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A Right to Emit?: Common but Differentiated (Historic) Responsibility and the International Climate Change Regime
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A Right to Emit?: Common but Differentiated (Historic) Responsibility and the International Climate Change Regime

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An investigation into the implications for emissions rights under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

An investigation into the implications for emissions rights under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

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A Right to Emit?: Common but Differentiated (Historic) Responsibility and the International Climate Change Regime A Right to Emit?: Common but Differentiated (Historic) Responsibility and the International Climate Change Regime Document Transcript

  • A  Right  to  Emit?:  Common  but  Differentiated  (Historic)  Responsibility  and  the  International  Climate  Change  Regime.         The  historical  emission  of  greenhouse  gases  (GHG)  by  developed  countries  has  brought  the  world  to  the  brink  of  ecological  catastrophe.    It  is  now  known  that  the  capacity  of  the  Earth’s  atmosphere  to  absorb  these  emissions  is  limited.    With  current  modes  of  industrial  production  and  consumption,  and  therefore  development,  inextricably  tied  to  GHG  emissions,  access  to  the  absorptive  capacity  is  paramount  for  hopes  of  developing  countries  to  achieve  the  standards  of  living  currently  enjoyed  by  developed  countries.    The  imposition  of  limitations  to  this  common  resource  necessitates  an  agreement  on  the  distribution  of  current  and  future  emissions  entitlements  between  the  two  parties.    Currently,  such  a  distribution  is  to  be  guided  by  the  principle  of  common  but  differentiated  responsibility  (CBDR)  as  set  out  in  the  United  Nations  Framework  Convention  on  Climate  Change  (UNFCCC).    This  paper  will  seek  to  uncover  the  interpretation  of  CBDR  that  should  guide  this  distribution,  and  the  reductions  of  GHG  it  would  entail.      Climate,  Conflict,  and  Consensus     While  there  are  still  pockets  of  dissent,  a  general  scientific  consensus  now  exists  surrounding  the  role  of  human  activity  in  bringing  about  rapid  climate  change.1    As  part  of  this  consensus,  the  increases  predicted  in  aggregate  global  temperatures  have  been  attributed  to  industrial  development  –  the  pace  of  which  has  intensified  considerably  post-­‐World  War  II  –  and  particularly  to  a  heavy  reliance  on  the  burning  of  fossil  fuels.    Without  immediate  and  rapid  reductions  in  GHG  emissions,  which  are  associated  with  fossil  fuel  use,  global  aggregate  temperatures  are  predicted  to  rise  by  as  much  as  6.4  degrees  over  the                                                                                                                  1  This  paper  will  assume  that  the  scientific  consensus  is  well  grounded,  and  that  climate  change  is  an  inevitability;  all  that  can  be  determined  through  mitigation  and  adaptation  is  the  degree  to  which  human  societies  are  affected.     1  
  • course  of  the  21st  century.2      The  impact  of  a  rise  greater  than  two  degrees  over  that  timeframe  would  be  catastrophic  for  human  societies  –  the  warming  of  oceans  and  the  melting  ice  caps  would  lead  to  the  destruction  of  coastal  cities  and  agricultural  areas,  as  well  as  an  increased  frequency  and  severity  of  extreme  weather  events  such  as  heat  waves  and  flooding.3    Developing  countries,  which  occupy  the  most  vulnerable  areas  of  the  planet,  and  which  are  strongly  dependent  upon  agricultural  production,  would  be  the  most  threatened  by  this  scenario.4     Accompanying  the  acceptance  that  industrial  development  is  the  source  of  the  climate  change  threat,  there  is  a  general  consensus  about  the  apportioning  of  blame.    As  noted  in  the  introduction  to  the  UNFCCC,  a  convention  with  195  state  parties  to  it,  the  ‘largest  share  of  historical  and  current  global  emissions  of  greenhouse  gases  has  originated  in  developed  countries’.5    Indeed,  by  1997,  at  the  time  of  the  Kyoto  Protocol  negotiations,  developed  countries  were  responsible  for  an  estimated  72  per  cent  of  current  GHG  emissions,  as  well  as  86  per  cent  of  those  cumulatively  built  up  in  the  Earth’s  atmosphere.6    It  is  therefore  generally  accepted  that  causal  responsibility  unequally  falls  predominately  upon  developed  countries,  because  of  their  far  greater  use  of  emissions  driven  economic  growth.                                                                                                                    2  Stephen  J.  Turner,  A  Substantive  Environmental  Right:  An  Examination  of  the  Legal  Obligations  of  Decision-­‐Makers  towards  the  Environment,  Alphen  aan  den  Rijn,  Kluwer  Law  International,  2009,  p.  60.  3  Katherine  Smits,  Applying  Political  Theory:  Issues  and  Debates,  Basingstoke,  Palgrave  Macmillan,  2009,  p.  233.  4  Ellen  Wiegandt,  ‘Climate  Change,  Equity,  and  International  Negotiations’,  in  Urs  Luterbacher  and  Detlef  F.  Sprinz  (eds),  International  Relations  and  Global  Climate  Change,  Cambridge,  MIT  Press,  2001,  p.  137.  5  United  Nations,  United  Nations  Framework  Convention  on  Climate  Change,  GE.05-­‐62220  (E)  200795,  New  York,  1992,  p.  1,  retrieved  20  June  2011,  available  from  <  http://unfccc.int/essential_background/convention/background/items  /2853.php>.    For  a  list  of  Parties  to  the  Convention  and  ratification  details,  see  website  at  United  Nations  Framework  Convention  on  Climate  Change,  Status  of  Ratification,  retrieved  4  July  2011,  available  from  <http://unfccc.int/essential_  background/convention/status_of_ratification/items/2631.php>.  6  Ruchi  Anand,  International  Environmental  Justice:  A  North-­‐South  Dimension,  Burlington,  Ashgate,  2003,  p.  29     2  
  • Importantly,  developed  countries  have  benefited  heavily  from  their  use  of  practices  associated  with  GHG  emissions.    As  development  itself  is  inextricably  tied  to  the  current  modes  of  industrial  consumption  and  production,  and  the  GHG  emissions  associated  with  them,  developed  countries  have  achieved  far  higher  standards  of  living  than  those  prevailing  in  developing  countries.    Little  wonder  then  that  the  highest  emitters  account  for  over  80  per  cent  of  Gross  World  Product  (GWP).7    Yet,  as  access  to  the  absorptive  capacity  of  the  atmosphere  must  now  be  limited  if  catastrophe  is  to  be  avoided,  the  developmental  opportunities  of  the  Global  South,  who  are  already  well  behind  countries  of  the  Global  North,8  are  severely  restricted  by  this  imbalance  in  the  prior  use  of  a  common  resource.    So,  it  is  widely  acknowledged  that  inequalities  exist  in  the  apportionment  of  benefits  derived  from  GHG  emissions,  and  in  the  capacity  to  pay  for  mitigation  efforts.9     There  is,  on  the  other  hand,  little  agreement  regarding  the  ‘fair’  and  ‘equitable’  distribution  of  future  emission  entitlements.    If  developing  countries  are  to  grow  at  a  rate  sufficient  to  haul  their  populations  out  of  poverty,  their  emissions  will  necessarily  increase.    Limits  in  the  absorptive  capacity  of  the  atmosphere,  which  have  already  been  breached,  thus  dictate  that  the  developed  world  will  need  to  drastically  reduce  its  emissions  levels.    Yet  global  environmental  politics  is  currently  divided  across  a  fault  line  in  North-­‐South  relations.    Asymmetries  in  both  the  contributions  to,  and  the  benefits  derived  from,  GHG  emissions  serve  as  a  source  of  direct  confrontation,  with  common  conceptions  of  ‘fair’  and  ‘equitable’  being  seemingly  unattainable.10    Indeed,  the                                                                                                                  7  GWP  is  equal  to  the  current  combined  capacity  of  all  of  the  world’s  economies,  developed  and  developing.    Ibid,  p.  29.  8  The  term  ‘South’  represents  not  just  a  geographical  definition  of  developing  countries  (Africa,  South  America,  Asia),  but  also  reflects  the  ‘common  experiences  of  people  in  these  countries  as  a  result  of  historically  determined  social  and  economic  conditions  resulting  from  their  colonial  and  imperial  past’.    These  experiences  have  left  the  ‘South’  economically  and  political  weak,  though  to  varying  degrees,  in  comparison  to  the  developed  countries  of  the  ‘North’.    Ibid,  p.  1.  9  Peter  Singer,  ‘One  Atmosphere’,  in  Stephen  M.  Gardiner  et  al.  (eds),  Climate  Ethics:  Essential  Readings,  Oxford,  Oxford  University  Press,  2010,  p.  188.  10  Anand,  International  Environmental  Justice,  pp.  2-­‐3.     3  
  • inherent  lack  of  agreement  on  what  constitutes  fairness  and  equity  in  emissions  distribution  between  the  parties  to  the  Kyoto  Protocol  was  at  the  core  of  the  negotiation’s  overall  failure.11       It  was  within  this  context  of  North-­‐South  division  that  the  principle  of  CBDR  was  forged.    Given  the  differentiation  in  responsibilities,  benefits,  and  capacities  described  above,  the  concept  of  CBDR,  taken  at  face  value,  imposes  justice  requirements  on  the  distribution  of  access  to  the  ‘global  commons’,12  and  specifically  to  emissions  entitlements.    Nevertheless,  the  lack  of  normative  agreement  between  the  parties  means  that  what  counts  as  fair  and  equitable  is  highly  controversial.13       Consensus  on  current  and  future  emissions  entitlements  is  critical,  not  least  because  the  threat  is  so  great,  but  also  because  there  are  no  boundaries  between  ecological  spaces.    As  a  result,  states  are  facing  the  consequences  of  actions  of  others,  while  being  incapable  of  dealing  with  them  independently.    Although  this  situation  creates  an  incentive  to  cooperate,  any  agreement  perceived  as  unfair  by  either  party  will  neither  be  signed  by  all,  nor  implemented  by  any.14    It  is  to  the  attempts  to  manufacture  consensus  (through  international  climate  regimes)  on  fair  and  equitable  distributions  that  we  know  turn.                                                                                                                            11  Leigh  Raymond,  Differential  Treatment  in  International  Environmental  Law,  Oxford,  Oxford  University  Press,  2006,  p.  4.  12  Strictly  speaking,  the  phrase  ‘global  commons’  is  somewhat  of  a  misnomer,  as  it  refers  to  property  owned  in  common,  whereas  the  atmosphere  is  a  resource  beyond  any  such  ownership.    As  Raymond  points  out,  ‘global  open-­‐access  resource’  would  be  more  accurate,  but  as  ‘global  commons’  is  the  accepted  term,  it  shall  be  used  here.    Ibid,  p.  3.  13  Raymond,  Differential  Treatment,  p.  4.  14  Lavanya  Rajamani,  ‘The  Principle  of  Common  but  Differentiated  Responsibility  and  the  Balance  of  Commitments  under  the  Climate  Regime’,  Reciel,  Vol.  9,  No.  2,  2000,  pp.  121-­‐122.     4  
  • The  UNFCC  and  the  Kyoto  Protocol     The  UNFCCC  was  established  in  June  1992  at  the  United  Nations  (UN)  Conference  on  Environment  and  Development  in  Rio  de  Janeiro.    The  Convention,  an  ‘overall  framework  for  intergovernmental  efforts  to  tackle  climate  change’,15  strove  to  limit  the  amount  of  GHG  emissions  flowing  into  the  atmosphere  through  voluntary  reductions  to  levels  equal  to  a  baseline  year  of  1990.16    Such  action  was  deemed  necessary  if  the  dangerous  effects  of  anthropogenic  climate  change  were  to  be  mitigated,  and  the  benefits  of  the  environment  were  to  flow  to  current  and  future  generations.17  Article  3.1  of  the  Convention  determined  that  emissions  reductions  were  to  be  undertaken  ‘on  the  basis  of  equity  and  in  accordance  with  [Parties’]  common  but  differentiated  responsibilities  and  respective  capabilities’,  with  ‘the  developed  country  Parties  [to]  take  the  lead  in  combating  climate  change’.18    Despite  the  underlying  disagreements  discussed  above,  the  Convention  enjoys  near  universal  membership  amongst  both  developed  and  developing  countries.19         CBDR,  as  set  out  in  article  3.1,  refers  to  differentiation  under  two  headings:  the  contribution  to  the  problem,  and  the  capacity  or  resources  to                                                                                                                  15  Taken  from  website,  see  United  Nations  Framework  Convention  on  Climate  Change,  The  United  Nations  Framework  on  Climate  Change,  retrieved  4  July  2011,  available  from  <http://unfccc.int/essential_background/convention/  items/2627.php>.  16  See  article  4.2  (b).    United  Nations,  United  Nations  Framework,  p.  7.  17  See  article  2  for  the  framework’s  overall  objective.    United  Nations,  United  Nations  Framework,  p.  4.    This  paper  will  not  be  concerned  with  the  entitlements  of  future  generations,  though  there  is  lively  debate  on  this  issue,  partly  because  it  is  beyond  its  scope,  and  partly  as  for  future  generations  to  have  any  claims  to  entitlements,  it  must  first  be  shown  that  current  generations  have  the  same  claims.    David  Miller,  ‘Social  Justice  and  Environmental  Goods’,  in  Andrew  Dobson  (ed.),  Fairness  and  Futurity:  Essays  on  Environmental  Sustainability  and  Social  Justice,  Oxford,  Oxford  University  Press,  1999,  p.  153.  18  United  Nations,  United  Nations  Framework,  p.  4.    CBDR  also  formed  Principle  7  of  the  Rio  Declaration,  released  following  the  Conference.    See  United  Nations,  Rio  Declaration  on  Environment  and  Development,  U.N.  Doc.  A/CONF.151/26  (1992),  New  York,  retrieved  5  July  2011,  available  from  <http://www.un.org/  documents/ga/conf151/aconf15126-­‐1annex1.htm>.  19  Lavanya  Rajamani,  Differential  Treatment  in  International  Environmental  Law,  Oxford,  Oxford  University  Press,  2006,  pp.  58-­‐59.     5  
  • undertake  response  measures.20    Differentiation  itself,  in  international  law,  though  seemingly  awkward  given  the  fundamental  principle  of  the  equal  sovereignty  of  states,  is  not  new.    For  instance,  the  five  permanent  members  of  the  UN  Security  Council  have  different  voting  powers  to  the  other  ten  non-­‐permanent  members,  and  in  many  international  financial  institutions  voting  is  weighted  on  the  basis  of  income  levels.    Differentiation  thus  recognises  that  in  substantive  terms,  such  as  size,  development,  resources,  and  political  power,  countries  are  in  reality  unequal.21    Yet,  though  a  principle,  CBDR  is  not  to  be  considered  a  binding  rule  necessitating  predetermined  action,  but  rather  a  guide  or  aim.    As  such,  both  lines  of  differentiation  are  open  to  interpretation  or  even  outright  reformulation.22     Aside  from  setting  out  the  principle  of  CBDR,  the  Convention  contains  several  other  components  of  importance  here.    Firstly,  given  the  near  universal  status  of  the  UNFCCC,  article  4.2  (a)  of  the  Convention  represents  the  first  full  admission  of  responsibility  for  the  threat  of  climate  change  on  the  part  of  developed  countries.23    Under  it,  they  are  committed  to  taking  the  lead  role  via  national  policies  towards  the  reduction  of  GHG  emissions,  and  the  protection  of  carbon  sinks.24    Secondly,  article  4.7  obliges  developing  countries  to  take  similar  action  dependent  upon  the  provision  by  developed  countries  of  ‘financial  resources  and  transfer  of  technology’,  and  recognises  that  ‘economic  and  social  development  and  poverty  eradication’  are  their  overriding  priorities.25    Thirdly,  while  it  is  clear  from  the  Convention  that  developed  countries  are  responsible  for  the  primary  costs  of  mitigation  efforts,  the  grounding  of  this  duty  in  their  historical  responsibility  for  climate  change  is  only  (weakly)  alluded  to.    For                                                                                                                  20  Ibid,  p.  130.  21  Sumudu  Atapattu,  Emerging  Principles  in  International  Environmental  Law,  Ardsley,  Transnational  Publishers,  2006,  pp.  379-­‐381.  22  This  is  despite  the  use  of  obligatory  language  (Parties  ‘shall’),  see  Rajamani,  ‘The  Principle  of  Common  but  Differentiated  Responsibility’,  p.  124;  and  Rajamani,  Differential  Treatment,  p.  192.  23  Chukwumerije  Okereke,  Global  Justice  and  Neoliberal  Environmental  Governance:  Ethics,  Sustainable  Development  and  International  Co-­‐operation,  New  York,  Routledge,  2007,  p.  110.  24  See  article  4.2  (a).    United  Nations,  United  Nations  Framework,  p.  6.  25  United  Nations,  United  Nations  Framework,  p.  8.     6  
  • example,  the  Polluter  Pays  Principle  (PPP),  mentioned  in  Principle  16  of  the  Rio  Declaration  released  following  the  conference,  is  not  mentioned  in  the  Convention.26    Rather,  the  Convention  is  couched  in  language  that  indicates  mitigation  is  related  to  the  ability  to  pay.27    As  a  result  of  this  indeterminacy,  different  interpretations  of  the  Convention’s  meaning  have  been  pushed  by  both  developed  and  developing  countries;  for  the  former,  burdens  are  linked  to  capacity  to  pay;  for  the  latter,  to  historical  causality.28     Once  the  UNFCCC  was  brought  into  force  on  21  March  1994,29  regular  Conference  of  the  Parties  (COP)  meetings  were  held  to  assess  progress  in  its  implementation.    COP-­‐1,  held  in  Berlin  in  1995,  decided  voluntary  reductions  were  not  achieving  the  desired  reductions,  and  that  binding  targets  would  be  needed.30    Subsequently,  at  COP-­‐3,  held  in  Kyoto,  Japan,  a  Protocol  agreement  was  added  to  the  UNFCCC  which  mandated  compulsory  reduction  targets.31      As  part  of  a  reaffirmation  of  CBDR,  the  Kyoto  Protocol  assigned  such  targets  to  37  developed  countries,  with  developing  countries  excluded  from  any  immediate  reductions.32    For  the  former,  an  aggregate  target  of  a  five  per  cent  reduction  below  1990  levels,  to  be  achieved  by  2012,  was  set,  with  individual  targets                                                                                                                  26  See  United  Nations,  Rio  Declaration.    The  PPP  was  originally  developed  by  the  Organization  for  Economic  Co-­‐operation  and  Development  as  an  economic  tool  for  internalizing  environment  externalities  (environmental  degradation)  into  transaction  costs.    It  has  since  taken  on  broader  meanings  of  historical  responsibility  for  past  pollution,  and  compensation  related  to  it,  finding  its  way  into  legal  documents.    Not  until  the  Rio  Declaration,  however,  did  it  have  any  universal  application.    Atapattu,  Emerging  Principles,  p.  440.  27  Rajamani,  Differential  Treatment,  p.  191-­‐193.    See,  in  particular,  article  4.2  (a).    United  Nations,  United  Nations  Framework,  p.  6.  28  Okereke,  Global  Justice,  pp.  111-­‐112.  29  Taken  from  website,  see  United  Nations  Framework  Convention  on  Climate  Change,  The  United  Nations  Framework  on  Climate  Change.  30  Stephen  M.  Gardiner,  ‘Ethics  and  Global  Climate  Change’,  in  Stephen  M.  Gardiner  et  al.  (eds),  Climate  Ethics:  Essential  Readings,  Oxford,  Oxford  University  Press,  2010,  p.  19.  31  Taken  from  website,  see  United  Nations  Framework  Convention  on  Climate  Change,  Kyoto  Protocol,  retrieved  5  July  2011,  available  from  <http://unfccc.int/  kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php>.  32  Countries  were  separated  into  two  groups:  Annex  I  (all  developed  countries),  and  non-­‐Annex  I  (developing  countries).    Michael  Grubb,  ‘Seeking  Fair  Weather:  Ethics  and  the  International  Debate  on  Climate  Change’,  International  Affairs,  Vol.  71,  No.  3,  1995,  p.  479.     7  
  • varying  considerably.33    Recognizing  the  difficulties  associated  with  rapid  decreases  in  emissions  rates,  the  Protocol  also  allowed  for  an  emissions  trading  scheme.34         Naturally,  and  rightly,  the  developing  countries  felt  they  were  exempt  from  any  immediate  reductions,  and  could  develop  in  an  unrestricted  manner,  at  least  as  regards  GHG  emissions.    For  the  United  States  (US),  then  the  biggest  emitter,  this  was  unacceptable.35    The  US,  under  the  Clinton  administration,  had  recognised  the  principle  of  CBDR,  but  demanded  that  developing  countries  would  take  on  some  responsibility  for  reductions,  commensurate  to  their  capacities,  and  rejected  outright  any  suggestion  of  rapid  reductions  based  upon  historical  use  or  culpability.36    Arising  out  of  these  objections,  supported  by  many  other  developed  countries,  the  Kyoto  Protocol  did  reflect  differing  capabilities  rather  than  becoming  an  indictment  of  unstainable  lifestyles  or  past  emissions.37    Yet,  the  US,  by  the  time  of  ratification  under  the  George  W.  Bush  administration,  still  refused  to  ratify  the  treaty  on  the  basis  that  it  was  ‘unfair’  because  of  what  the  Senate  termed  a  ‘disparity  of  treatment’  between  the  parties.38       Though  the  Kyoto  Protocol  staggered  into  effect  in  February  2005,39  following  at  times  torturous  negotiations,  overriding  agreement  on  ideas  of                                                                                                                  33  The  US  and  EU  were  assigned  targets  of  7  and  8  percent  respectively,  and  Australia  was  granted  a  small  increase,  for  example.    Singer,  ‘One  Atmosphere’,  p.  185.  34  Ibid.  35  Bradley  C.  Parks  and  J.  Timmons  Roberts,  A  Climate  of  Injustice:  Global  Inequality,  North-­‐South  Politics,  and  Climate  Policy,  Cambridge,  MIT  Press,  2007,  p.  3.  36  Paul  G.  Harris,  ‘Common  but  Differentiated  Responsibility:  The  Kyoto  Protocol  and  United  States  Policy’,  N.Y.U.  Environmental  Law  Journal,  Vol.  7,  1999,  pp.  46-­‐47.  37  Grubb,  ‘Seeking  Fair  Weather’,  p.  478-­‐479.  38  Steve  Vanderheiden,  ‘Climate  Change,  Environmental  Rights,  and  Emissions  Shares’,  in  Steve  Vanderheiden  (ed.),  Political  Theory  and  Global  Climate  Change,  Cambridge,  MIT  Press,  2008,  p.  43.  39  Currently,  the  Kyoto  Protocol  has  193  parties  to  it,  including  Australia.    For  a  complete  list,  and  details  on  stages  of  ratification  see  website  at  United  Nations  Framework  Convention  on  Climate  Change,  Status  of  Ratification,  retrieved  5  July     8  
  • fairness  or  equity  cannot  be  said  to  have  driven  the  process  itself.40    The  negotiations  were  not  based  upon  generally  agreed  principles  of  fairness  or  equity,  but  on  political  considerations  fuelled  by  self-­‐interest.    The  end  result  of  backroom  bargaining,  the  Protocol  itself  represents  the  relative  power  relations  within  the  international  system  more  than  any  consistent  ethical  notions.    Little  wonder  then  that  reductions  have  been  minimal  at  best,  and  that  the  COP  meetings  following  the  agreement  have  made  only  token  progress.41    Rather  than  being  a  guide  to  how  future  emissions  entitlements  should  be  distributed,  the  CBDR  principle  was  diluted  by  political  reality.          Historical  Approaches  to  Justice     In  addressing  the  question  of  how  CBDR  should  guide  the  distribution  of  emission  entitlements  now  and  into  the  future,  developing  countries  argue  that  historical  responsibility  must  be  taken  into  account.    Arguably,  the  philosophical  basis  for  CBDR  can  be  located  in  the  first  of  Henry  Shue’s  principles  of  equity:     When  a  Party  has  in  the  past  taken  unfair  advantage  of  others  by   imposing  costs  upon  them  without  their  consent,  those  who  have  been   unilaterally  put  at  a  disadvantage  are  entitled  to  demand  that  in  the   future  the  offending  Party  should  burdens  that  are  unequal  at  least  to  the   extent  of  the  unfair  advantage  previously  taken,  in  order  to  restore   equality.42                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2011,  <http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/status_of_ratification/items/  2613.php>.  40  Singer,  ‘One  Atmosphere’,  p.  185.  41  Witness  the  failure  to  reach  even  the  modest  targets  of  the  Kyoto  Protocol,  and  the  of  the  Copenhagen  (COP-­‐15)  negotiations.    Tuula  Honkonen,  The  Common  but  Differentiated  Responsibility  Principle  in  Multilateral  Environmental  Agreements:  Regulatory  and  Policy  Aspects,  Alphen  aan  den  Rijn,  Kluwer  Law  International,  2009,  p.  128.      42  Henry  Shue,  ‘Global  Environment  and  International  Inequality’,  International  Affairs,  Vol.  75,  No.  3,  1999,  p.  531.     9  
  • Therefore,  equity  would  seem  to  require  that  developed  countries  take  unequal  burdens  commensurate  to  their  unfair  use  of  the  absorptive  capacity  of  the  atmosphere  in  the  past.43         The  so-­‐called  ‘Brazil  proposal’  is  the  most  emblematic  of  historical  emissions  claims  put  forward  thus  far  by  developing  countries.    Proposed  by  the  Brazil  delegation  at  the  time  of  the  Kyoto  Protocol  negotiations,  it  suggested  that  the  cumulative  effects  of  past  emissions  dating  back  to  1840  be  linked  to  specific  countries  such  that  they  may  be  held  accountable  for  their  historical  responsibilities  for  anthropogenic  climate  change.44    In  response,  an  ad  hoc  group,  the  Modelling  and  Assessment  of  Contributions  to  Climate  Change  was  created  under  the  UNFCCC  to  test  and  improve  the  scientific  basis  for  such  claims.    Yet  uncertainties  related  to  historical  climate  modelling,  and  the  necessity  of  arbitrary  decisions  on  the  allocation  of  relative  emissions  and  time-­‐series  to  particular  countries,  undermined  the  objectivity  of  the  process.45     It  remains,  at  the  present  level  of  scientific  capabilities,  a  very  difficult  task  to  allocate  direct  responsibility  for  a  particular  amount  of  emissions  (and  a  corresponding  amount  of  climate  change).    Climate  change  is  not  traced  to  a  level  of  GHG  emissions  in  any  particular  year,  but  due  to  the  build  up,  over  time,  of  carbon  in  the  atmosphere.46    And  while  causal  responsibility  may  be  clear  in  an  overall  sense,  the  direct  linking  of  cumulative  emissions  to  particular  states/individuals/regions  is  far  more  complex.47                                                                                                                        43  Rajamani,  ‘The  Principle  of  Common  but  Differentiated  Responsibility’,  pp.  121-­‐122.  44  Gosseries,  ‘Historical  Emissions  and  Free-­‐Riding’,  Ethical  Perspectives,  Vol.  11,  No.  1,  2004,  p.  37.  45  Christine  Ellermen  et  al.,  ‘Differentiating  (Historic)  Responsibilities  for  Climate  Change,  Climate  Policy,  Vol.  9,  2009,  pp.  594-­‐595.  46  Wiegandt,  ‘Climate  Change’,  p.  134.  47  Edward  A.  Page,  ‘Distributing  the  Burdens  of  Climate  Change’,  Environmental  Politics,  Vol.  17,  No.  4,  2008,  pp.  558-­‐559.     10  
  • Nevertheless,  historical  responsibility  continues  to  be  an  important  consideration  in  any  allocation  of  future  emission  entitlements.48    As  Peter  Singer  argued,  we  must  ask  ‘[a]re  the  parties  entitled,  by  an  originally  justifiable  acquisition  and  a  chain  of  legitimate  transfers,  to  the  holdings  they  have  now?’    If  this  is  not  the  case,  as  it  clearly  is  not,  some  form  of  rectification  or  compensation  is  required.49    Such  an  undertaking  is  supported  by  the  PPP,  and  rightly  so,  lest  we  privilege  the  actions  of  the  past  over  current  and  future  generations.50    After  all,  the  denial  of  historical  responsibility  (or  ‘grandfathering’)51  is  no  small  matter  in  terms  of  actual  distribution.    As  Müller  demonstrated,  using  various  data  sources  on  past  emissions,  and  allocations  formed  using  a  baseline  year  of  1990,  the  burdens  imposed  on  the  US  and  the  European  Union  (EU)  would  fall  by  one-­‐fifth,  while  China’s  would  double  and  India’s  triple.52       Grandfathering  is  defended  on  several  grounds,  by  developed  countries  and  commentators  alike.    Firstly,  it  is  argued  that,  having  obtained  higher  levels  of  emissions  already,  developed  countries  are  now  entitled  to  them.    This  argument  rests,  however,  on  a  conception  of  GHG  emissions  as  some  form  of  private  property,  which  considering  the  common  nature  of  the  Earth’s  atmosphere  is  blatantly  false.    Even  was  this  not  the  case,  as  Singer  has  argued,  the  developed  countries  through  their  past  emission  rates  have  neither  left  ‘enough  for  the  good’,  nor  benefited  the  poor  in  any  concrete  sense.53    Moreover,  there  is  a  fundamental  irony  to  such  claims:  developed  countries  demand  that                                                                                                                  48  Grubb,  ‘Seeking  Fair  Weather’,  p.  474.  49  Singer,  ‘One  Atmosphere’,  p.  187.  50  Eric  Neumayer,  ‘In  Defence  of  Historical  Accountability  for  Greenhouse  Gas  Emissions’,  Ecological  Economics,  Vol.  33,  2000,  pp.  187-­‐188.  51  Grandfathering  is  the  creation  of  rules  for  a  previous  or  existing  situation,  while  applying  separate  rules  for  future  situations.    Lukas  H.  Meyer  and  Dominic  Roser,  ‘Distributive  Justice  and  Climate  Change:  The  Allocation  of  Emissions  Rights’,  Analyse  und  Kritik,  Vol.  28,  No.  2,  2006,  pp.  229.  52  Ellermen  et  al.,  ‘Differentiating  (Historic)  Responsibilities’,  pp.  603-­‐604.    53  Meyer  and  Roser,  ‘Distributive  Justice’,  pp.  229-­‐331.    The  term  ‘enough  for  the  good’  comes  from  John  Locke  and  his  justification  for  private  property  in  Second  Treatise  on  Civil  Government  of  1690.    In  it,  Locke  argues  that  the  Earth  and  its  contents  ‘belong  to  mankind  in  common’.    But  through  the  use  of  human  labour  in  combination  with  the  land,  we  can  appropriate  the  commons,  thereby  transforming  it  into  private  property.    This  is  acceptable  so  long  as  there  remains  ‘enough  for  the  good’.    Singer,  ‘One  Atmosphere’,  p.  187.     11  
  • historical  responsibility  for  built  up  emissions  be  taken  off  the  table,  while  simultaneously  pushing  for  recognition  of  greater  entitlement  based  upon  those  historic  emissions.54    Fairness  and  equity  should  be  consistent,  a  requirement  which  arguments  along  this  line  clearly  violate.     A  second  and  more  robust  defence  of  grandfathering  can  be  mounted  on  the  basis  of  ignorance;  past  generations  were  not  aware  of  the  dangers  of  GHG  emissions,  and  therefore  current  generations  cannot  be  held  accountable.    For  this  reason,  a  baseline  year  of  1990  was  chosen  as  it  coincides  with  the  publication  of  the  first  International  Panel  on  Climate  Change  (IPCC)  report  and  general  public  awareness.55    As  Aristotle  argued,  blame  and  praise  are  only  attributed  to  voluntary  actions,  the  conditions  of  which  are  control  and  knowledge  of  consequences,  clearly  denied  to  current  inhabitants  of  developed  countries.56       Yet  it  is  an  established  principle  of  almost  every  legal  system  currently  operating  that  ignorance  does  not  exempt  liability  in  civil  law,  or  debar  punishment  in  criminal  law.    More  importantly,  rather  than  being  about  ‘blame  or  collective  guilt’,  the  UNFCCC  should  be  about  assigning  an  equitable  share  of  the  absorptive  capacity  of  the  atmosphere  to  everyone.    Turning  to  Aristotle  again:  that  the  proportionate  treatment  of  unequals  is  as  important  as  the  proportionate  treatment  of  equals.57    Therefore,  as  the  initial  distribution  of  emissions  has  led  to  inequality,  historical  emissions  must  be  taken  into  account  if  overall  equality  is  to  be  achieved.58                                                                                                                          54  Rajamani,  Differential  Treatment,  p.  142.  55  The  first  warning  of  the  possibility  of  anthropogenic  climate  change  dates  back  to  1896  and  Svante  Arrhenius’s  On  the  Influence  of  Carbonic  Acid  in  the  Air  upon  the  Temperature  on  the  Ground,  but  it  is  fair  to  say  that  before  the  mid-­‐1980s  public  awareness  was  minimal.    Neumayer,  ‘In  Defence  of  Historical  Accountability’,  p.  188.  56  Ellermen  et  al.,  ‘Differentiating  (Historic)  Responsibilities’,  p.  595.  57  Honkonen,  The  Common  but  Differentiated  Responsibility  Principle,  p.  11.  58  Neumayer,  ‘In  Defence  of  Historical  Accountability’,  pp.  188-­‐190.     12  
  • A  corollary  to  the  ignorance  argument  can  be  mounted  on  the  basis  that,  regardless  of  past  unawareness,  the  inhabitants  of  developed  countries  were  powerless  by  virtue  of  their  non-­‐contemporaneity.    Simon  Caney  has  argued  this  point  strongly  elsewhere,  claiming  that  it  is  unjust  to  force  those  who  didn’t  pollute  to  pay  now  as  they  would  be  suffering  beyond  their  due.59    Non-­‐reciprocity  between  past  and  current  generations,  however,  does  not  mean  that  no  duties  arise,  whether  actions  were  unintentional  or  not.60    For  those  living  today  in  developed  countries  certainly  enjoy  the  benefits  of  past  emissions,  denied  to  developing  countries,  regardless  of  whether  knowledgeable  harm  was  in  fact  caused.61    Following  John  Rawls,  ‘[t]he    life  of  a  people  is  conceived  as  a  scheme  of  cooperation  spread  out  in  historical  time’.62    The  benefits  received  from  their  forebears  are  therefore  filled  with  a  consequent  liability  that  cannot  be  denied.63         Many  commentators  have  also  argued  that  historical  responsibility  should  be  denied  on  the  basis  of  the  non-­‐identity  problem,  originally  put  forward  by  Derek  Parfit  in  relation  to  future  generations.  This  proposition  avers  that  policies  with  far  reaching  social  effects,  such  as  those  that  would  be  related  to  reducing  emissions,  not  only  impact  on  their  objectives,  but  on  the  identities  of  those  who  are  not  yet  born.    So  if  a  country  chooses  to  pursue  climate  policy  A,  which  causes  ecological  devastation  and  the  birth  of  person  a,  over  climate  policy  B,  which  protects  the  environment  and  results  in  the  birth  of  person  b,  person  a  cannot  claim  to  have  been  harmed.    This  is  because  had  the  country  chosen  climate  policy  B  they  would  not  exist  today.64         But  does  this  indeterminacy  really  matter?    People  come  into  existence  during  the  normal  course  of  events  and,  though  we  may  not  know  their  identity,                                                                                                                  59  Simon  Caney,  ‘Cosmopolitan  Justice,  Responsibility,  and  Global  Climate  Change’,  Leiden  Journal  of  International  Law,  Vol.  18,  2005,  pp.  758-­‐760.  60  Page,  ‘Distributing  the  Burdens’,  pp.  563-­‐564.  61  Gosseries,  ‘Historical  Emissions’,  pp.  40-­‐43.  62  John  Rawls,  A  Theory  of  Justice,  Cambridge,  Harvard  University  Press,  1971,  p.  289.  63  Rajamani,  Differential  Treatment,  p.  140.  64  Meyer  and  Roser,  ‘Distributive  Justice’,  pp.  240-­‐247.     13  
  • or  their  specific  interests,  we  can  be  certain  that  they  will  have  interests  that  can  be  harmed.    One  would  reasonably  assume,  moreover,  that  whoever  comes  into  existence  would  wish  for  a  habitable  planet,  by  virtue  of  existing  in  the  first  place.65    This  argument  carries  far  more  weight  when  current  generations  are  considering  the  effect  of  climate  policies  on  those  yet  to  be  born.    To  deny  historical  responsibility  for  decisions  already  made,  on  the  basis  that  our  existence  is  dependent  upon  them  is,  however,  spurious.     A  third  argument  put  forward  in  relation  to  historical  responsibility  contends  that  developing  countries  have  actually  benefited  from  historical  emissions.    It  is  argued  that  advances  in  medicine  and  technology,  for  example,  would  not  have  been  passed  on  to  developing  countries  without  past  emissions.    But  this  benefit  is  infinitely  difficult  to  quantify.    It  is  also  debatable  how  much  of  this  transference  was  in  fact  more  to  the  benefit  of  developed  countries,  especially  considering  the  dire  situation  of  many  current  developing  countries.    Certainly,  the  preponderance  of  those  benefits  in  medicine  and  technology  has  flowed  to  developed  countries  themselves.66     Lastly,  it  is  argued  that  past  emissions  cannot  be  attributed  to  specific  developed  countries  due  to  boundary  changes.    This  argument,  on  practical  grounds,  points  to  the  break  up  of  the  Soviet  Union,  and  changes  in  the  EU,  for  example,  as  a  reason  for  excluding  them  from  historical  responsibility.    Yet  the  boundaries  of  the  major  emitters,  such  as  Western  Europe,  North  America,  Japan  and  Australia  (on  a  per  capita  basis),  have  remained  relatively  consistent  over  this  time,  or  at  least  during  the  century  preceding  the  1990  baseline  year.67     The  denial  of  historical  responsibility  is  akin  to  free-­‐riding  on  emissions;  that  is,  while  actions  benefit  an  individual  or  a  community,  the  costs  are  apportioned  to  a  third  party.    So  people  from  the  US  are  receiving  the  benefits  of  past  generations,  while  the  costs  are  being  put  upon  people  in  the  developing                                                                                                                  65  Katherine  Smits,  Applying  Political  Theory,  p.  243  66  Neumayer,  ‘In  Defence  of  Historical  Accountability’,  p.  189.  67  Ibid,  pp.  189-­‐190.     14  
  • world.68    So,  although  current  emissions  are  of  the  greater  concern,  fairness  and  equity  dictate  that  historical  emissions  should  be  taken  into  account.69    To  do  so,  however,  means  that  developed  countries  would  have  to  reduce  their  emissions  immediately  and  drastically,  which  is  not  politically  realistic.    For  now  though,  it  is  important  to  remember  that,  firstly,  past  emissions  should  be  taken  into  account;  and,  secondly,  that  if  they  are  ignored  completely,  no  distribution  of  emissions  will  satisfy  developing  countries,  leading  to  their  defection  from  any  climate  regime.70      Alternative  Approaches  to  Justice     There  are  several  alternative  distribution  arrangements,  based  upon  alternative  conceptions  of  justice,  which  do  not  take  historical  responsibility  into  account.    While  the  above  discussion  relates  to  retributive  justice,  and  the  assignment  of  responsibility  to  make  amends  for  past  wrongs,  distributive  justice  is  associated  with  the  allocation  of  costs  or  benefits  based  upon  some  measure  of  current  entitlement.71    Within  this  form  of  justice  there  are  three  levels  that  must  come  under  consideration;  firstly,  the  scope  of  justice  (or  the  ‘whom’  or  ‘which’  of  justice  –  humans,  non-­‐humans,  the  environment  etc.);  secondly,  the  shape  of  justice  (or  how  much  of  something  is  to  be  distributed);  and  thirdly,  the  currency  of  justice  (or  what  is  to  be  distributed  –  welfare,  resources,  access  to  resources  etc.).72    The  approaches  discussed  below  are  all  concerned  with  distribution  to  the  human  world.73    Where  they  differ  is  in  relation  to  the  shape  and  currency  of  justice.                                                                                                                  68  Gosseries,  ‘Historical  Emissions’,  pp.  48-­‐51.  69  Ibid,  p.  68.  70  Gardiner,  ‘Ethics’,  p.  15.  71  Matthew  Paterson,  ‘Principles  of  Justice  in  the  Context  of  Global  Climate  Change’,  in  Urs  Luterbacher  and  Detlef  F.  Sprinz  (eds),  International  Relations  and  Global  Climate  Change,  Cambridge,  MIT  Press,  2001,  pp.  121-­‐123.  72  Edward  E.  Page,  Climate  Change,  Justice,  and  Future  Generations,  Cheltenham,  Edward  Elgar,  2006,  pp.  50-­‐51.  73  The  assignment  of  rights  to  non-­‐human  entities  is  an  incredibly  complex  proposition  that  will  not  be  undertaken  here.    For  examples  of  arguments  related  to  such  an  imposition,  see  Tom  Regan,  ‘The  Case  for  Animal  Rights,  in  Peter     15  
  •   Developing  countries,  for  their  part,  favour  the  allocation  of  per  capita  emissions.    Due  to  the  immediate  burden  to  be  placed  on  developed  countries,  however,  most  commentators  argue  that  tradeable  emissions  permits  should  be  used  to  ensure  a  path  to  equity  while  minimizing  cost.74    For  at  current  levels,  according  to  Peter  Singer,  equal  per  capita  emissions  would  amount  to  around  one  metric  tonne  per  year.    Currently,  the  US  emits  five  metric  tonnes  per  year,  and  Japan,  Australia  and  the  EU  all  range  between  1.6  and  4.2  metric  tonnes.    China  and  India,  the  heaviest  developing  world  emitters,  sit  at  around  0.76  and  0.29  metric  tonnes  respectively.75    The  drastic  change  that  immediate  reductions  to  per  capita  emissions  will  therefore  cause  has  led  for  calls  for  contraction  and  convergence.    Developed  by  the  Global  Commons  Institute,  contraction  and  convergence  proposes  that  countries  should  move,  over  time,  towards  equal  per  capita  emissions.    Therefore,  while  the  total  is  contracting,  per  capita  emissions  will  slowly  converge.76     The  above  distribution  relates  to  the  political  possibilities  as  they  currently  stand.77    Questions  of  how  CBDR  should  dictate  the  current  and  future  distribution  of  emissions  are  addressed  by  several  different  conceptions  of  justice,  two  of  which  will  be  examined  here:  consequentialist  theories  of  an  egalitarian  tendency,  and  rights-­‐based  theories.    The  former  attend  to  the  rightness  or  wrongness  of  a  situation  based  upon  its  outcome,  or  the  consequences  of  some  action  based  upon  a  measure  of  the  general  good  (welfare  for  example).    The  latter  concentrates  on  the  right  (basic  rights,  duties                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Singer  (ed.),  In  Defence  of  Animals,  New  York,  Blackwell,  1985,  pp.  13-­‐26;  Catherine  Redgwell,  Life,  the  Universe  and  Everything:  A  Critique  of  Anthropocentric  Rights,  in  Alan  Boyle  and  Michael  Anderson  (eds),  Human  Rights  Approaches  to  Environmental  Protection,  Oxford,  Oxford  University  Press,  1996,  71-­‐88;  and  Christopher  D.  Stone,  Should  Trees  Have  Standing?:  Law,  Morality,  and  the  Environment,  Oxford,  Oxford  University  Press,  2010.  74  Paterson,  ‘Principles  of  Justice’,  pp.  123-­‐125.  75  Gardiner,  ‘Ethics’,  p.  16.  76  Madeleine  Heyward,  ‘Equity  and  International  Climate  Change  Negotiations:  A  Matter  of  Perspective’,  Climate  Policy,  Vol.  7,  2007,  p.  526.  77  Henry  Shue,  ‘Subsistence  Emissions  and  Luxury  Emissions’,  Law  &  Policy,  Vol.  15,  No.  1,  1993,  p.  49.     16  
  • obligations  etc.)  over  the  good,  with  justice  being  measured  by  the  morality  of  the  actions  themselves.78    Broadly  speaking,  developing  countries  emphasise  the  rights-­‐based  approaches,  while  developed  countries,  seeking  to  minimise  burdens,  prefer  consequentialist  distributions.79    Consequentialist  and  Egalitarian  Distribution     This  approach,  adopted  by  Peter  Singer,  perceives  justice  as  the  need  to  maintain  or  create  a  desirable  set  of  affairs.    Value  is  therefore  located  in  the  maintenance  of  a  safe  and  healthy  environment,  for  all  to  enjoy  equally,  and  which  can  sustain  human  societies.    As  such,  it  is  argued,  distribution  that  assures  this  condition  is  a  universal  want,  stretching  across  both  developed  and  developing  countries.80         Singer  and  others  argue  that  the  Earth’s  ability  to  absorb  GHG  emissions  is  a  common  resource.    As  we  now  understand  this  resource  to  be  limited,  allocation  of  access  to  it  must  be  on  the  grounds  of  fairness.    Therefore,  harm  is  not  based  specifically  upon  historical  responsibility,  but  rather  the  deprivation  of  use  currently  in  effect  as  result  of  developed  country  dominance.81    Singer  uses  the  analogy  of  a  village  with  a  giant  sink  for  waste  disposal  to  illuminate  his  argument.    No  one  knows  what  happens  to  the  waste  when  it  is  placed  in  the  sink.    Though  all  use  the  sink,  some  of  the  villagers  consume  a  lot  and  hence  produce  a  large  amount  of  waste,  while  those  less  well-­‐off  produce  far  less  from  their  smaller  consumption.    This  initial  situation  is  of  little  concern,  because  we  do  not  know  where  the  waste  goes,  nor  is  there  any  apparent  limit  to  the  carrying  capacity  of  the  sink.    So  long  as  this  situation  remains  unchanged,  the                                                                                                                  78  Jekwu  Ikeme,  ‘Equity,  Environmental  Justice  and  Sustainability:  Incomplete  Approaches  in  Climate  Change  Politics’,  Global  Environmental  Change,  Vol.  13,  2003,  p.  196.  79  Ibid,  pp.  201-­‐202.  80  Simon  Caney,  ‘Global  Distributive  Justice  and  the  Environment’,  in  Gert  Vershraegen  and  Ronald  Tinnevelt  (eds),  Between  Cosmopolitan  Ideals  and  State  Sovereignty:  Studies  in  Global  Justice,  New  York,  Palgrave  Macmillan,  2006,  pp.  54-­‐55.  81  Gardiner,  ‘Ethics’,  p.  14.     17  
  • well-­‐off  villagers  are  leaving  ‘enough  for  the  good’.    If,  however,  conditions  change,  and  there  are  now  limits  to  the  carry  capacity  of  the  sink,  waste  begins  to  flow  into  the  water  supply.    Harm  is  therefore  caused  through  overuse  by  the  well-­‐off,  and  fairness  would  require  their  consumption  be  reduced  such  that  the  limits  are  not  breached,  and  the  sink  can  carry  the  waste  of  all.    For  Singer  then,  CBDR  should  dictate,  on  egalitarian  grounds,  that  equal  per  capita  emissions  are  distributed  in  order  to  avoid  a  tragedy  of  the  commons.82       This  approach  is  broadly  consistent  with  John  Rawls’  version  of  fairness.83    In  his  Theory  of  Justice,  Rawls  develops  the  notion  of  the  veil  of  ignorance,  behind  which  all  parties  are  ignorant  of  their  initial  position.    As  such,  inequalities  in  wealth,  power,  resources  and  the  like  are  not  known.    Hence,  given  ‘the  appropriate  initial  status  quo’  the  ‘fundamental  agreements  reached  [between  parties]  are  fair’.84    Each  party  will  be  persuaded  by  the  same  arguments,  through  feelings  of  ‘constructive  empathy’,  and  will  take  all  interests  into  account,  including  those  of  the  worst  off.85    The  principles  of  justice  that  will  be  created  behind  this  veil  are  those  that  rational  persons  would  ‘consent  to  as  equals  when  none  are  known  to  be  advantaged  or  disadvantaged  by  social  or  natural  contingencies’.86    Rawls’  theory  of  justice  is  therefore  in  line  with  the  above  approach,  as  it  would  dictate  that  existing  inequalities  would  be  compensated  by  future  equality  (equal  emissions),  unless  those  inequalities  are  suitable  for  the  worst  off.87         Egalitarian  arguments  are  attractive  when  applied  to  CBDR.    Egalitarianism  is  appealing,  because  it  implies  the  notion  that  no  one  owns  the                                                                                                                  82  Singer’s  analogy  represents  a  classic  ‘tragedy  of  the  commons’.    It  should  be  noted  that  he  does  accept  that  political  reality  would  dictate  that  a  transitional  period  prior  to  equal  per  capita  emissions  would  be  required.    Singer,  ‘One  Atmosphere’,  pp.  185-­‐188.    83  Miller,  ‘Social  Justice’,  pp.  156-­‐157.  84  Rawls,  A  Theory  of  Justice,  p.  12.  85  Ibid,  p.  139.  86  Ibid,  p.  19.  87  Honkonen,  The  Common  but  Differentiated  Responsibility  Principle,  pp.  83-­‐85.     18  
  • atmosphere  and  so  its  distribution  should  be  equal.88    These  arguments  would  further  imply  that,  due  to  the  initial  inequality  of  emission  distribution,  developed  country  responsibility  for  reductions  would  be  matched  by  developing  country  allowances  for  increases.    Therefore,  as  Singer  points  out,  we  would  be  doing  what  is  best  for  the  atmosphere,  and  for  development,  which  is  what  should  occur.89          Rights-­‐Based  Theories     While  the  outcomes  of  consequentialist  theories  of  an  egalitarian  nature  are  arguably  what  should  occur,  they  do  not  adequately  address  the  ‘rightness’  of  the  distributions  themselves.    Rights-­‐based  theories  look  to  determine  distribution  of  emissions  through  the  imposition  of  environmental  rights,90  thereby  providing  moral  backing  to  the  resulting  outcomes.    One  such  right,  forward  by  Henry  Shue,  is  the  right  to  emit  GHG.    Shue  believes  that  developing  countries  should  be  allowed  to  grow  enough  to  provide  a  minimum  standard  of  living,  or  subsistence,  for  those  within  their  countries.91    He  argues  that  even  in  an  ‘emergency  one  pawns  the  jewellery  before  selling  the  blankets…whatever                                                                                                                  88  Heyward,  ‘Equity’,  p.  521.    There  are,  however,  theoretical  problems  with  the  egalitarian  approaches  to  consequentialism.    For  example,  in  a  world  of  the  blind  and  the  sighted,  we  would  have  to  argue  that  there  is  a  good  in  blinding  the  sighted  as  such  an  action  would  lead  to  more  equality.    A  situation  that  is  better  for  no  one  and  worse  for  some  is  still  better  for  all.  Yet,  clearly,  the  operationalization  of  egalitarianism  here  would  proceed  with  some  modicum  of  rational  thought,  indicating  the  avoidance  of  such  a  theoretical  situation.    Meyer  and  Roser,  ‘Distributive  Justice’,  p.  234.  89  Singer,  ‘One  Atmosphere’,  pp.  195-­‐197.  90  It  is  beyond  the  scope  of  this  paper  to  undertake  a  deeper  examination  of  arguments  related  to  the  imposition  of  broader  environmental  rights.    Discussion  of  this  issue  can  be  found,  for  example,  in  Sam  Adelman,  Rethinking  Human  Rights:  the  Impact  of  Climate  Change  on  the  Dominant  Discourse,  in  Stephen  Humphreys  (ed.),  Human  Rights  and  Climate  Change,  Cambridge,  Cambridge  University  Press,  2010,  pp.  159-­‐179;  Simon  Caney,  Climate  Change,  Human  Rights,  and  Moral  Thresholds,  in  Stephen  Humphreys  (ed.),  Human  Rights  and  Climate  Change,  Cambridge,  Cambridge  University  Press,  2010,  pp.  69-­‐90;  and  Robyn  Eckersley,  Greening  Liberal  Democracy:  The  Rights  Discourse  Revisited,  in  Brian  Doherty  and  Marius  de  Geus  (eds),  Democracy  and  Green  Political  Thought:  Sustainability,  Rights  and  Citizenship,  London,  Routledge,  1996,  pp.  212-­‐236.  91  Shue,  ‘Subsistence  Emissions’,  p.  42.     19  
  • justice  may  positively  require,  it  does  not  permit  the  poor  to  sell  their  blankets  in  order  that  the  rich  nations  keep  their  jewellery’.92    As  a  result,  Shue  formulates  his  third  principle  of  fairness:       When  some  people  have  less  than  enough  for  a  decent  human  life,  other   people  have  far  more  than  enough,  and  the  total  resources  available  are   so  great  that  everyone  could  have  at  least  enough  without  preventing   some  people  from  still  retaining  considerably  more  than  others  have,  it  is   unfair  not  to  guarantee  everyone  at  least  a  minimum.93        On  this  basis,  Shue  argues  for  a  right  to  subsistence  emissions,  in  opposition  to  a  right  to  luxury  emissions.    Given  the  limits  to  the  atmosphere’s  ability  to  carry  GHG  emissions,  this  approach  would  require  that  CBDR  should  entail  the  reduction  of  developed  country  entitlements  to  accommodate  the  subsistence  of  developing  countries,  because  the  latter  have  rights  to  entitlements.94     But  this  approach  runs  into  two  major  difficulties.    Firstly,  what  amounts  to  subsistence  in  terms  of  GHG  emissions  is  difficult  to  assess  objectively,  and  may  well  change  with  time.    Secondly,  the  granting  of  a  right  to  subsistence  emissions  avoids  any  moral  assessment  of  current  modes  of  development,  and  effectively  locks  human  societies  into  their  use.95    The  need  for  GHG  emissions  is  inextricably  tied  to  industrial  society,  and  subsistence  has  and  can  be  met  without  them.    While  Shue  does  not  necessarily  assume  that  human  survival  depends  upon  emissions,  the  assumption  is  implicit  within  the  granting  of  a  right  to  emit.    Moreover,  emissions  themselves  have  caused  the  problem  in  which  humanity  currently  finds  itself.    If  such  a  right  is  granted,  moral  limits  to  their  inefficient  allocation  are  more  difficult  to  apply,  thereby  further  endangering  the  climate.    As  Stephen  Gardiner  points  out,  ‘if  some  emissions  are  deemed  morally                                                                                                                  92  Quoted  in  Grubb,  ‘Seeking  Fair  Weather’,  p.  478.  93  Shue,  ‘Global  Environment’,  p.  541.  94  Ibid.  95  Gardiner,  ‘Ethics’,  p.  16.     20  
  • essential,  then  they  may  have  to  be  guaranteed  even  if  this  leads  to  an  overall  allocation  over  the  scientific  optimum.’96     This  is  not  to  disregard  that  current  GHG  emissions  are  necessary  for  most  people’s  basic  needs.    But  it  is  not  the  act  of  emitting  itself  that  is  beneficial;  rather,  benefits  are  derived  from  modes  of  consumption  and  production  that  currently  involve  GHG  emissions.97    By  instituting  a  right  to  emit,  we  are  effectively  locked  into  historically  specific  forms  of  action  now,  and  into  the  future.98    Our  reliance  on  GHG  emissions  needs  to  be  altered  in  the  long-­‐term,  a  requirement  that  is  not  aided  by  accepting  a  right  to  emit.    In  the  short-­‐term,  developed  countries  need  to  acknowledge  that  they  have  derived  benefits  from  past  emissions,  which  fairness  and  equity  requires  be  shared.    This  should  lead  to  a  distribution  for  the  time  being  that  takes  historical  responsibility  into  account.99       Unfortunately,  contemporary  debates  have  moved  away  from  arguments  over  responsibilities,  to  the  apportionment  of  emission  rights.    As  a  result,  climate  negotiations  take  on  a  self-­‐interested  character,  with  competition  over  rights  proceeding  to  expansionary  demands  on  the  part  of  interested  groups.    Certainly,  a  limit  is  needed,  but  this  should  not  be  confused  with  an  inherent  right  to  emit.    Rather,  we  have  a  right  to  live  in  a  healthy  environment.    The  restrictions  imposed  by  this  right  are  far  more  valuable  than  a  right  to  emit  itself.100    Perhaps  the  concentration  on  distribution  is  then  misguided.    Given  the  irreversibility  of  climate  change,  justice  could  perhaps  best  be  achieved  by  avoiding  the  issue  altogether.101    The  political  reality  is,  however,  that  some  form                                                                                                                  96  Tim  Hayward,  ‘Human  Rights  versus  Emissions  Rights:  Climate  Justice  and  the  Equitable  Distribution  of  Ecological  Space’,  Ethics  &  International  Affairs,  Vol.  21,  No.  4,  2007,  pp.  440-­‐442.  97  Meyer  and  Roser,  ‘Distributive  Justice’,  p.  227.  98  Hayward,  ‘Human  Rights’,  pp.  440-­‐2.  99  Ibid,  pp.  432-­‐433.  100  Ibid,  pp.  435-­‐443.  101  Andrew  Dobson,  Justice  and  the  Environment:  Conceptions  of  Environmental  Sustainability  and  Theories  of  Distributive  Justice,  Oxford,  Oxford  University  Press,  1998,  pp.  223-­‐225.     21  
  • of  distribution,  grounded  in  agreed  conceptions  of  fairness  and  equity,  needs  to  be  found  if  we  are  to  avoid  ecological  catastrophe.      CBDR  and  Political  Realities     Research  into  current  international  relations  systems  has  shown  that  any  agreement  on  this  issue  will  be  very  difficult  to  achieve,  largely  because  of  a  distinct  lack  of  consensus  on  what  is  fair,  equitable,  and  just,  meaning  that  any  drastic  reductions  seem  unlikely.    Hence  we  find  ourselves  in  the  midst  of  a  global  common  resource  and  collective  action  problem.102    It  is  the  very  inequality  of  the  initial  distribution  which  makes  it  hard  for  rich  and  poor,  developed  and  developing,  to  identify  socially  shared  understandings  of  ‘fair’  and  ‘equitable’.    Even  if  agreement  could  be  reached  on  such  basic  principles,  the  preference  differentiation  generated  by  inequality  creates  severe  disagreements,  as  we  have  seen,  on  the  operationalization  of  CBDR.103     Political  reality  then  dictates  that  what  should  guide  emissions  distribution  under  the  CBDR  principle  is  far  from  what  is  actually  possible.    As  the  absorptive  capacity  of  the  atmosphere  is  finite,  and  the  developed  countries  have  overused  their  share  of  that  resource,  it  is  reasonable  to  speak  of  an  ecological  debt  which  should  be  met.    Without  acknowledgment  of  this  fact,  developing  countries  will  never  accept  limits  to  their  growth  potential.104    A  direct  switch  on  egalitarian  grounds  would,  however,  have  grave  consequences  for  the  current  modes  of  consumption  and  production  that  would  be  impossible  to  stomach  for  developed  countries.105    As  George  H.  Bush  remarked  during  the  Rio  Conference,  the  ‘American  lifestyle  is  not  open  to  negotiation’.106    The  most  likely  middle  ground,  therefore,  is  a  per  capita  allocation,  based  on  contraction                                                                                                                  102  Aaron  Maltais,  ‘Global  Warming  and  the  Cosmopolitan  Political  Conception  of  Justice’,  Environmental  Politics,  Vol.  17,  No.  4,  2008,  pp.  598-­‐599.  103  Parks  and  Roberts,  A  Climate  of  Injustice,  p.  27.  104  Hayward,  ‘Human  Rights’,  p.  445.  105  Meyer  and  Roser,  ‘Distributive  Justice’,  p.  228.  106  Parks  and  Roberts,  A  Climate  of  Injustice,  p.  4.     22  
  • and  convergence  and  emissions  trading  in  line  with  a  modified  egalitarian  model.    Direct  and  extensive  compensation  via  financial  assistance  and  technology  transfers,  with  some  admission  of  guilt,  would  be  required  to  assuage  the  developing  world.    As  Brian  Barry  argues,  the  legitimate  origin  of  different  outcomes  for  different  people  is  that  they  have  made  different  choices…The  obverse  of  this  principle  is  that  bad  outcomes  for  which  somebody  is  not  responsible  provide  a  prima  facie  case  for  compensation’.107    The  ability  to  pay,  borne  of  historical  responsibility,  can  form  this  compensation.108    What  should  occur  on  the  other  hand  is,  as  has  been  shown,  an  entirely  different  matter.          Conclusion     The  question  of  how  the  UNFCCC  should  be  interpreted  to  guide  the  allocation  of  responsibilities  for  GHG  emissions  reductions  amongst  developed  and  developing  countries  is  currently  obscured  by  political  realities.    With  no  common  conception  of  what  ‘fair’  and  ‘equitable’  distributions  of  current  and  future  emissions  should  look  like  existing  between  the  two  parties,  negotiations  have  descended  into  political  bargaining.    As  has  been  shown,  the  UNFCCC  should  require  that  historical  responsibility  for  the  threat  to  climate  change  be  taken  into  account,  and  that  distribution  should  approach  an  egalitarian  set  of  entitlements.    Moreover,  conceptions  of  a  right  to  emit  need  to  be  replaced  by  a  right  to  a  healthy  environment,  which  will  require  changes,  sooner  rather  than  later,  to  current  modes  of  consumption  and  production.    Yet  the  reality  is,  that  should  has  been  replaced  with  may.    And  what  may  be  achieved  under  the  UNFCCC  will  likely  approach  a  per  capita  emission  distribution,  based  on  the  idea  of  contraction  and  convergence,  with  at  least  some  admission  of  blame  on  the  part  of  developed  countries.    Hopefully,  such  an  agreement  will  be  enough  to  avoid  ecological  catastrophe.                                                                                                                        107  Quoted  in  Vanderheiden,  ‘Climate  Change’,  p.  50.  108  Page,  ‘Distributing  the  Burdens’,  pp.  561-­‐562.     23  
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