Work-in-Progress Series/ Reading Group Spring 2023

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

03.03.23 Lukas Tank (Kiel University): The Unfair Burdens Argument Against Carbon Pricing

Carbon pricing is one of the most politically important approaches for the mitigation of climate change in the world today. Most political actors who are not committed to climate change denial favor carbon pricing, either as emissions trading or carbon taxation. In this article, I argue that carbon pricing should be considered unfair in most of its forms. I present a line of criticism called the Unfair Burdens Argument. It states that the most politically relevant ways to price carbon needlessly burden the less affluent more than the more affluent. This is unfair because, among other things, the more affluent have on average done more to create the problem of climate change in the first place. Principles for the fair distribution of burdens under climate change mitigation like the Polluter Pays Principle, which were thought to support carbon pricing, turn out to speak against it, when interpreted properly. Although the Unfair Burdens Argument on its own cannot show that carbon pricing is impermissible, it offers important clues for what a morally permissible form of climate change mitigation would look like.

24.03.23 Erica Onnis (University of Turin): Think outside the bun. Freedom narratives about food and the need for global dietary changes

As highlighted by the last IPCC report (IPCC2022), in addition to mitigation strategies relying on technological innovation and national and international policies, a way to deal with the climate crisis is through personal behaviours such as shifting to sustainable diets – a change that is particularly important for methane abatement. Despite being described as relying on individual choices, however, the need for a global dietary change is hindered by some narratives about food that have a social dimension. Among them, the most troublesome are those related to the idea of “freedom of choice” or “consumer autonomy” (Korthals, 2004; Kaplan, 2019), which imply that humans should always be free to choose their foods. The realisation of a shift from the current, highly impacting diets to more sustainable ones seems therefore to require an examination and change of the collective stories we tell about food. In this paper, after an analysis of the epistemology of narratives, I first suggest that freedom narratives are misleading because the right to food choice is conflated with the right to adequate food. Then, I show that freedom narratives are too narrow because they focus on the individual rights of some people forgetting those of the others, and because they lack contextual depth. Eventually, I suggest that narratives about food should be broader, encompassing individual, as well as collective rights (by which I simply mean the individual rights of every human being), and offering deeper knowledge about food production and its environmental impact. To conclude, the formulation of new narratives about food might be a powerful strategy for climate mitigation: they can provide frameworks for personal engagement, facilitate the adoption of individual pro-environmental behaviour (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002), and encourage – through the demands of more aware citizens – the implementation of better policies for sustainable development.

14.04.23 Fausto Corvino (University of Gothenburg): The compound injustice of the EU (provisional) agreement on the CBAM, and possible solutions

In December 2022, the European Council and the European Commission reached a provisional political agreement on the introduction of a carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM) in some emission-intensive sectors (it will enter into force in 2026). The carbon price imposed on non-EU companies will be equivalent to the weekly carbon price determined on ETS markets, which is expected to be around USD 100, on average, at least until 2030. The most vulnerable to CBAM are lower income countries that are economically dependent on trade with the EU. In this paper I argue that the CBAM, in its provisional version, is a case of compound injustice on three levels, each one requiring different interventions. First, EU countries justify a history-insensitive distribution of the climate burden, between EU countries and CBAM-vulnerable countries, based on the climate emergency to which the former have contributed significantly and of which the latter are among the main victims. Second, EU countries plan to use the revenues from the reformed ETS to cushion the regressive effects of carbon pricing on EU citizens, but they do not let CBAM-vulnerable countries do the same with the revenues collected at the EU border: the latter will be channeled into the EU budget and will be mainly used to repay the Next Generation EU – COVID-19 recovery package. Thirdly, even if we forget about historical emissions, carbon revenues should be distributed taking into account the vulnerability of different countries to the marginal climate damage induced by present emissions. The CBAM does the exact opposite.

05.05.2023 !!11:30am – 12:30pm (CET)!! Daniele Fulvi (Western Sydney University): A consequentialist justification of using synthetic biology to avert runaway climate change

In this talk, I attempt to justify the use of synthetic biology in response to the climate crisis. First, I establish the premise that it is impossible to avert runaway climate change without sequestering sufficient greenhouse gasses (GHG), which could only become possible through Negative Emissions Technologies (NETs). Then, moving from the consequentialist core principle that performing a specific action in a specific situation is morally right if the consequences of such an action are preferable to the consequences of any other action, I acquiesce to how the consequences of using synthetic biology to avert runaway climate change is preferable to the catastrophic consequences of unabated climate change. I then show how objections to the use of synthetic biology fundamentally denote a lack of acknowledgement of the catastrophic consequences of unabated climate change – and are fundamentally directed against an anthropocentric view of synthetic biology. I also show that such a consequentialist standpoint resonates with a zoecentric view of climate ethics, according to which natural reproductive life (zoe), and not human beings (anthropos), is the kernel of planetary and evolutionary history, hence guiding our response to the crisis. In conclusion, I show how a consequentialist ethical appraisal of synthetic biology provides for a salient means to challenge anthropocentrism and force human beings to reconsider their place within the world, ecology, and evolution.

26.05.23 Arushi Singh (Consortium of Indo-Pacific Researchers): Environment-Conflict Nexus in the Horn of Africa

Horn of Africa has been embroiled in conflicts and has emerged as an epicenter for the quest of geopolitical configurations. However, conflicts in the region have been attributed to climate change that has contributed significantly towards increasing the instability in the region and perpetuating the existing conflicts. Notably, violent non-state actors such as Tigray People’s Liberation Front in Ethiopia and al-Shabab in Somalia have been involved in the conflicts in the region and have enhanced the scope of their influence. Other issues such as food insecurity, migration, demographic pressure, socio-economic deprivations as well as limited agricultural productivity and trade contribute to the environment-conflict nexus and are likewise perpetuated due to the confluence of aforementioned factors. Furthermore, the changing climate is slated to contribute to food scarcity and internal displacement as the intensity and frequency of natural hazards increase in the Horn of Africa. These developments also increase the likelihood of conflicts. Additionally, the nexus will also affect climate variability that can act as a factor in the tactical decisions of armed groups thereby exacerbating the nexus. Currently, there have been a rise in tensions between regional farmers and herders that has been exacerbated by changing pastoral mobility patterns that would necessitate climate adaptation and other robust actions such as investment in resilient crops as well as drought-tolerant crop strains. These actions could also assist in tackling the environment-conflict nexus. The research will attempt to understand the theoretical underpinnings of the environment-conflict nexus; to understand the contemporary nuances and dimensions of the environment-conflict nexus in the Horn of Africa; and to critically evaluate resolutions for the environment-conflict nexus in the Horn of Africa.

16.06.23 Andrea Foss (University of Oslo): International Help? The Source of Protection of Refugees and IDPs

When discussing the source of protection of the forcefully displaced (specifically, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs)), it is assumed that, for refugees it is essentially international while for IDPs it is essentially national (Kälin, 2014). In this paper I explore whether this assumption can be sustained. I argue that it is not obvious that currently the source of help of refugees is essentially international or that the source of help of IDPs is essentially national. I distinguish between loose and strict senses of national and international help and claim that it is only in the loose sense that the assumption seems to be correct. Furthermore, I argue that, because of the principles of international law of State self-determination and non-interference, the source of protection of refugees is rather national and not international. This means that, to a great extent, it is up to the host-State to determine whether refugees will be assisted or neglected and the nature of the help they will receive once they are within their borders. I explore whether the principles of self-determination and non-interference may hinder the assistance of refugees and IDPs. This issue is especially salient when individual States fail to deliver, but not exclusive to these cases. Finally, I argue that the current model of State sovereignty does not ensure the protection of some of the most vulnerable groups in the world, which are likely to grow as a consequence of climate change. I suggest that we are in need not only of a specialized agency that with power to collectively decide over the protection of refugees and IDPs of the world, but more importantly, of revising the model of State sovereignty if we are to ensure their protection.

7.7.23: Joshua Wodak (Western Sydney University): The Race Between  Negative Emission Technologies and Runaway Climate Change:  Gambling on a Climate Change Technofix

As the climate crisis accelerates, to the extent that ‘climate overshoot’ is now acknowledged as inevitable, staying within the planetary boundary of runaway climate change has become solely contingent on inventing, and implementing, Negative Emission Technologies (NETs), which includes Climate Engineering and Synthetic Biology. Current pledges are unquestionably not even remotely on track to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and, to make matters worse, current pledges are also not being met. Further, no amount of future emissions reductions can remotely suffice to avert climate overshoot. Such is the rise of interest, born of utter desperation, in a climate change technofix. However, not only is the efficacy of NETs to reduce sufficient greenhouse gas concentrations highly dubious, but any such technofix requires gambling on a host of unknown unknowns. And yet, while an attempted climate technofix entails unprecedented realms of risk and uncertainty, ethical debate largely remains anchored in rigid normative positions and anachronistic risk analysis. In turn, this presentation explores the social and political dimensions of how, and why, the mitigation pathways that are open to us have seemingly been reduced to a climate change technofix. I explore how we need to change our temporal thinking to engage with the climate crisis, both with fidelity to the biophysical timeframes available, as well as the socio-political inequities that gave rise to the crisis in the first place. To consider who is responsible for moving societies towards living within the planetary boundaries, I present a critique of the interventionist gambles proposed by Synthetic Biology and Climate Engineering for averting runaway climate change. Wherein, I put forth gambling as the most apt analogy for both the absurdity (and denied imminence) of the existential predicament, as well as the sheer improbability that any technofix can be invented in a sufficiently short time and implemented on a sufficiently large scale.

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