A Great Transition Initiative Viewpoint Climate Crossroads: Toward a Just Deal in Paris

Tom Athanasiou, Great Transition Initiative, 15/12/14

The 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit was a failure, but it did serve as a wake-up call. The global governance system currently in place has not been capable of making the momentous “top-down” decisions that are necessary to limit aggregate emissions, let alone to do so in an acceptably fair manner. As we approach the critically important 2015 Paris Summit, negotiations are taking a more realist course, with national pledges of action understood as the best foundation for international mobilization. Making this work will take a “pledge and review” agreement with an extremely robust review in which national commitments are evaluated collectively for compatibility with climate science and comparatively for compatibility with concerns of justice. Equity reference frameworks can help us achieve this crucial task of justice, which now threatens to fall through the cracks. Such frameworks have already been developed to address distributional justice both within and between nations and to identify both leaders and laggards. They can offer a way forward consonant with the core equity principles embodied in the United Nations climate convention. Paris can propel this agenda, but will it?