Editorial introduction

The Paris Agreement (PA) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) aims at holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels. Further, it states that efforts to achieve the long-term temperature goal must be carried out “on the basis of equity, and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty” (UNFCCC 2015). In 2015, the Parties to the UNFCCC invited the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to put together a Special Report on emission pathways to, and impacts of, achieving a 1.5 °C objective, to be published in October 2018. This special report will be a key input for the Facilitative Dialogue in 2018 that will look at enhancing the ambition of the nationally determined contributions (NDC’s) of Parties before 2020. Research into such pathways and impacts often does not consider the equity aspects, and this is why this Special Issue engages with the topic of Achieving 1.5 °C and Climate Justice, as a means of strengthening the base of literature that could, inter alia, be drawn upon by the IPCC Special Report. We examine the equity, or climate justice, dimensions raised within different debates related to the 1.5 °C target. This is especially important as some scholars are skeptical about integrating equity issues in environmental debates: Robert Keohane has reportedly stated that discussions of justice are “either irrelevant or dangerous in a post-Paris world” (Robert Keohane, quoted in Klinsky et al. 2016). This view led to a response by international scholars (including one of the editors of this Special Issue) that “analyses of equity and justice are essential for our ability to understand climate politics and contribute to concrete efforts to achieve adequate, fair and enduring climate action” (Klinsky et al. 2016). Further, issues of equity and justice continue to figure centrally in the multilateral process and are likely to influence and shape implementation of the Paris Agreement.

While a 1.5 °C target in preference to a 2 °C target may be considered to be a more just outcome—in that it can possibly minimize the more severe irreversible impacts of climate change, the question this Special Issue seeks to answer is how can the responsibilities with respect to this target be shared equitably between nation states? This is not a trivial question due to the much greater stringency of mitigation effort required to achieve 1.5 °C relative to 2 °C, requiring, for example, global peaking of emissions by 2020 and with estimates that the remaining carbon budget will be depleted well before 2030 for a 1.5 °C target (UNEP 2017).

The papers in this Special Issue grapple with the issue of how equity should be defined, elaborated and implemented not just with respect to the design and implementation of climate policy, but regarding what kind of science is promoted and how, and how country commitments can be viewed in terms of equity. Joyeeta Gupta and Karin Arts link the Right to Development with the Right to Promote Sustainable Development and analyze what the application of these rights implies for prospective oil and gas producers in the South. Bård Lahn argues that equity issues need to be debated actively (heating up), rather than being presented as resolved (cooling down). Jane Flegal and Aarti Gupta examine the trend toward using equity to justify solar geoengineering, while Turaj Faran and Lennart Olsson look at whether a simple cost-benefit analysis to justify carbon capture and storage adequately deals with the risks society takes with respect to such technologies. Kate Dooley and Sivan Kartha argue that the expectations from negative emission technologies in terms of using land to absorb greenhouse gas emissions ignore the risks of such approaches failing—potentially “locking in” higher global temperatures. Harald Winkler, Niklas Höhne, Guy Cunliffe, Takeshi Kuramochi, Amanda April and Maria Jose de Villafranca Casas examine the equity justification used by countries when they submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions prior to Paris. Christian Holz, Sivan Kartha and Tom Athanasiou examine how efforts to meet the 1.5 °C target can be fairly shared. Sander Chan, Paula Ellinger and Oscar Widerberg look at how regional and national forms of orchestration can better catalyze local responses to climate change.

The article is available here.

    Associated Crosscutting Themes

  • Norms
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