Challenging the European Climate Debate: Can Universal Climate Justice and Economics be Reconciled with Particularistic Politics?

Researchers from various disciplines have built impressive but distinct compendia on climate change; the defining challenge for humanity. In the spirit of Lord Dahrendorf, this paper represents the output of interdisciplinary collaboration and integrates state-of-the-art academic expertise from the fields of philosophy, economics and governance. Our focus is on Europe, which is widely perceived as a leader in climate change mitigation and adaptation. However, leadership weakness on climate over recent years, largely due to recession and political vacillation, is eroding this perception. What is needed is a firm justification for strong climate action, acknowledgement of the available tools, awareness of the reasons for our failures to date, and a realistic, but goal-oriented strategy for an integrated climate policy. We therefore present current normative insights from climate justice research highlighting the need to make institutions responsive to those most vulnerable; we discuss the economics of the transition to a low-carbon economy, pointing to key policy instruments and post-2020 climate targets for the EU; we contrast the normative and quantitative synoptic principles with the particularistic implementation schemes and politics of (not) implementing measures on the ground; and we suggest a careful coordination of European climate policies with acute challenges that could increase both climate justice and political feasibility.

Climate justice demonstrates that action on climate change is a moral imperative.
Modern public economics provides a rich framework for examining the climate change problem through the lens of imperfect economies with policy for market failures.