Who Is Responsible for Achieving Sustainability?

Most people in the world would probably agree that sustainability is a good idea. We would probably not agree as easily on what sustainability is. And it is highly improbable that we would agree on who is responsible for achieving sustainability. Is it us consumers in rich countries? Or rather the governments in poor countries? Or is it the UN? Or maybe transnational corporations? Can this broadly put question be sensibly answered at all, or should we rather discriminate between different aspects of sustainability – by which we return to the question of what sustainability is? In what follows I would like to offer some possible answers to these questions. Continue reading

Durban: The Need-Expect Dichotomy

Five days ago the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was launched in Durban, South Africa. 19 years have gone past since the path-breaking United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro where the UNFCCC was created, and 17 years since its parties agreed upon the so-called Kyoto Protocol – a joint effort of developed countries particularly to tackle anthropogenic climate change. Next year the Kyoto Protocol is going to expire. So, it is worth-while to think about what needs to be done – and contrast that with what one can “reasonably” expect from the members of the international community gathered together in Durban these days. Continue reading

Climate Change and Burden Sharing

Perhaps the most controversially debated issue in climate negotiation is the question of burden sharing. According to the 1992 UNFCCC, the challenge of tackling anthropogenic climate change requires “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities”. This by itself is politically and ethically hardly a controversy. But, as always, the devil lies in details. What does this important principle exactly mean? How are we to define “responsibility” and “capability”? And what does follow? Many approaches have been proposed. A fairly appealing one is called the Greenhouse Development Rights and was proposed by Paul Baer, Tom Athanasiou and Sivan Kartha. Continue reading