E-Consult on Global Climate Governance at the Intersection of Human Security & Justice

in Program


From January 12 to February 13, 2015, The Hague Institute for Global Justice and The Stimson Center conducted an expert consultation for the Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance, providing an opportunity for environmental governance experts worldwide to exchange ideas and experiences on global climate governance reform. The e-consult brought together more than 80 experts from over 22 countries and built on earlier consultations on the subject held in The Hague (November 6, 2014: The Road to Lima: Climate Governance, Adaptation and Technological Responses) and Lima (December 9, 2014: Global Climate Governance at the Intersection of Human Security & Justice).

The views expressed below reflect the views of the policy analysts and practitioners and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of their respective organizations. Organizations are listed for identification purposes only.

Responses were received, with thanks from
Ms. Fadeke Ayoola, Climate Disclosure Standards Board
Dr. Ingrid Boas Wageningen, University and Research Centre
Dr. Hugh Breakey, Griffith University
Dr. Tim Cadman, Griffith University
Mr. Peter Carter, Climate Emergency Institute
Mr. Han Cheng, University of Yale
Ms. Alexandra Cugler Dyrssen, RAP Red Ambiental Peruana network Mission
Dr. Curtis Doebbler, International-Lawyers.org
Mr. Koffi Dogbevi, “End Ecocide on Earth” Expert Group
Dr. William Durch, The Stimson Center
Dr. Jesus Gamero Rus, University Carlos III
Mr. Harris Gleckman, Institute for Environmental Security
Dr. Richard Gragg III, Florida A&M University
Ms. Ruth Greenspan Bell, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Dr. Georgios Kostakos, Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability (FOGGS)
Dr. Peter Lawrence, University of Tasmania
Ms. Martha Molfetas, Global Policy Journal/International and Policy Analysis Center
Ms. Justine Mwanje, Uganda Forestry Association
Prof. Oliver C. Ruppel, University of Stellenbosch
Dr. Kirit Shelat, National Council for Climate Change Sustainable Development and Public Leadership(NCCSD)
Mr. Rei Tang, The Stanley Foundation
Dr. Richard Ponzio, The Hague Institute for Global Justice
Dr. Frans C.Verhagen, International Institute for Monetary Transformation (IIMT)
Ms. Alice Vincent, World Future Council

Summary of Responses to the Thematic E-Consult on “Global Climate Governance at the Intersection of Human Security & Justice”

Phase I of the expert-consultation focused on the means of achieving climate justice for local communities at the multilateral level. The context for the discussions was the perceived tension between economic development and environmental protection, and how local, regional and national experiences gained in the field of climate governance could be emulated at the international level.

Facilitators: Dr. Peter Stoett (Director, Loyola Sustainability Research Centre, Concordia University, Canada), Dr. Menno van der Veen (Tertium), Ms. Manuella Appiah (Researcher, The Hague Institute for Global Justice).

I. In which ways can the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) be reformed in order to ensure that its outputs promote ‘climate justice’? Is climate change adaptation funding the best response?

Contributors responding to this question recognized the added value that the UNFCCC system has had for climate governance, while acknowledging the inherent flaws in the system. To many respondents, it is crucial to address the factors which underlie these flaws before potential solutions can be advanced. They remarked that a fundamental problem underpinning the structures and (internal) processes of the UNFCCC regime is who gets to participate, and how the deliberations function. This contributes to the lack of political will to implement the regime. Climate justice could be achieved by ensuring the meaningful participation of relevant stakeholders, based around interest representation that is inclusive, equal, and properly resourced. The respondents also remarked on the need for all participating organizations to act responsibly to the regime, each other, the public and the planet; taking into consideration the principles of accountability and transparency. On the issue of civil society representation in climate processes, contributors did not arrive at a mutually acceptable conclusion as to what the specific role of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) should be in light of the great diversity in CSO groups and the divergence in the interest they represent.

Contributors stressed the need for UNFCCC reforms that allow for productive deliberations leading to effective and globally acceptable solutions for combatting the phenomenon. In this regard, a call was made for reforming the UNFCCC Rules of Procedure so as to depart from the current consensus-based voting system. It was advanced that applying a two-thirds majority voting procedure for the adoption of a new Protocol or for approving substantive decisions would result in more productive negotiations. It was further broadly recognized that substantive responses to climate change must lead to the transformation of societal actions and attitude towards the environment.

Furthermore, it was emphasized that in order for the results of climate negotiations to lead to advancing climate justice, the negotiations process must integrate environmental justice principles. Additionally, relevant stakeholders must be engaged in defining, assessing, promoting and implementing these principles. Moreover, respondents advanced that climate change adaptation funding can be an effective climate justice response with appropriate and sufficient allocations to neighborhood, community, state and regional level based participatory research, decision-making and capacity building. Some contributors cautioned that although it is a prerogative of the sponsoring states to ensure accountability on the part of the recipient states, the former should do so with respect for the sovereignty, and political and cultural independence of the latter.

A call was made for stricter enforcement of the UNFCCC’s principles. It was advanced by some commentators that countries which refuse to abide by the Convention principles should either be forced to withdraw their membership or should be subjected to other sanctions. A number of respondents expressed the need to look at alternative means of climate governance, e.g., one which allows for specific climate issues to be independently and comprehensively addressed. They called for the need to depart from the existing format whereby parties attempt to solve all climate change related issues within a single framework.

It was also advanced that although the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) presented impressive (and frightening) findings on the state of science of climate change; the lack of normative dimension in the report is disconcerting. Until AR5, the IPCC – with perhaps few exceptions – has avoided making normative statements encapsulating the IPCC’s general findings. Correspondents remarked that this should be reconsidered for the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) in the sense that it gives more consequential meaning to climate science for global climate governance in future.

II. How can local community (and regional) efforts to combat climate change be effectively linked with global efforts?

Responding to this question, contributors advanced that combating climate change requires a non-territorial governance framework which incorporates feasible actions to be implemented at the macro (intergovernmental/international), meso (regional, national, sub-national) and micro (municipal, local, and community) levels. They asserted that having common standards for multi-stakeholder participation and deliberation, informed by context for purposes of verification and accreditation of on-ground activities, will create the necessary linkages. Furthermore, it was put forward that local community (and regional) efforts to combat climate change can be effectively linked with global climate governance by incorporating (identified) local environmental justice principles in substantive global frameworks.

III. Is the establishment of a transnational environmental court a feasible means of achieving climate justice and deterring anthropogenic environmental degradation? What type of mandate would make such a court effective?

With regard to this question, contributors advanced that the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or any Hostile Use of environmental Modification Techniques (ENMOD) could potentially be applied so as to break the deadlock in the climate debate. It was advanced that the Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance advocates the inclusion of ENMOD’s principles in climate change frameworks, and to push for the establishment of a permanent secretariat for ENMOD. Furthermore, contributors called for opening a supplemental intergovernmental forum to UNFCCC, to identify, based on the latest IPCC report, which climate modification technologies fall under the scope of the convention and to develop effective and efficient procedures for country applications to the Consultative Committee of Experts.

In addition to the use of ENMOD as a framework to deter the perpetration of environmental crimes, some contributors stressed the need for an independent transnational environmental court to deter serious acts of anthropogenic environmental degradation. Institutions which were mentioned to have the capacity to either host or facilitate the establishment of proposed judicial body include the Elders and the to-be established Global Climate Change Ombudsman. The proposal of a High Commissioner for Future Generations was also suggested as an institutional solution to balance the short-term nature of policy making processes and act as the UN’s principal advocate for the interests and needs of future generations. While some contributors were of the opinion that a Court for Transnational Environmental Crimes is crucial for promoting climate justice, others asserted that alternative non-judicial solutions with regard to climate governance will be more effective than relying on the conventional concept of ‘justice’. It was advanced that the establishment of a formal global judicial system for environmental crimes will lead to the socially disadvantaged being criminalized (for burning charcoal to cook for their family) – and not the real culprits of climate-change. Moreover, many contributors shared that a transnational environmental court will be ineffective if this body does not recognize the role of local and regional stakeholders in defining climate justice and in deterring anthropogenic environmental degradation.
Phase II of the E-consult focused on how non-state actors could be more effectively engaged in the fight against climate change. At the expert consultation in Lima, many participants called for tighter forms of collaboration with the private sector, national finance agencies and international defense organizations like NATO in climate governance. Contributors were asked for their expert views on the need for and potential impact of such collaboration.

I. Do you think organizations like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) should play a stronger role in climate governance than they currently do? What are the pros and cons of involving such organizations in climate governance?

Contributors seemed to approach this question with varied opinions, with several warning that involving military or otherwise defense-centric organizations in formal governance could shift the climate debate away from justice, fairness, and equity, towards regional or individual national security interests. NATO, after all, is mandated to consider the safety and security of its Member States first and foremost. Involving such groups officially in a governance framework could improve climate resilience for some states at the disadvantage or to the degradation of other states. Militaries also have a history of contributing to the climate problem, particularly through vehicle emissions and environmental destruction from both traditional and chemical warfare, and hence some said, would not be fit to govern it.

At the same time, many contributors recognized the fact that entities like NATO or the U.S. Navy have the resources, capabilities, and expertise to potentially improve the climate response architecture. Particularly when it comes to disaster relief operations, port and harbor adaptation, and conflict mitigation, they often develop the state-of-the-art, and could help train or partner with threatened communities, regions, or global institutions on these issues. Even then, it should be noted, some contributors worried about the potential militarization of aid and how such militarization could degrade principles of equity in disaster response efforts. By more closely linking the two, some feared that national politics would become a larger hurdle for humanitarian operations.

There were also some very specific sectoral roles suggested for NATO and national defense ministries. It was raised that NATO could be useful in regulating or monitoring potential decisions to be made over geo-engineering, although such decisions would likely have to come from a more democratic, inclusive body. Likewise, NATO and national ministries of defense could take greater steps to reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions from military vehicles, planes, ships, etc., and promote the development and utilization of renewables, as militaries often have the technological and organizational capabilities to champion new technologies. Overall, increasing the involvement of NATO and military groups in global climate governance was generally seen as a possibility for addressing certain specific concerns, but again, only in supportive and non-decision-making roles.

II. Could the World Trade Organization (WTO) do more to promote the transfer and use of Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs)?

Contributors were also mixed in their response to the possible involvement of the WTO in global climate governance, with some agreeing that the WTO could benefit environmental causes through increased engagement. Others suggested that it could actually hinder climate actions due to the WTO’s history of overlooking the environmental impacts of trade deals. It was noted that the WTO could frame climate decisions solely in economic terms, depending on how its mandate and rules are perceived by decision-makers. Others cited instances where the WTO has looked to overturn national environmental laws and overlooked fossil fuel subsidies as a barrier to free trade. Nonetheless, many noted that, because of its prominent position in the trade sector, involving the WTO in strategy and agenda-setting should be considered, if only in a supportive way to the UNFCCC.

One contributor mentioned that the WTO could advance climate governance through its dispute settlement mechanism. Technically, the rigid application of free trade rules can be mitigated through exceptions enshrined in the WTO agreements, for instance where national measures aim to protect human, animal, or plant life, or for the conservation for exhaustive natural resources. The WTO could assert climate concerns more assertively through this mechanism, particularly when it comes to fossil fuels or renewable energy development. Likewise, the WTO has remained somewhat neutral on stronger cross-border emissions requirements. Currently, disputes over sectoral emissions regulations, for example the one for aviation in the European Union, have yet to be resolved by the WTO, and similar discussions over carbon taxes and tariffs remain ongoing. Strong rulings to prevent climate impacts and support renewable energy would help augment UNFCCC decisions.

Some contributors simply favored an ongoing dialogue between the WTO and UNFCCC, if only because the WTO can be a barrier to renewables development and goals on carbon emissions limits. It was also mentioned that the WTO is not the only trade organization with potential influence towards these ends, and that regional and bilateral organizations could also be involved in such discussions.

III. In your opinion, in which ways should the Green Climate Fund (GCF) encourage the development and transfer of ESTs?

Several suggestions were made by contributors on how the GCF should function, and who and what it should fund. It was raised that the GCF could more closely engage with alternative means of financing projects, such as leveraging public-private partnerships, offering emission reduction credits for projects in developing countries (should such credits be valuable in a new climate framework), or sponsoring competitions for innovative projects from private firms. It was also raised that GCF funds should be earmarked towards adaptation efforts, as mitigation efforts can lean more heavily on the private sector and its response to regulations or market changes. Since governments make up much of the demand for adaptation projects directly, but have limited funds, private sector financing is more difficult for these types of initiatives.

It was proposed, furthermore, that the GCF could support firms that make green technology patents publicly available. While IP concerns still exist, it is increasingly popular for large companies to do so in order to spur market adoption and build demand for supporting infrastructure. The GCF, one way or another, could facilitate this process or informally encourage companies to follow this path. Other suggestions included sponsoring academic exchanges on green technology between developed/developing countries and facilitating competitive awards between developed/developing countries over specific problem-based challenges (for instance on energy, water, etc.).

Several contributors noted the growing overlaps in the funding landscape. They noticed mutually supportive overlaps, for instance, between the agendas of the Technology Mechanism (TM) of the UNFCCC and the GCF. Collaboration could increase the efficient implementation of both of their mandates. Likewise, it was suggested that the GCF develop a more sustainable and predictable funding base, opposed to simply relying on pledged country donations year after year. An accountability mechanism, even if simply as a monitoring tool, could ensure pledges are met in a timely manner and that GCF money does not exist in word only. Other suggestions included involving the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) more directly in the agenda setting of GCF spending, and having the GCF finance the development of model adaptation policies and their implementation in at-risk countries.

IV. As it relates to ESTs, would a suggested climate change ombudsman (or mediating authority) be a useful institution for situations in which countries or companies refuse to transfer ESTs to developing countries?

Contributors responded to this question with hesitant support. Specifically, they thought that an ombudsman or mediator could be useful for EST development and regulation, but that its effectiveness would depend on its oversight and authority. Some suggested that this role could be fulfilled through existing channels, for instance by expanding the scope of the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, or rapporteurs for other sectors that involve climate change impacts, to include EST monitoring and mediation. Others had concerns that the current UN rapporteur system works too slowly, and that a similar UNFCCC system would have to be more nimble in its response to work successfully.

It was suggested that an ombudsman office would also have to be quasi-independent of the UN and member states in order to maintain its objectivity, since it would be likely funded by them. The ombudsman would also have to be approved by member states in order to assume some level of authority. This is a difficult separation to maintain and contributors did not agree on how to do so. An ombudsman like this, however, would potentially be able to oversee other groups such as NATO, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with less perception of undue political influence. It was also noted that there should be some way to graduate developing states to developed-state status, and that this may affect how responsibilities are overseen by an ombudsman.

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