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Three weeks ago in Edinburgh, the Scottish government held a conference on Climate Justice. The many inspiring speakers outlined the human rights arguments for action to minimize climate change. These are the arguments which the Scottish government believes should spur the nations of the world into reaching “an ambitious and equitable new global climate change treaty in 2015”.

Representatives of government, NGOs and companies gathered in the Dynamic Earth building to hear speakers such as Mary Robinson outline the arguments. Not acting now on climate change is morally and ethically wrong they said, and everyone I spoke to agreed with them, even if the ways forward were not clear.

Whilst a Wikipedia article on Climate Justice appeared back in June 2011, and the Mary Robinson Foundation for Climate Justice was established even earlier in 2010, the concept hasn’t been prominent. We’ve known for a long time that those in the less developed countries are most vulnerable to climate change but governments, in Europe at least, have been preoccupied with economic matters and the potential economic costs of climate change have had more traction.

The Scottish government is arguing that the justice arguments are just as strong as the economic arguments, if not stronger. This is justice not only for those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change (who are also those who have contributed least to its causes) but also for coming generations. For those of us who have children, the second aspect is easy to grasp since we only have to ask ourselves how we want the world to be when our children become adults.

So what are the implications of this new discourse? Anders Nordström of ABB stated that global brands have no choice but to adopt a human rights approach, since stakeholders demand it. So we should expect business to be on board. And the individuals I spoke to at the conference were inspired to renew their personal efforts. But many believe the most pressing need is for a global political agreement, and for this we need governments to act more altruistically, because it’s the right thing to do.

The phrase “good global citizen” was used several times during the conference and this is how Scotland wants to be seen. I was impressed and I hope they succeed in inspiring others to act as good global citizens when it comes to climate change, so “an ambitious and equitable new global climate change treaty” can be signed in 2015, if not before.

 

 

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