World Ethics and Climate Change: From International to Global Justice

By Paul G. Harris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
COSMOPOLITAN
DIPLOMACY AND CLIMATE
POLICY

If any issue demands a cosmopolitan response, climate change is it. It is a global problem with individual causes and consequences. Because cosmopolitanism is concerned with individuals, it can help the world solve the dilemma of otherwise rational economic development within states, and international cooperation among them, that is tragically not preventing – and indeed contributing to – severe harm to the planet’s climate system. Cosmopolitan justice addresses the disconnection between the lack of any legal obligation of many millions of affluent people beyond the scope of the climate change agreements – including the affluent in developing countries – to cut their greenhouse gas pollution, and their ethical responsibility to cut pollution alongside affluent people living in the few rich states that have agreed to binding national obligations in the context of the climate change regime. Cosmopolitan justice demands that we explicitly recognise this reality rather than ignore it in the international legal instruments on climate change. Implementing cosmopolitan justice here means that obligations to act on climate change, and to aid people harmed by it, apply to all affluent individuals regardless of where they live.

This points to a corollary (or supplement) to prevailing applications of international justice to climate change: a way forward for climate justice that acknowledges the responsibilities and duties of developed states while also explicitly acknowledging and acting upon the responsibilities of all affluent people, regardless of nationality, as global citizens. This cosmopolitan corollary is an alternative to the status quo climate change regime, premised as it is on the rights and duties of states while ignoring the rights and duties of too many people. The corollary is more principled, more practical and indeed more politically

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