Imagining a Different Future

Climate Justice Conference

A multidisciplinary conference examining the barriers to responding to climate change, implementing climate justice, and proposing ways forward.

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Hobart, Tasmania
8-10 February 2018

The University of Tasmania, with support of its Faculty of Law, the University of Utrecht Ethics Institute, the University of Tasmania's Institute for the Study of Social Change, Asia Institute, Faculty of Medicine, the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) and the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Science (IMAS).

Jump to:

  1. Outputs and Objectives
  2. Why Tasmania
  3. Conference Themes
  4. Conference Conveners
  5. Organising Committee
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The Conference involved more than 80 speakers who explored ethics, politics, science, economics, law, activism and art, against the background of a concern the prevailing neoliberal model is not able to respond effectively to the challenge of climate change and excludes key considerations such as ethics and justice. This concern has been heightened in the last 18 months by the turn to insular, nationalistic and fragile politics, which has seen the US withdraw from the Paris Agreement and other States turn inwards, with fears they will disengage from global or collective efforts. 

Speakers looked at ethics, hope and despair, climate justice, intergenerational justice, and how abstract notions of climate justice can be translated into concrete policies, governance structures, and laws. The Conference programme focussed strongly on a systematic analysis of barriers to action on climate change, ranging from structural barriers through to social and human psychology, and the role of the media.  A key goal was to look at strategies and possible ways forward, drawing on international, regional and local experience. As well as covering issues of equity and justice in the international climate change regime and current national climate policies, speakers examined emerging issues, such as technological or geoengineering interventions, climate change and human rights, and international and national climate change litigation. 

Artists, writers, filmmakers, and musicians, activists and academics explored the artistic response to climate change, art as activism, and the connection with nature and place. There were several artist's talks and an evening of Climate Music. 

The Conference included a commitment to public engagement, with a free Public Talk, Climate Ethics Amidst Climate Injustice, by Professor Steve Vanderheiden on the Thursday evening, and a Community forum led by Margaret Steadman on the Saturday afternoon. The Hobart City Council and the Tasmanian Government were among the sponsors for these events. 

The Keynote presentations will be available to watch on on our Climate Justice YouTube channel soon, along with interviews and other talks. The full recordings will be available as podcasts in the coming months. You can read more about climate justice and the Conference in our blog on this website and we will be announcing details of follow up events for 2018.

Keynote Presenters: Robyn Eckersley, Steve Vanderheiden, Catriona McKinnon, Marcus  Düwell, Jeremy Moss, Sivan Kartha, Lavanya Rajamani, Guy Goodwin-Gill, Jack Pezzey, Nathan Bindoff, Ben Richardson and Jan McDonald. (Full list of presenters in the final programme.)

We are pleased to have the endorsement of the Earth System Governance Project as well as the support of local community groups, Climarte, and Lynchpin, the Ocean Project.

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Outputs and Objectives

The Conference is part of a project to raise the profile of issues of ethics and justice in relation to climate change and create a network of thinkers and researchers in the area. A Southern Hemispheric connection with a focus on regional as well as global concerns could have a significant impact on the public policy debate, as well as the profile of these issues. It will be a catalyst for links to a broad range of concerned scientists, philosophers, lawyers, economists and strategists to share information and develop collaborations. Dissemination of ideas and dialogue is a key goal, along with publication of papers online and in journal or book form.

Why Tasmania?

Tasmania is the ideal location for this conference, with its long history of conservation expertise and environmentalism, the largest concentration of climate scientists and Antarctic researchers in the Southern Hemisphere, and a particularly vibrant and engaged arts community. In 2016, the first recording of 400ppm at Cape Grim demonstrated the urgency of the climate challenge, but the implications are not understood outside the scientific community. Nearly one third of Tasmania is world heritage area protected under a global convention that explicitly embodies notions of intergenerational justice. Hobart is the perfect city to bring people together to discuss this important subject with its beautiful setting, great venues and food, as well as easy access to national parks, walks, and MONA. The Conference will acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of the land and the contemporary Tasmanian Aboriginal community. 


Conference Themes

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Theme 1: Climate justice (world views, justice & ethics)

This theme will outline the history and shape of notions of climate justice, and seek to identify common ground and differences.

  • International and intergenerational justice normative frameworks - in mitigation, adaptation and financing
  • Religious perspectives – basis or barrier to climate action?
  • Ideal and non-ideal climate justice
  • Neoliberalism as an idea
  • Anthropocentric and deep ecology approaches - false dichotomy? 
  • Moral corruption and climate change
  • Other
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Theme 2: Barriers to implementing climate justice

 

2.1    Science and technology

This theme will explore the interconnections between climate justice, science and technology, with case studies focusing on the Paris Agreement and issues in Australia where these have international ramifications.

  • The IPCC 1.5°C report
  • The Paris agreement 1.5/2° target 
  • Climate justice and climate science: synergy or disconnect? 
  • The role of the climate scientist and ethics  
  • Technological fixes or fantasies - geo-engineering and climate change
  • Clean coal and climate justice 
  • Intellectual property - basis or barrier to climate technology solutions
  • Climate Change Scepticism/Denialism: the media and contrarian scientists
  • Other

2.2 Governance

This theme will examine the interconnections between climate justice and governance structures post-Paris in a context of rising populism with political leaders of many countries appealing to short-term individual selfish interests. Do we face the risk of a Climexit with a breakdown of global governance structures?

  • Burden sharing frameworks for implementing the Paris Agreement 
  • Is Australia doing its fair share in terms of climate change mitigation
  • Understanding the process of political and social change 
  • Resilience and change 
  • Addressing poverty and climate change 
  • Procedural barriers for reform - both national (Australian) and comparative
  • Democracy - barrier or prerequisite for climate action 
  • Future generations and international law 
  • Intergovernmental governance structures 
  • Other

2.3    Economics

This topic will explore to what extent current practices and discourses in economics constitute a barrier to implementing climate justice. Case studies will examine in particular the role of corporations.

  • Reforming economics for the Anthropocene 
  • Neoliberalism as a barrier to climate justice and law 
  • Corporate social responsibility: ethical and legal frameworks
  • Plausible alternatives to the market-oriented climate change paradigm?
  • Other 

2.4    Art, activism, and learning

This session will explore the linkages between climate justice and art, as well as new forms of engagement and learning about climate change, nature, and science.

  • Climate change and the Anthropocene art: activism or aestheticism?
  • Imagining a different future: Necessity, Ethics and Empathy?
  • Dialogue, engagement, and community
  • Art and climate science 
  • Art: Music, Performance and Climate Change
  • Other

In addition to the above, an art/music side events program is in development.

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Theme 3: Strategies for making a different future a reality

This session will focus on perspectives and strategies to overcome the barriers to implementing climate justice identified in the other sessions of the conference.

  • Understanding human psychology in dealing with climate change
  • Civil society and activist NGO strategies
  • Reforming global energy governance for the Anthropocene 
  • Advancing the global and regional climate governance systems post-Paris 
  • Fossil fuel divestment in Australia 
  • Reconfiguring international environmental law for the Anthropocene 
  • Institutions to factor-in the interests of future generations
  • Commissioners for Future Generations
  • Climate litigation
  • Perspectives from the Global South
  • Perspectives of First Nations 
  • Feminist perspectives
  • Younger people 
  • Comparative case study: renewables, communities, and lessons from the field
  • Other: what are we missing?

Conference Conveners

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). Peter is also a baritone whose climate change activist songs can be heard on YouTube.

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.

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Organising Committee

  • Peter Lawrence (Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania)

  • Jan Linehan (Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania)

  • Marcus Düwell (Ethics Institute, University of Utrecht) 

  • Liesbeth Feikema (Ethics Institute, University of Utrecht)

  • Michael Reder (Munich School of Philosophy)

  • Lukas Köhler (Centre for Environmental Ethics and Education of the Munich School of Philosophy)


The Conference will follow a sustainable, no or low carbon model, to be reflected in catering, printing and other aspects of Conference Management. Participants flying to Hobart are asked use a reputable carbon offset provider.