(2-3), pages 273-291, April.
  9. Peter Bohm & Bjorn Larsen, 1994. "Fairness in a tradeable-permit treaty for carbon emissions reductions in Europe and the former Soviet Union," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 4(3), pages 219-239, June.
  10. Oran R. Young, 2003. "Environment and Statecraft: The Strategy of Environmental Treaty-Making," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 3(1), pages 145-147, 02.
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