Different Angles on Climate Justice: Insights from Non-domination and Mutual Recognition
Practitioners occasionally demure that the current academic literature on climate justice is overly abstract and unhelpful in their attempt to promote more effective and equitable climate policies. This paper analyses the claim that one reason for this might be that the debate is currently shaped by a particular narrow understanding of justice as impartiality and neglects other important approaches to justice. I first introduce my interpretation of Erik O. Eriksen’s three conceptions of global political justice focusing on impartiality, non-domination, and mutual recognition. Then, I present the key concerns and positions that shape the debates on climate justice in the field of political theory and show why (and in how far) I think current climate justice is predominantly shaped by ‘justice as impartiality’. I argue that this explains the emphasis on substantive justice over procedural questions. Furthermore, I show that looking at key questions in climate justice from the perspectives of theories emphasising non-domination and mutual recognition helps to identify some blind-spots in the current debate. Among the issues that are currently somewhat neglected are questions relating to the nature of the relationships of the relevant parties negotiating climate policy. This concerns on the one hand power inequalities and dependencies that shape the interactions between different parties. On the other hand, this relates to the question of how agents perceive these relationships with regard to dimensions of recognition, respect, and concern. It seems likely that less powerful agents have good reasons to feel that the global political regime as it currently works does not treat their interests and demands with the same urgency and importance as is shown for those of some more powerful players. Furthermore, their concerns regarding the normatively significant features of the situation at large are not always respected as equally valid contributions to the debate. I conclude by arguing that climate justice nonetheless cannot do without a rights-based framework typical for justice as impartiality that protects fundamental interests and the pre-conditions for free and equal participation.
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