Recognition and Obligation: EU and South Africa Renewable Energy Development Cooperation

Ivor Sarakinsky, School of Governance, University of Witwatersrand

GLOBUS Research Paper 5/2019


Justice is a contested concept with complex conceptual frameworks premising a particular approach. This paper defends an approach to justice based on the concept of ‘recognition’, one of the three founding principles of the GLOBUS project. The argument is that ‘recognition’ creates mutual obligations and is not just a discursive acceptance of another. Upon this framework, the other two principles of justice, non-domination and impartiality, are integrated into a conceptual framework to analyse European Union/South African obligations regarding clean energy. This is not a distributive justice argument. It is an argument premised on recognising that developed countries, in this case those in the European Union, have contributed more to climate change than developing countries, in this case South Africa. However, a distributive obligation follows from struggles for recognition. The consequences of climate change are experienced asymmetrically, with developing countries both being more affected and having fewer resources to adapt to and mitigate it. Developed countries consequently have an obligation to contribute significantly to developing countries’ adaptation and mitigation programmes. In this way, a just transition away from fossil fuels in developing countries is possible. At the same time, ‘obligation’ gives content to the abstract principles of ‘non-domination’ and ‘impartiality’.

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Tags: Trade and development, EU and global justice, Climate change
Published Oct. 23, 2019 8:55 AM - Last modified Mar. 11, 2020 9:34 AM