In-Country Disparities in Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Their Significance for Politicizing a Future Global Climate Pact

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Dan Rabinowitz


Mainstream thought on environmental justice emphasizes disparities between populations in terms of their exposure to environmental risks. Climate change has recently shifted attention from vulnerability to responsibility, with much of the research and dissemination of results accentuating differential contributions on the part of various groups to CO2 emissions and their accumulation in the atmosphere. But efforts to monitor, mitigate and adapt to climate change are largely premised on sovereign states as the main units of analysis, and on comparisons between them as the primary tool for designing policy. This approach, which reifies climate change as a technical, distant and detached issue, arrests the long overdue politicization of the atmosphere. This Article, which uses data from Israel on differentiated levels of CO2 emissions by income decile, suggests that hitherto overlooked in-country disparities in CO2 emissions are an integral part of the problem and of potential ways to tackle it. Offering a critique of attempts to use distributive justice as a basis for a global climate pact, it calls for further in-country analysis of emissions and a better understanding of how the outcomes of those attempts might become relevant to more people globally. Such insights, it argues, are essential for climate policies to become politicized and thus gain prominence and urgency in political debates, campaigns, and eventually on the executive agenda of all levels of government.

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