Climate change justice is a process contesting historical inequality
the conference, South African academics Hennie
Stoffberg and Paul Prinsloo launched their new book
Change: A Guide for Corporates”. Caroline
d'Essen has interviewed the authors about issues of climate change
justice and the fairness of carbon market system.
– In your opinion, what were the main reasons that made the Kyoto’s
Protocol fail? How can we avoid that a new agreement in COP15 takes
the same way of Kyoto Protocol?
The Kyoto Protocol
did not fail in the sense that there were no gains. Surely the
Protocol could have had a bigger impact but we are convinced that
some important gains were made since the inception of the Protocol.
In the light of the
fact that the Protocol expires in 2012 the deliberations in
Copenhagen are of major importance. We believe it is essential to
have an expiry date for the next protocol as this will allow for
responding faster to new scientific findings and adjust emission
reduction requirements and targets accordingly.
What the successes
and failures of the Kyoto Protocol showed us is that climate change
negotiations are embedded in broader social-political and economic
struggles and contestations. The negotiations and deliberations at
Copenhagen will not be different.
2 – Do you
think it is possible to talk about global justice if not all
countries are willing to participate effectively in international
We believe that
climate change justice is a process
contesting entrenched historical positions of inequality and
geo-political clusters and discourses. If one looks at climate change
justice as an example of international power relations in the same
context as notions of ‘development’ and ‘aid’, then one
realizes that climate change justice, although noble in its
intentions, can be subverted to serve and even further entrench
said that, it does not take away the responsibility to continue to
contest the unequal impacts of climate change and a lobbying of
support for climate change justice.
This lobbying is however not a neutral cause and climate change often
serves as new battleground for settling old scores.
change will not affect all people equally; some people and groups are
more vulnerable than others. This vulnerability is itself determined
by political-economic processes that benefit some people and
disadvantage others – with the disadvantaged frequently being the
most vulnerable to climate change.
change will therefore compound and exacerbate the exponential effects
of geopolitical and social-economic regimes and historical
frameworks. Addressing justice in climate change has therefore to
take these broader contexts of development/non-development seriously.
3 – Do you
think that the carbon market is a fair tool to achieve climate change
goals? What are the positive and the negatives aspects fro the rich
and the poor countries?
This is not a simple
question and therefore requires a less than straightforward ‘yes’
or ‘no’. The carbon market can
be fair and have positive effects for both the amelioration of
climate change and very importantly the transfer of adaptation
technologies. The carbon market can
also provide crucial funding and aid to developing nations through
the development of low carbon technologies.
The carbon market’s
potential to be fair should however also be evaluated and predicted
within the context of the questioning of the fairness of any
market when access to the market and the benefits of access to
markets are embedded in broader normative capitalist discourses and
social-political power relations.
Therefore the carbon
market is, like all markets, open for abuse and the furthering of
existing inequalities. This makes the deliberations at Copenhagen so
crucial – that the carbon market as one of a range of strategies is
embedded in clear and just arrangements.
- Is it fair that developed countries demand from developing
countries some targets that they didn’t have to face when they were
is very easy to start blaming the rich countries and exempting the
less industrialised countries from taking necessary actions to
ameliorate the impacts of climate change. The foreseen impacts of
climate change on all
countries warrant a global response from every
single country, whether developing or developed.
are, however, of the opinion that the current inequalities between
developed and developing nations are to a large extent the result of
hundreds of years’ of abuse through colonialisation, development
and aid as technologies of domination. Climate change justice and
fairness are therefore embedded in the broader discourses of the need
for restitution and socio-economic justice.
benefits of industrialisation in the global north were not equally
shared with countries in the global south. On the contrary, the rapid
growth of industrialisation was to a huge extent reliant on cheap
labour and the plundering of natural resources through
be equal for developed and developing countries. This
does not exempt developing countries from having their own targets
and taking appropriate steps to mitigate the impacts of growing
industrialisation and move towards concerted adaptation efforts.
- From the individual point of view, what do you think people in rich
countries will have to change in their way of life or even in their
culture to avoid climate change? And in the poor countries?
We believe that all
of us should do whatever it takes to mitigate the impacts of climate
change and look for creative ways to adapt towards living in a
carbon-constrained world. Sustainability has to be a key performance
indicator for all
governmental, NGO and business transactions. Individuals in rich and
poor countries will have to make sustainability the focus of their
individual and collective efforts. This will require contesting
rampant capitalism discourses and neoliberal market assumptions and
practices. We can no longer afford ‘business as usual’.
developed countries will have to seriously reconsider their
lifestyles built on triumphant consumerism. This equally applies to
the rich in poorer countries. We need to change our assumptions and
beliefs about the ‘good life’. In this regard higher education
has a crucial role to fulfill.
6 – From your
point of view, what can we expect from COP15? A positive or negative
perspective about solutions for climate change?
the deeply embedded historical impacts of the power relations between
different geo-political formations, we cannot afford to not
hope that Copenhagen will result in an agreed framework for
addressing climate change more effectively that the Kyoto Protocol.
complexities of climate change and the inequalities that will
increasingly result from the impacts of climate change will
necessitate that Copenhagen broker a number of strategies of which
long-term carbon markets may be crucial. Creatively exploring the
possibilities of carbon markets, for example, should however not
prevent us from exploring every possible other avenue, from
individual loci of control to collective efforts.
– Imagining a very pessimistic scenario where the COP15 fails and
the world’s countries don’t reach an agreement, how do you think
the world would be in the future decades?
we cannot afford to not hope against all odds, the deeply entrenched
social, economic and political power relations and beliefs may
jeopardize reaching agreement at Copenhagen and inevitably jeopardize
the sustainability of human life on the planet for future
cost of not reaching an agreement is just to gross to contemplate.
developing countries cannot afford to take climate change justice
lightly while developing countries should be careful not to use
climate change as an opportune moment to settle old scores. We
cannot afford to fail. Not now. Not again.