Climate change and global justice

Banner at the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen (Flickr | UN Climate Change)

The EU has made efforts to mainstream climate issues in its bilateral and multilateral political dialogues as well as in its development policies. How does the EU conceive of its duties in the context of climate change?

Climate change has strong implications for global justice in direct and immediate ways. While it impacts all parts of the globe, it affects those already most vulnerable considerably more. At the same time, this is a challenge where individual action is often futile. We have to act collectively in order to resolve the problem. Climate change is probably the clearest example of how the global and the local are mutually dependent on each other, and how it is not possible to find just solutions without taking into consideration the interests and values of communities beyond one's own borders.

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The EU is widely perceived as a leader concerning progressive climate policies but has nonetheless struggled to effectively push through its ideas internationally. Why is the EU able to be so forward-looking while it at the same time struggles to convince other major actors to adopt ambitious carbon emission standards?

GLOBUS combines the insights of political theory with those from empirically grounded research. In this vein, one of the focus areas in this work package is to assess whether and how the EU has changed its approach on climate change between the 2009 Copenhagen and 2015 Paris summits. The main idea is to use these milestone summits as reference points. 

Which specific conceptions of justice underpin the EU's policies and negotiation strategies?

How, exactly, does the EU conceive of its duties in the context of climate change? Which specific conceptions of justice underpin its policies and negotiation strategies? One way we will examine these questions is through investigating the EU’s participation in technology transfer and financial aid to countries that strive to reduce their carbon emissions. In particular, we will focus on the EU’s relations with Brazil, South Africa, India, and China.

Furthermore, the research group on climate justice will pay particular attention to how the EU interacts with third countries concerning climate change. In order to identify how the EU understands global justice in this domain, we will take a closer look at the EU’s involvement with the Green Climate Fund. This fund is supposed to improve the ability of developing countries to adapt to the unavoidable effects of climate change.

Moreover, we will examine the EU’s role in the transfer of green technology. This is seen as a crucial component in helping poorer populations achieve sustainability and resilience – which subsequently would contribute to more climate justice.

How does the EU interact with third countries concerning climate change?

Another example of the empirical analyses in this research area pertains to how the EU interacts with third countries in the EU’s Green Diplomacy Network. Has this network led to a strengthening of the EU’s abilities to recognise different views on climate policy? In what ways, if at all, did the EU incorporate the views of opposing actors? An underlying concern is to find out if such a recognition might contribute to a wider acceptance of EU positions on climate change in third countries.


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Head of research group

Thomas Diez

Professor, University of Tübingen