Reflections on a Problem of Climate Justice: Climate Change and the Rights of States in a Minimalist International Legal Order

24 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2009

Date Written: December 17, 2009

Abstract

As the international community deals with climate change over the next several decades, it must face the question whether states that are less at risk from climate change (or that might benefit from it) have any obligation of justice to participate in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This article argues that this question of “justice” cannot be answered except in the context of the existing legal order. What state behavior is ‘just’ depends on the principles and rules of international law. Within that context, I contend, the fundamental international principles of state independence and territorial integrity, as well as the existing and emerging principles of international environmental law, suggest that states have no unfettered right to emit greenhouse gases and that a state’s decision to continue to engage in unchecked emission of greenhouse gases, would, in fact, be unjust. For that reason, all states – including hypothetical climate change winners – have an obligation to participate significantly and seriously in efforts to address climate change.

Keywords: international environmental law, climate change, climate justice

JEL Classification: K32, K33, Q28

Suggested Citation

Carlson, Jonathan C., Reflections on a Problem of Climate Justice: Climate Change and the Rights of States in a Minimalist International Legal Order (December 17, 2009). Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems, Vol. 18, No. 45, 2009, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1525062

Jonathan C. Carlson (Contact Author)

University of Iowa - College of Law ( email )

Melrose and Byington
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States

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