End the duopoly

So who should really be held responsible for climate change?

Despite its significance, climate responsibility remains a rare guest at global climate talks. Some feel guilty but don’t want to pay. Others feel harmed and ignored. Consequently, dialogue seems hardly possible. Now, new research published in WIRES Climate Change suggests a better way forward.

Sirkku Juhola, a sustainability scientist at the University of Helsinki, argues that we should give up protective stances and explore diverse ways to approach responsibility as such. Building on previous work by other researchers, Juhola distinguishes four types of climate responsibility: care, liability, accountability, and responsiveness.

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Approaching climate responsibility as care allows for taking an anticipatory approach with the state acting as a key authority to prevent negative impacts of climate change on society before they occur. In today’s world, the approach is mostly manifested in Nationally Determined Contributions that align national climate action with goals set by the Paris Agreement.

While Juhola talks mainly about formal procedures, this also resonates with climate advocate Holly Buck’s suggestion for rediscovering ethics of care for the Earth in these times of the Anthropocene. From this perspective, shifting from blame to care can support more ambitious action and enhance collaboration among actors.  […]

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