chapter  2
20 Pages

Governance for whom?: equity, justice, and the politics of sustainable development

Historical and contemporary relations of inequity and injustice form a powerful frame by which poorer countries and peoples make sense of climate

change as a political issue.3 Histories of suspicion, distrust, and inequity are played out in the contemporary politics of climate change, accounting for conflicting notions of whom climate governance should serve and how. Whether it is claims about ecological debt or climate justice, there is a powerful sense in which climate change has the potential to further aggravate inequalities within and between societies.4 This sense of injustice derives from the fact that those who have contributed least to the problem of climate change in the past, including most of the world’s poor, are those most susceptible to its worst effects now and in the future. Meanwhile, richer countries are better placed to adapt to the climate impacts that they will suffer. Statements by leaders from developing countries illustrate the strength of feeling on the issue. In 2008 President Museveni of Uganda described climate change as “an act of aggression by the rich against the poor.”5 Meanwhile, in March 2003, Ambassador Lionel Hurst, speaking on behalf of the small island states, said:

the most populous and wealthiest of the world face a moral challenge greater than colonialism or slavery. They are failing in that challenge. Men [sic] have lost reason in the fossil fuel economy . . . Inhabitants of small islands have not agreed [to be] sacrificial lambs on the altar of the wealth of the rich.6