Imagining a Different Future: Overcoming Barriers to Climate Justice

Imagining a Different Future is a conference to be held from the 8th– 10th of February in Hobart, Tasmania. International and local experts will analyse climate change looking at three themes: justice and ethics, barriers to action, and strategies for moving forward. The conference also involves a vibrant climate change art and music program and a strong focus on public engagement with free community events, such as a Public Talk and an afternoon for the local community.

Climate change gives rise to questions of justice and ethics because it will severely impact future generations who did not create the problem. Further, inadequate action on climate change involves unavoidable distributional fairness issues, most notably between developing and developed countries. In Australia and many other countries, the justice and ethics dimensions of climate change have been largely absent from the political debate. Despite the Paris Agreement coming into force, the withdrawal of the United States and the rise of more insular politics pose real challenges for concerted international action. The Conference will look at the ethical issues raised by climate change and the implications of the neoliberal model of economics and politics that emphasises economic growth over environmental and social concerns.

The conference will also examine a wide range of barriers to achieving justice in addressing climate change, including barriers relating to communication of climate science, social psychology, legal and governance structures, and fossil fuel subsidies.  Strategies for moving forward that will be explored include fossil fuel divestment, use of the courts, and some case studies from success stories from different parts of the world.

The conference involves keynote addresses and parallel sessions on these three themes: climate justice and ethics, barriers, and strategies. With more than 12 keynote speakers and 60 international and local speakers it is hard to single out particular presentations. We will be writing more on the blog https://www.climatejustice.network about the various presentations and speakers. Here we want to start by mentioning a few highlights, such as a keynote address by Marcus Duwall (University of Utrecht) on what human dignity means in the context of climate justice, Lavanya Rajamani (New Delhi) addressing equity in the Paris agreement, and Robyn Eckersley (University of Melbourne) on whether democracy hinders or helps climate action. There will be multiple sessions on different themes, as well as panels on climate litigation, human rights, and the ethics of geo-engineering. Many people will be very interested in both the Saturday morning session on media and psychology involving talks by David Holmes from Monash University and Linda Steg from Groningen, and a presentation that afternoon by Jack Gilding from the Renewable Energy Alliance that considers what the Tasmanian energy system could look like if it were seriously decarbonising and equitable.

The conference includes a strong focus on expanding engagement with climate justice and so is open to the public. There are also free public events, such as a public talk Climate Ethics Amidst Climate Injustice by Steve Vanderheiden from the University of Colorado at Boulder on the evening of Thursday 8 February at the historic Hobart Town Hall and an afternoon of community discussion on Saturday at the conference venue.

 Dr Peter Lawrence researches in the field of climate change, international law and justice. He is author of ‘Justice for Future Generations, Climate Change and International Law’ (2014).   Jan Linehan is a lawyer with broad experience in multilateral negotiations, who has also written on international law and climate change. She is particularly interested in community engagement and the arts in the areas of climate change and human rights.   

Dr Peter Lawrence researches in the field of climate change, international law and justice. He is author of ‘Justice for Future Generations, Climate Change and International Law’ (2014). 

Jan Linehan is a lawyer with broad experience in multilateral negotiations, who has also written on international law and climate change. She is particularly interested in community engagement and the arts in the areas of climate change and human rights.