Work-in-Progress Series/ Reading Group Fall 2023

Just Transitions Reading Group (1:30-2:30PM (GMT+1))

1.09.23 Francisco Garcia-Gibson (National Research Council  of Argentina): Moral Objections to Arguments for New Fossil-Fuel Developments in High-Poverty Jurisdictions

Many governments in high-poverty jurisdictions claim that they are morally entitled to authorise (and even finance) new fossil-fuel developments. Some of the arguments that government officials offer in favour of authorising those developments rely on morally problematic premises. In this paper I question those premises and assess if the arguments survive in any modified form. The arguments I consider are: (i) an argument from subsistence emissions; (ii) an argument from partial compliance of climate duties by the rich; and (iii) an argument from carbon leakage.

22.09.23 Vitor Pereira (University of Lisbon):  Worth Living Urban Life

Urban life is not worth living because the concept of home is mistakenly understood to fall under the concept of economy.  For example, if we intend to buy a house, we typically apply for a bank loan, because the income from our work is intended to be insufficient for us to buy it outright. But on the contrary, it is the concept of economy that falls under the concept of home. As things are misunderstood, as the economy is misconceived as coming before the house, the economic growth of some of the world’s rich nations (typically) from the North Hemisphere contrasts with that of some of the world’s poorest nations (typically) from the South Hemisphere. However, if the house was conceived before the economy, the economy will grow if massive investments are made in the houses, cities, and species of Earth (in poverty reduction such as a green job fund for low-income countries and debt cancellation, food and energy security, and gender equity in health, education, and employment).

13.10.23 Silvia Weko (IASS, Potsdam): Sustainable energy for some? Value creation and distribution in the energy transition

Energy transitions are expected to generate economic benefits for new actors, from local communities to countries with renewable resources. Unlike fossil fuel systems, where states and firms have been able to capture disproportionate shares of economic value by monopolizing geographically limited energy resources like oil, renewable energy can be generated around the world. This redistribution of energy resources is argued to enable a more equitable distribution of economic benefits. These fundamental changes raise the classic political economy question of ‘cui bono’: who stands to benefit from transitions? This thesis explores the importance of technology ownership for value capture, and the relationship between transition benefits and local support. Paper 1 examines the role of local value creation for attitudes towards energy transitions in Jordan, finding that people who perceive transitions as benefitting their community are more supportive. However, paper 2 argues that many non-OECD countries have seen less local value creation because of a lack of low-carbon technology transfer, which has not yet been addressed by the patchwork of international initiatives that aim to spread sustainable technologies. Paper 3 further explores the importance of technologies, arguing that private firms may capture economic benefits of transitions if they concentrate ownership of the data and knowledge needed to develop technologies and run energy systems. Potential implications include an increasingly uneven distribution of economic benefits between and within countries, which could dampen support for transitions and raises normative questions of climate and energy justice.

3.11.2023 Alejandra Mancilla (University of Oslo): What’s wrong with Antarctic colonialism?

Colonialism has standardly been associated with the wrongful subordination of one group of people by another, and in Antarctica there were no people. However, I suggest that there are three ways in which colonialism manifested itself in the continent. First, the territorial strategies used to support the claiming of land in the continent were eminently colonial: continuity and contiguity were the concepts behind the creation of hinterländer, and the sector principle was the last device crafted by humans to justify their occupation of the whole world, including the poles. Second, the colonial mindset and attitude are as present in Antarctica as they were anywhere else. Colonialism, I suggest, can be defined as colonization on stilts: while all organisms, including humans, have been colonizing the earth from the beginning, colonialism happens when the need to occupy space and accumulate resources turns into greed.

To put it in Lockean terms, colonization may be done respecting the fair appropriation and non-spoilage provisos, while the essence of colonialism lies in their systematic violation. While the most egregious shape that colonialism takes is when humans themselves get treated as resources, this does not exhaust its wrongs. Third, colonialism happened and, to some extent, still happens, through the way in which the Antarctic Treaty was devised and is maintained. The structural inequalities present at the global level at the end of the 1950s, when the Treaty was signed, were perpetuated through it: the main colonial powers of the time retained their privileged positions, while their ex colonies (now newly created countries) were left out.

24.11.23 Bettina Lange (Radboud University Nijmegen): Green, fair and free ? Rethinking Autonomy and Mobility 

There is increasing concern about the climate crisis among the general public, and it is now generally accepted by scientists, transport researchers and at least some policy makers that the transport sector exacerbates the climate crisis significantly – that it will therefore not be possible to address the climate crisis in a timely manner without significant reductions in car and air travel, the most carbon-intensive forms of personal travel. Yet little meaningful policy or behaviour change has been achieved. UK road traffic levels and the number of flights from UK airports for example are now above pre-Covid levels. Why have public policies and individual behaviour not followed what is known to be necessary to address the climate crisis ? In public debates factors including the poor quality of alternatives to driving and flying (too time-consuming and/or expensive), the economic and lobbying power of airlines and car manufacturers, psychological habituation, and the moral failings of individuals (who have access to less carbon-intensive alternatives but choose not to use them) have all been offered as explanations. In this paper I don’t disagree that these are contributing factors but want to concentrate instead on a factor which is sometimes invoked but has not been analysed to any extent – the cultural association between driving and flying and personal autonomy. I am interested in analysing this association as it affects people’s everyday lives. For most people flying is not part of their everyday life but driving is. I will therefore focus on how driving is associated with freedom as personal autonomy and alternatives to it have been portrayed as unfair, authoritarian impositions (see  for a recent example and Lomasky 1997 for an older one).

In the paper I accept the driving-autonomy nexus as real and powerful but then critique the interpretation of personal autonomy invoked in the driving-autonomy nexus – autonomy as liberation for all – as logically incoherent, ignoring the real social context of transport choices, and obscuring the autonomy-diminishing effects of current transport systems for many. I will then show how a different, more logically coherent and socially embedded understanding of autonomy – autonomy as a socially equitable balance of individual freedom and restraint – is capable of reframing the debate towards de-coupling autonomy from driving. The paper critically draws on the philosophical literature on autonomy (Bratman 2007; Buss and Westlund 2018; Christman 1989), which only mentions mobility in passing; and the transport equity literature, which provides comprehensive evidence that reducing car use and providing alternative mobility options creates more socially equitable conditions (Lucas 2012; Martens 2017) but which has only recently addressed equitable transport-related autonomy explicitly (Lange 2022a and 2022b).

15.12.23 Laura García-Portela (Erasmus  University of Rotterdam), Carlotta Garofalo (University of Graz), Santiago Truccone-   Borgogno (University of Graz): How can national courts contribute fairly to climate justice?

National courts have become major actors in disputes about climate justice, as they have been asked to regulate national mitigation action. Often, claimants and legal scholars alike have argued that the state should stick to certain emissions pathways. Against that, national courts and opposing legal scholars have argued that the determination of national emissions pathways is a political matter, and thus should be left to the legislator. In this paper, we address the role of national courts in climate justice. We identify three criteria for the fair contribution of national courts to climate justice: the democracy criterion (Criterion 1), the meaningful contribution criterion (Criterion 2), the fairness towards duty bearers criterion (Criterion 3). First, we argue that there is no relative democratic loss when courts get involved in the determination of climate mitigation policies (Criterion 1), even if they do so by exercising strong judicial review. Second, we argue that if courts rely on human rights arguments to set certain emissions pathways, they would either set too loose requirements for national mitigation duties (and, thus, their contribution would not comply with Criterion 2) or they would set too stringent requirements for national mitigation duties (and, thus, their contribution would not comply with Criterion 3). Finally, we argue that if national courts relied on arguments that point to normative principles to which states should stick, they would comply with the aforementioned criteria. However, those normative principles should be somehow reflected in the law. We argue national courts could contribute to climate justice in a fair way by relying on general principles of customary international and constitutional law to establish certain parameters for emissions reduction pathways that states should follow. Then, they could leave it to the legislative power to decide among the permissible pathways which one they should actually follow.

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