Author: Professor Henry Shue, Senior Research Fellow and Professor Emeritus of Politics and International Relations at Merton College, University of Oxford. Climate Justice Principle: Share Benefits and Burdens Equitably
This essay asserts that those who claim legitimate national political leadership need to understand the shared global nature of the dangers of climate change and the need for every nation to play its appropriate role in confronting the common threats through climate justice.
The benefits and burdens inherent in confronting the dangers of climate change must be fairly allocated, as specified in the Principles of Climate Justice.
Dismissals of the centrality of equity, or fairness, to the structuring of a comprehensive treaty on climate change for adoption in Paris 2015 implicitly presuppose an archaic interpretation of national sovereignty that is completely inappropriate to the globalized world of the 21st century in its assumption of extreme claims of nationalistic privilege to ignore the vital interests of those distant in space and time.
Both the denial of ‘historical responsibility’ and the assumption of license to develop in any manner one pleases each constitute attempts to keep exclusive national ownership of all benefits of economic processes while evading accountability for the costs of carbon pollution imposed across the entire planet. Instead, those who claim legitimate national political leadership need to understand the shared global nature of the dangers of climate change and the need for every nation to play its appropriate role in confronting the common threats through climate justice.
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Principle of Climate Justice: Share Benefits and Burdens Equitably
The benefits and burdens associated with climate change and its resolution must be fairly allocated. This involves acceptance of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in relation to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Those who have most responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions and most capacity to act must cut emissions first.
In addition, those who have benefited and still benefit from emissions in the form of on-going economic development and increased wealth, mainly in industrialized countries, have an ethical obligation to share benefits with those who are today suffering from the effects of these emissions, mainly vulnerable people in developing countries. People in low income countries must have access to opportunities to adapt to the impacts of climate change and embrace low carbon development to avoid future environmental damage.
Read more about the Principles of Climate Justice.