The mobilisation of norms for legitimacy in the global warming debate
Contemporary debates surrounding global commons issues and their amelioration are inextricable linked with a parallel discourse of environmental justice. This paper examines the normative discourses of rights and justice in the international arena, particularly in relation to the climate change debate. It is argued that the discourse of environmental justice has served to focus negotiations on the issue of climate change. The terms “justice” and “rights” have been mobilised by numerous stakeholders in the debate over climate change as they seek moral legitimacy for their understandings of environmental justice regarding emissions reduction proposals, and justice for the currently, and potentially, affected populations. Differing claims within the discourse pivot on arguments over equity versus equality and what might constitute them in the atmospheric politics arena. In particular, this paper focuses on the claims of nongovernmental environment groups campaigning on the climate change issue in the Asia-Pacific region. The non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and others argue that this humanitarian impact of global climate change presents significant issues for the Asia Pacific region. These groups draw significant connections between environmental justice and human rights in their advocacy for vulnerable populations in the Pacific, arguing for environmental justice for these potential “environmental refugees”. The understandings of this term embraced by environmental NGOs, and their perception of the implication of population movements caused by climate change lead them to construct an “environmental citizenship” approach to climate change issues. These elements are used to gather and mobilise legitimacy in the global warming debate.