Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change (INECC)

People's Voices in Policy Choices - Towards Climate Justice and Sustainable Development for Eco-system Communities


 By Arun Mukhyopadhyay

Global climate change results from the aggregation of greenhouse gases (GHGs), which then disproportionately affect other states, communities, ecosystems and people. The victimised populations become uprooted from their habitats and forced to migrate, even to foreign countries to join the researve army of lobour there and get entrapped in new conflicts and crises. The citizens of a bordered territory are entitled to fundamental rights which their fellow human beings, the irregular migrants, can never be provided. The emancipatory ideas about rights, justice and responsibility should transcend the ‘bordered’ confines. Thus it has been demanded that the protection of humans, not citizens, must be the watchword in international refugee policy...




Arun Mukhopadhyay

‘State Of World 2009’Report by WorldWatch Institute, Washington, addresses the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as prepare to adapt to climate change. The Earth’s average temperature has already risen by more than 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century, with much of that increase attributed to human activities. Nearly 1 degree Celsius of additional warming may already be in store, based on past emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases that have not yet made their influence felt on surface temperatures.

The Climate Change Congress, Copenhagen 10-12 march,2009 convened by the University of Copenhagen,attended by more than 2,500 climate experts from 80 countries, have insisted the politicians must stand up to "vested interests that increase emissions" and "build on a growing public desire for governments to act”.United Nations Secretary General, declaring 2009 as the year of Climate Change, has called for ‘responsibility to protect’ in the realm of human rights and ‘responsibility to deliver’ in larger sphere of common international action.

Anthropogenic climate change leads to biophysical transformation on the global scale engendering localised stresses in the forms of coastal erosion, ice melt, infertile land and deteriorating water sources.These stresses threaten critical minimum basic needs of vulnerable socities without the capabilities of adaption and resilence. Neither the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, nor its Kyoto Protocol has any provision of protection or rehabilitation to numerous affected poor people of less developed world.Refugee Convention does not confer refugee status for environmental persecution. Northern knowledge-power had set the norms to reinforce dominance over the international system that can not reflect on the environment in a broader political and cultural context of a region or a country.Ultimately, a successful adaptation process has to reflect on how the command of natural resources and environmental goods has forged the plunder of climate and human habitats by the interplay of a host of historical, ecological, social and economic factors. An internationally agreed measure of ecological debt would clarify “over-polluting” countries’ contribution towards climate change-enforced human vulnerabilities. The mainstream debates on climate change center round the rhetorics of mitigation and modeling and by-pass, consciously or otherwise, the critical issues perpetuating climate disasters and the resultant human vulnerabilities.This can only be achieved if the framework encompasses not only issues of climate change narrowly construed, but recognize how the command of natural resources and environmental goods is relevant to wealth, vulnerability and welfare reinforced by the synergy of critical historical, ecological, social and economic factors.

The discourse on ‘sustainable development’ thus poses the political challenge of providing solutions to obvious problems of global inequalities in terms of consensus, benevolent ‘management’, and the restoration of socioecological‘resilience’(Hornborg 2009).



In his classic paper‘Development of Underdevelopment’(1966),Andre Gunder Frank observes that that economic development and underdevelopment are the opposite sides of the same coin and the product of the same historical process.The capitalist expansion and development throughout the world simultaneously generate and sustain both economic development and structural underdevelopment. “The metropolis expropriates economic surplus from its satellites and appropriates it for its own economic development. The satellites remain underdeveloped for lack of access to their own surplus and as a consequence of the same polarization and exploitative contradictions which the metropolis introduces and maintains in the satellite’s domestic structure”.The notion of the ‘development of underdevelopment’ within the framework of world system opens the way to third-worldist ideology.In a subsequent complementary work,Frank(Frank 2001) elaborates on how the structure, process and transformation of the "single world-wide system," generate the new wealth and poverty of nations,based on and developed along two main conceptual red threads that run almost parallel and intimately related as to intersect at important junctures. These two prime concepts,multilateralism and entropy, are obvious and as simple as they are neglected,as Frank observes. Entropy is dispersed from the more 'ordered' regions and sectors of the global world economy to other less 'ordered' ones that are obliged to absorb the entropy dissipated in their direction by the more 'ordered' ones.Much of the order can continue or even be constructed among those who can dissipate and transfer the disorder that they generate to others who are to absorb to become less orderly than they were.Thus the climate change caused by global warming and depletion of the ozone layer generated by industrialised nations’ burning of coal and oil,mostly imported from less developed countries are ultimately (re)exported to second group ,where they to sink low level areas into the rising sea, and massive destruction of virgin rain forests to maintain industries and consumption in developed world.Thus the economic development of industralised countries is partially is the result of prior or present transfers of income to industrialised world from less developed one.

The twentieth century is the chronicle of two world wars and post-war recovery-boom-burst for the long five decades. The treadmill of production is founded on classical Say’s law of capitalist circulation -supply creates its own demand and drives the expansion of production and consumption synergistically.This enterprise has all along reinforced the plunder of the planetary ecosystem that “is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emission stops”(Solomons Contemporary climate change owes much to the ‘metabolic rift,’ the subordination of agriculture to capitalist production relations, that is, the progressive

transformation of agricultural inputs (organic resources to inorganic commodities), reducing nutrient recycling in and through the soil and water, and introducing new agronomic methods dependent upon

chemicals and bioengineered seeds and genetic materials produced under industrial conditions. This, in turn, depends on technologies, whose metabolic rift involves expanding inputs of energy and natural resources, and industrial wastes -- recycled today, but largely outside of natural cycles. Fossil fuel dependence is, of course, a fundamental consequence of this rift, and contributing greatly to carbon emissions (McMichael 2009).

The industrialised North has emitted massive greenhouse gases, with increasing energy- and chemical-intensive production since the ‘outbreak’ of cold war, and has polluted the environment to a catastrophic extent . The biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons caused an enormous environmental damages. But the nature and motion of this treadmill of destruction is poorly understood if militarism is treated as derivative of capitalism (Hooks and Smith 2005).

Confronted with ecological crises, no attempt is made by the system to go to the root of the problem in the social relations.”…… the technocrats promise to solve all problems while keeping the social relations intact”(Yok,Clark and Foster2009).The opening of a technological frontier of carbon-free goods and equipment aimed at tackling global warming will initiate a renewed capitalist accumulation cycle. But the peripheral countries structurally lack the access to enough long term financing, technological dominance and human capital to lead that process.T he way policies for climate change mitigation are currently designed, particularly in global forum of IPCC for reducing emissions in developing and less developed world countries, sustainable development will actually yield sustainable underdevelopment(Patterson 2009). The zero-sum game has its obvious tolls on wretched teeming millions mostly of ‘other’ world. The retarded societies become retarded ecologies too and the ‘development of underdevelopment’ diversifies with deadlier dimensions. The neoliberal insights to overcome the burst phase of exploitation cycle looks towards hitherto unexplored, fragile and sensitive regions around the world.

The origin of ‘ecological debt’ and ‘ecologically unequal exchange’ literature by the turn of the century can be traced back to world systems theory that explains why the peripheral and semi-peripheral nations are locked into ecologically unsustainable patterns. The debt encompasses the historical and modern exploitation of third world natural resources

and the excessive use of ‘environmental space’ for dumping waste (e.g. expropriating global atmospheric resources). A grand coalition of environmental, human rights, and development advocacy groups have been urging the ecological debt to either be paid or used as balance in caculating national economic debts (Roberts and Parks, 2007). The industrialised core of the world system undergoes rapid technological changes to transform and navigate world market demands. It thus creates the conditions of the core’s economic and political dominance over the world system to which the dominant classes of peripheral economies respond with their accumulation strategies.The technologies devised to acquire production and cost efficiency respond to the collaboration and conflict between classes, firms, sectors,states, labour, and consumers in different national domains under a global operational network(Bunker 2005).




Science is insufficient in course of its tryst with uncertain, high stakes environmental threats like human-induced climate change. Critical Science studies vehemently affirm that science is authoritative and subject to deconstruction where there are uncertainties and strong countervailing political interests. Scientific information about both local and global environmental conditions are selected and rejected on the basis of subjective preferences as there are alternative sets of scientifically legitimated facts to justify any value-based position in an environmental controversy (Lahsen 2006).

In the early 1980s, a consensus emerged among climate scientists that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels would lead to mean global warming of 2–3°C, probably by the mid-twenty-first century, and would have serious deleterious effects But this consensus was challenged by physicist William A. Nierenberg who opted for an altogether different trajectory within the rubric of the United States National Academy of Sciences.While accepting the scientific conclusion that warming would occur, Nierenberg rejected the interpretation and diverted the issue in his desired course(Oreskes 2008). The official circle in United States at that time felt that there was a serious foreign policy risk in over-emphasizing the US role in climate change, because the United States was the world’s principal producer of greenhouse gases. The Reagan administration had the objective of unleashing the power of corporate ‘play behind’ front and thus strong statements about global warming might jeopardize that commitment. At the Energy Department, the Reagan administration took steps to trim the Department’s climate research programmes.The Nierenberg finally described the issue as one of numerous Challenges that the human society used to face and adapt throughout history.Nierenberg’s ‘deconstructed’ climate knowledge had been indispensable to Regan administration (Oreskes

Since 1997, the issue of historical responsibility, as articulated in United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) documentation,has shifted from discussions of North–South responsibilities in terms of equity for distributing commitments to concentrating solely on technically accurate climate modeling. The UNFCCC deliberations’silence on equity and historical responsibility manifests North’s knowledge power to exclude global economic exchange and constrained Southern participation in discussion processes(Friman and Linner 2008). Developed countries intend to write-off rather than honour their climate debt. In global climate negotiations they use their ‘soft’ power to by- pass the burden of substantial adaptation costs like enforced displacement and migration arising out of climate worsening, evading their adaptation debt. And they seek to continue their business as usual of high per person emissions by consuming additional atmospheric space, and ‘crowding the world’s poor majority into a small and shrinking remainder’. Better understanding of international institutions requires critical examination of the varying history of the interplay of ideas and interests and how these institutions are structuring ideas centering round third world and percieving the interests of the Third World(Fakhri 2008).

The global interconnections between ecology and economic growth requires the knowledge of global resource management and environmental justice and need to reconceptualize several aspects of development theory.Thus Instead of visualizing nations as autonomous territories the environmental condition of which refl ects, in a simple and immediate way, their own economic activities, we must learn to think of the world as a system, in which one country’s environmental problems may affect another country’s growth.Economic growth and technological development in the developed parts of the world system are thus organically linked to underdevelopment and environmental deterioration in ‘ other’ parts. To abandon the “cornucopia” model of growth and technology for a “zero-sum game” perspective will be connected to wider, existential concerns. The Marxist worldview offeres one such vision that can propel take-of towards ‘ immunization of local ecosystems and human life-worlds vis-à-vis the ravages of global capital flows’.This would restrain the highly skewed growth of technological infrastructure of the wealthier ‘world’ to continue growth-business as usual at the cost of lives and livelihood of the global poor(Hornborg 2003).


Global Climate Change and Human Security

Global climate change results from the aggregation of greenhouse gases (GHGs), which then disproportionately affect other states, communities, ecosystems and people. The victimised populations become uprooted from their habitats and forced to migrate, even to foreign countries to join the researve army of lobour there and get entrapped in new conflicts and crises. The citizens of a bordered territory are entitled to fundamental rights which their fellow human beings, the irregular migrants, can never be provided. The emancipatory ideas about rights, justice and responsibility should transcend the ‘bordered’ confines. Thus it has been demanded that the protection of humans, not citizens, must be the watchword in international refugee policy (Rajaram and Grundy-Warr 2004). The demand has definite resemblance with Derridan concepts of ‘new international’ and ‘democracy to come’. Derrida observes, ”If I feel in solidarity today with this particular Algerian who is caught between the F.I.S. and the Algerian state[…] – it is not a feeling of one citizen toward another, it is not a feeling peculiar to a citizen of the world, as if we are all potential or imaginary citizens of a great state […]. What binds me to them – and this is the point; there is a bond but this bond cannot be contained within the traditional concepts of community, obligation or responsibility – is a protest against citizenship, a protest against membership in a political configuration as such (Derrida1994, cited in Vaghan-Williams 2004)

Millennium Development Goal 8 is arguably the most significant step since It commits the international responsibility to strengthen partnership against global poverty, social exclution and other human vulnerabllities and defines benchmark targets and indicators of progress. The perspective of social exclusion,as Amartya Sen observes, reinforces the understanding of poverty as capability deprivation and is of immense value in analysing the deprivation of basic capabilities and in assessing the policy issues that follow from these diagnoses(Sen 2000,cited in Nevil 2007). Rights have greater normative resonance than the language of capabilities; they impart a sense of agreement and the idea of a justified claim entitled to the human being.  As Nussbaum asserts, rights may precede capabilities, as grounds to secure them (Nussbaum 1997-1998, 293-296, cited in Moe 2008).Following capabilities approach by Sen and Nussbaum, if outcome of climate degradation potentially undermine fundamental rights and human security, enshrined as global norms and policy , the concerns about justice should be the prime mover of global climate governance. A human security approach opens up for a more positive and visionary view on the future and what can be accomplished.Developing human capabilities and promoting social transformations has the potential to enhance human well-being and security under change and uncertainty. This means addressing the social context in which the adverse impacts of environmental change is taking place. By accounting for the multiple ways in which ecological conditions are instrumental to human capabilities,Brenna Holland observes, it is possible to conceptualize ecological conditions of justice within the broader framework of Nussbaum’s capabilities approach. To protect these conditions for each person, treated as an end, would require considering how ecological systems, cycles, and processes connect the environmental impacts and experiences of people in dispersed geographical locations ( Holland 2008).


Human Security framework demands focus on the most vulnerable to climate change because they will experience the “first and worst” of climate effects (Fisher 2009). In addition, global climate change is experienced unevenly and largely at the local level. The focus is on how global climate change and climate adaptation impact human security,that is, human well-being in vulnerable communities. These communities lack the adaptive and developmental capacity to address climate effects, which further undermines their security and impinges on fundamental rights. Because of these changes in global climate, areas like Arctic, Oceania, low coastal areas, and snownier regions are already undergoing significant climatic changes. These changes in climate not only create physical changes in specific locales, but also threaten the welfare of people in specific environments. Human security therefore concerns human well-being, and the opportunity and capacity to ensure human life and the dignity associated with that life. Specifically, the UNDP specifies two main aspects of human security: one, safety from chronic threats like hunger, disease and repression, and two, protection from sudden and harmful disruptions in daily life patterns. The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change(2007),sponsored by the Government of United Kingdom, estimates that the scale of migration will reach 200 million by 2050.To date there has been no coordinated response from the international community to address the situation of populations displaced due to the impacts of climate change.

The IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report (FAR) projected that by 2099,world is expected to be on average between 1.8and 4°C hotter than it is now. Consequences of this forecast would be a global mean sea level rise of p to 88 cm over the next 80 years, which would displace millions of people round the world and could potentially inundate some countries. There are few “robust investigations of climate change impacts on small islands.” (IPCC 2007,cited in Fisher 2009).Combined with socioeconomic factors, the secondary impacts of rising global temperatures are forcing residents to migrate from unhabitable outer islands to capital islands, engendering mutually reinforced economic and environmental declines. The environmentally induced internal migration means high urban growth rates and high urban birth rates. This has resulted in sharp increases in population densities in central islands, linked to recent declines in human development indicators.Multiplying the crisis, local policy responses have been short term proactive in scope. The primary producers of the greenhouse gases that cause climate change, the U.S., Japan, and Europe, account for more than 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, while Pacific island small island states account for a minuscule 3/100th of 1 percent of global emissions. Moreover, the world's primary greenhouse gas producers are both best equipped to adapt to climate change, while small island nations have the fewest options in this context.The least producers of greenhouse gasesi are paradoxically, most vulnerable to climate-enforced displacement. The populations of these island states are worst sufferers amidst catastrophic social, political and economic disruption and dispossession .Pacific small-island state Tuvalu, is about to be submerged in the Pacific due to gradual worsening of global climate.Nation states identified as probable destinations for the people of Tuvalu may have begun to identify the effects of climate disaster from narrow national interests. Thus it has been argued that that climate-enforced migration is a security threat to receiving nations highlighting the link between forced migration and terrorism.It has also been apprehended that if Tuvalu’s 10 000 people migrate to Australia, ‘then millions of poor and unskilled regional neighbours will come begging for a new life’…… ‘Unskilled workers seeking a new life, coupled with high-demand migration conditions, also raise the risk of people-smuggling syndicates targeting Australia’ (Soderblom 2008,cited in Locke 2009). The Utter materialistic life-style in United States has emitted massive volume of greenhouse gases since a long time engendering a sharp declining tendency in rainfall and other calamities in its south-west spreading over a larger geo-climatic region including the retarded economy of adjoining Mexico. The increasing frequency and economic losses from natural disasters along with decreasing agricultural prices is crucial in increasing poverty in Mexican rural economy. Obviously Mexico has a long history of tranborder migration to United States .In the post 9/11 scenario, the fate of such ‘humans’ depends largely on the whims of the fanatic border patrol volunteers deployed by US border-control authority. Dispersed decisions at borders construct hegemony of self over wretched bare-life of ‘others’. The border-patrolling volunteers deny human security of climate migrants even by demanding foreclosure of the scope for amnesty advocacy (Doty 2007).

“In big U.S. cities, African Americans and immigrants, especially Latinos, often seem divided by a political calculation in which each community fears that any gain in jobs or political clout can only come at the expense of the other.”(Yates 2009). But in recent past a coalition of immigrant workers, many of whom had irregular status, campaigned for Unpaid Wages ProhibitionAct1997 passed by the New York Legislature.The movement had blurred the divide between legitimacy and illegitimacy by demanding the protection of wage levels for low-paid workers, irrespective of their being US citizens or irregular migrants. In a similar mobilization in dozens of cities across the United States during March to May2006, ‘hundreds of thousands’ of irregular migrants and their supporters have demonstrated for legal recognition and against restrictive immigration legislation passed through the House of Representatives in December 2005.The demonstrators have self-identified their cause as a democratic struggle for political rights (McNEVIN 2007).


The various actors shaping global migration policies, such as multilateral institutions, governments of receiving and sending countries or private sector entities are all seeking their own vested interests, with little care for workers’ rights and human rights. The rightsbased approach should also encompass the rights of irregular (undocumented) migrant workers, as they are prone to the most exploitation and discrimination due to their status. The concerned global governance should base on the principles of the Declaration of Philadelphia(1944) which provides the foundational principles of the International Labour Organization by declaring ;

* Labour is not a commodity.

*Freedom of expression and of association are essential to sustained progress.

*Poverty anywhere constitutes a danger to prosperity everywhere.

All human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity.

There are also subsequent complimentary initiatives like, the UN Covenants on Human Rights, the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, as well as the ILO Conventions on Migrant workers, and on Equal Treatment in SocialSecurity,etc.Global Union’s Statement to Second Global Forum on Migration and Development,held in Manila,October 2008 declares that,”….. a narrow focus on temporary and circular migration to fill labour market shortages in receiving countries must be replaced by a comprehensive approach which places migrant workers and their well-being at the center of the policy paradigm, guarantees their fundamental human and trade union rights, and accords them voice and representation through trade unions. Of equal importance must be the establishment of consultative mechanisms to allow for representation and voice of trade unions in the global intergovernmental discussions on migration and development”(Global Union’s Statement 2008).






Some Neo-Malthusians and anti-immigration groups in the United States have recently argued that migration of people from less developed world to developed countries is damaging to sustainable development and environmental protection (Neumayer 2006). Those ‘crusaders’ are not aware of their intergenerational ecological debts to the so called anti-development and anti-environment people of the ‘other’ world.

A wealthy minority of the world’s countries and corporations are the principal cause of climate change; its adverse effects fall first and foremost on the majority that is poor. With less than 20 per cent of the population, developed countries have produced more than 70 per cent of historical emissions since 1850, far above their fair share based on equal per-person emissions depriving the third world poor communities of their ligitimateenvironmental space. The United States’ ecological footprint per person (measured as the productive land and sea required to provide resources and to absorb wastes) is more than four times the globally sustainable level, more than four times China’s and more than nine times India’s (WWF Living Planet Report 2008, cited in Stillwell 2009). The excessive emissions of the wealthy have destabilized the climate, harming the poor and threatening our future. Already, climate change is causing the oceans to rise and acidify; melting ice caps, glaciers and permafrost; damaging forests, coral reefs and other ecosystems. It is increasing water stress, hindering the production of food, altering disease vectors and threatening the infrastructure and resources that are the life-blood of millions of people. Poor countries and communities that have done least to cause climate change suffer first and worst from its adverse effects. The over-using and substantially diminishing the Earth’s capacity to absorb greenhouse gases – denying it to the developing countries that most need it in the course of their development – the developed countries have run up an “emissions debt” to developing countries. For the adverse effects of these excessive emissions – contributing to the escalating losses, damages and lost development opportunities facing developing countries – the developed countries have run up an “adaptation debt” to developing countries. The sum of these debts – emissions debt and adaptation debt – constitutes the “climate debt” of developed countries.

Developed countries must take responsibility for repaying the full measure of their climate debt. Doing so is not merely right; it also provides the basis of an effective climate solution (Stilwell 2009).’The Call for Repayment of Climate Debt (2009)’,a joint initiative of 132 social justice advocacy groups throughout the world has urged to global climate goverance in June 2009 for a ‘just and effective outcome’ for Copenhagen Summit ,December 2009 of United Nations’ Convention on ClimateChange. Together the sum of emissions debt and adaptation debt – constitutes the developed countries’ climate debt to the ‘other’ world which is part of a larger ecological, social and economic debt.They must compensate developing countries for the two-fold barrier to their development – mitigating and adapting to climate change – which were not present for developed countries during the course of their development but which they have caused.
Equitable benefit sharing schemes of the FrameworkConvention on Climate are perpetuate injustice when we recognize the historical patterns of injustice in a zero-sum world-system.Global apertheid of Inequitable distribution of environmental degradation and mitigation responsibilities have been the rule, not the exception, that entitle just, rather than equitable, solutions to environmental problems (Dorsey 2007).




Critical Climatics discourse is founded on just settlement of climate debt between industrialized North and underdeveloped South vis-à-vis potential climate-enforced human vulnerabilities.The discourse problematizes the climate trends and disasters in terms of overconsumptive western lifestyles, questions the ecological sustainability of capitalism and reflects on climate debt to ensure justice to climate victims .The North has been the main source as well as main beneficiary of climatic deterioration from the days of industrial revolution to contemporary neoliberal world order. Apart from historic entropy transfer,the globalization has facilitated the developed countries to off-shore hazardous manufacturing in the underdeveloped South. Climatic deterioration is essentially the manifestation of western materialism affecting the wretched ‘other’ of poor South. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has not visualised any policy or rogramme of adaptation for the vulnerable societies who have to suffer immensely for the brutal raptures on environment by the richer minority of the same planet. International Law does not confer refugee status to such climate-enforced migrants crossing borders .The emissions rights as property rights opposes most directly relevant human rights to individual for an environment for their health and well-being.



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