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Global environmental (in)equity and the cosmopolitan project

Lorraine Elliott

CSGR Working Paper No. 95/02

April 2002




This paper examines the relationship between economic globalisation and environmental inequity which is defined in terms of transnational harm and injustice. It argues that globalisation has been neither normatively neutral nor materially benign in its environmental consequences. The global politics of the environment has therefore come to be characterised by inequities in the use of resources and production of waste, in environmental impact, and in access to the structures of environmental governance at a local and global level. In effect, the lives of others-beyond-borders are shaped without their participation or consent. Drawing on cosmopolitanism as an ethical and political practice suggests that at least three conditions are essential for an equitable and just form of global environmental governance: recognition of equal moral obligation across borders, compensatory burden-sharing and a politics of consent. However, actual global practice on the environment has fallen short on each, complicated and compromised by uncertainty over the role of the state as moral agent in a globalised world.

Keywords: environment; globalisation; inequity; distributive justice; cosmopolitan theory; civil society

Address for correspondence:

Lorraine Elliott
Department of International Relations
Research School f Pacific and Asian Studies
Australian National University
Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia

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