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China's responsibility for climate change

China's responsibility for climate change: Ethics, fairness and environmental policy

Edited by Paul G. Harris
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  • Book Info
    China's responsibility for climate change
    Book Description:

    Drawing on practices and theories of environmental justice, 'China's responsibility for climate change' describes China's contribution to global warming and analyzes its policy responses. Contributors critically examine China's practical and ethical responsibilities to climate change from a variety of perspectives. They explore policies that could mitigate China's environmental impact while promoting its own interests and meeting the international community's expectations. The book is accessible to a wide readership, including academics, policy makers and activists. All royalties from sales of this book will be donated to Friends of the Earth.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-814-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. List of tables and figures
    (pp. iv-vi)
  2. Part One: Introduction

    • ONE Diplomacy, responsibility and China’s climate change policy
      (pp. 1-22)
      Paul G. Harris

      Climate change is the most profound environmental problems facing the world. Attempts by governments to address it have been characterised by preoccupation with narrow and short-term perceived national interests rather than the pressing need to mitigate atmospheric pollution and respond aggressively to its impacts. This was amply demonstrated at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in Copenhagen in December 2009. That conference failed to reach any formal or binding agreement on steps to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) or to deal with the consequences of global warming...

  3. Part Two: Determining responsibility

    • TWO Climate duties, human rights and historical emissions
      (pp. 25-46)
      Derek Bell

      The 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) did not produce the hoped-for successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Instead, ‘Decision 2’ of COP15 ‘takes noteof the Copenhagen Accord of 18 December 2009’ (UNFCCC, 2009, p 4; emphasis in original). The Copenhagen Accord is an agreement among ‘Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers, and other heads of … delegations’ present at COP15, but it is not a protocol to the UNFCCC (UNFCCC, 2009, p 5). Instead, it is a voluntary agreement that sets no emissions targets for states but rather...

    • THREE Responsibility for emissions and aspirations for development
      (pp. 47-70)
      Olivia Bina

      As diplomats and leaders met in Rio de Janeiro for the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, the world had enough evidence to know that economic growth was taking its toll on the planet, and that the benefits of growth were very unevenly distributed. It also knew that dependence on fossil fuels to deliver most of those unevenly distributed benefits (registered as annual gross domestic product [GDP] growth) was resulting in dangerous concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere. Fast-forward almost two decades and little has changed. A staggering amount of information, reports, renewed commitments and a...

    • FOUR Differentiating historical responsibilities for climate change
      (pp. 71-98)
      Christian Ellermann, Niklas Höhne and Benito Müller

      Climate change has strong ethical dimensions, and global solutions to this problem are unlikely to be crafted, or to be stable, without some broad conception of what is fair (see IPCC, 1996; Stern, 2006). There is a burgeoning literature on these dimensions (Müller, 2001; Gardiner, 2004; Brown et al, 2006; Klinsky and Dowlatabadi, 2009; Harris, 2010; see also Chapter Six), with part of this work focusing on historical responsibility for climate change (Botzen et al, 2008; Friman and Linnér, 2008; Klinsky and Dowlatabadi, 2009). The notion of historical responsibility for climate change of ‘Annex I’ (that is, developed country) parties...

    • FIVE The ‘non-cooperator pays’ principle and the climate standoff
      (pp. 99-120)
      Jonathan Symons

      Analysis of distributional justice in the global climate regime typically focuses on how historical responsibility, present-day capacity, vulnerability and rights to development should shape the international allocation of duties and entitlements associated with climate change (see Chapters Two and Four). This chapter argues that statecooperationin seeking an effective global response to climate change is an overlooked factor that should have a larger place in this ethical calculus, and it examines how an emphasis on cooperation might influence our assessment of China’s climate policies. The proposed emphasis on cooperation follows from recognition that addressing climate change is a global...

  4. Part Three: Policy implications

    • SIX Evaluating ethical obligations across scales of governance
      (pp. 123-146)
      Erich W. Schienke

      China is one of the most significant and necessary players in addressing global climate change. Further, China is a country comprised of complex heterogeneous socioeconomic conditions, a wide range of ecosystems, diverse cultures and geographically differing access to energy and resources. Because of these diverse factors, it is difficult to take a generalised stance on how China ought to address climate change as an internal matter. It is important for actors and institutions inside and outside of China to comprehend these obligations across the nation’s governmental levels, economic sectors and ecosystems. Assuming that all nations have an ethical obligation to...

    • SEVEN Short-lived greenhouse gases and climate fairness
      (pp. 147-168)
      Frances C. Moore and Michael C. MacCracken

      The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), signed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, set as its objective the stabilisation of greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations at a level that would avoid ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate’ (Article 2). Although ‘dangerous’ is perhaps deliberately subjective terminology, a limit of no more than 2ºC above pre-industrial temperatures has been widely discussed and has been adopted as a target by the European Union, the Group of 20 (G20), and signatories to the December 2009 Copenhagen Accord. In order to have a reasonable chance of meeting this target, total global...

    • EIGHT Sustainable consumption and production in global value chains
      (pp. 169-194)
      Patrick Schroeder

      This chapter analyses China’s responsibility for climate change by reference to the concept of ‘sustainable consumption and production’ (SCP). SCP has three main attributes. First, it is an integrative analytical perspective based on ‘life-cycle’ thinking for understanding the complex interrelationship between global economic activity and value chains, and between human wellbeing and global environmental degradation, including climate change. Second, it is an international political process to promote and support policies and actions necessary for systemic transition towards sustainable consumption and production patterns. Third, it is a set of practical solutions or ‘tools’ to be applied by policy makers, the private...

    • NINE Global governance, responsibility and a new climate regime
      (pp. 195-220)
      Andreas Oberheitmann and Eva Sternfeld

      In its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that global temperatures (according to a scenario of assumptions) could rise by between 1.1 and 6.4°C during the 21st century, leading to sea-level rise, more frequent warm spells, heat waves and heavy rainfall, and an increase in droughts, tropical cyclones and extreme high tides (IPCC, 2007). To limit the increase in global mean temperature to 2°C level, and thereby limit the extensive negative impacts of climate change, carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere should be stabilised at no more than 400–450 parts per...

  5. Part Four: Conclusion

    • TEN Chinese responsibility for climate change
      (pp. 223-234)
      Paul G. Harris

      Is China responsible for climate change? The preceding chapters show that the answer to this question depends on a number of factors, such as the timescale being assessed, China’s capabilities and its level of development, whether we seek answers about practical or ethical-normative issues, and indeed how we define ‘China’ in this context – among other considerations. In this chapter I highlight some these factors before focusing on one that is becoming increasingly important from both practical and normative perspectives: the growing role of the Chinese people, specifically the growing number of them joining the ranks of the world’s affluent...