Book China and Great Power Responsibility for Climate Change
This chapter offers an approach to responsibility informed by the English School by discussing the ways in which responsibilities are negotiated, allocated and implemented in international society. It begins with an overview of theoretical accounts of responsibility by asking what responsibility means in legal and moral terms. The chapter argues that responsibilities are always constructed in social processes that are collectively referred as responsibilisation. It examines how the practices of state responsibility materialise in real life and asks what sort of multidimensional responsibilities states bear and ought to bear regarding climate change. Coercion has been an important means of the expansion of European international society; many non-Western states, including China, were coerced into participating in international practices by way of colonisation and other oppressive means prior to the twentieth century. Within the English School, pluralists take a highly state-centric approach to responsibility. They emphasise the values of states and pay less attention to other ethical aspects of state practices.
Within and outside the English School it is widely accepted that organisations such as states, corporations and institutions are moral agents. After all, they are human constellations, and humans cannot evade moral questions of right and wrong (cf. Erskine 2003; French 1984; French & Wettstein 2006; Mayer
& Vogt 2006). States – more precisely, the legitimate representatives of states – bear ultimate responsibility for peaceful coexistence in international society because they have the highest authority to make decisions and take actions, including ones concerning the use of coercive power in their respective sover- eign territories. This chapter oﬀers an approach to responsibility informed by the English School by discussing the ways in which responsibilities are nego- tiated, allocated and implemented in international society. I begin with an overview of theoretical accounts of responsibility by asking what responsi- bility means in legal and moral terms. I deliberately avoid discussing rights at length given the extensive body of literature on human rights, including environmental ones.1 Clearly, responsibilities are tied to rights; if someone has a right, then others have, at a bare minimum, a corresponding responsibility to refrain from infringing that right. Next, I argue that responsibilities are always constructed in social processes that I refer to collectively as responsi- bilisation. As members of international society, states have to participate in fulﬁlling and assigning responsibilities within that society. In the last section, I examine how the practices of state responsibility materialise in real life and ask what sort of multidimensional responsibilities states bear and ought to bear regarding climate change. To that end, the English School provides insightful standpoints for investigating those questions.
Many meanings of responsibility
Responsibility is a nebulous concept, and talking about what it means to be responsible warrants the consideration of numerous dimensions. For instance, we have to clarify the subject and the object of responsibility: who or what is responsible for what, and to whom is the subject accountable? By extension, we also have to draw a distinction between ‘identifying responsibility and assigning it’ (Miller 2007, 84). According to David Miller, the former task concerns determining ‘who, if anybody, meets the relevant conditions for being responsible’, whereas the latter ‘involves a decision to attach certain costs or beneﬁts to an agent, whether or not the relevant conditions are ful- ﬁlled’ (ibid.). In his landmark book Punishment and Responsibility, H. L. A. Hart (1968, 212–230) characterises four types of responsibility: role-responsi- bility, causal-responsibility, liability-responsibility and capacity-responsibility. Role-responsibility suggests that all social roles have their own ‘sphere of responsibility’; each position in a social organisation is attached to short-term tasks or duties whose fulﬁlment somehow advances the goals of the organi- sation. Accordingly, a responsible person is someone who takes those duties seriously and behaves correspondingly (ibid., 212–213). By contrast, causal- responsibility describes the relationship between cause and outcome; for instance, ‘A is responsible for Y’ means that Y is a direct or indirect result of what A has done. As Hart’s (1968, 211) story about a drunken captain demonstrates, it is also possible for things, conditions and events to be responsible for results. In that sense, no moral blame is attached to causal responsibility. To some extent, causal responsibility is assumed to be an important, although not an entirely suﬃcient, precondition for moral and legal responsibility, or what Hart calls liability-responsibility. Hart’s conceptualisa- tion of liability-responsibility distinguishes legal from moral liability-responsi- bility. When considering liability in the context of legal responsibility, ‘A is responsible for Y’ means that A is somehow at fault in causing Y and can be rightfully punished for it in legal terms. For instance, a person who breaks the law is usually regarded to be liable if a certain range of necessary and suﬃcient (e.g. psychological) conditions are met.2 However, when considering moral liability-responsibility, ‘A is responsible for Y’ means that A is blameworthy for Y, which can be rightfully disapproved in moral terms. Similar to legal liability, moral liability-responsibility also presupposes that a person has certain normal capacities, including freedom of choice. Last, capacity-responsibility can be understood from the expression ‘A is responsible for his/her actions’ if he or she possesses a normal (e.g. psychological) capacity of understanding and control (Hart 1968, 227). In international justice, capacity is an important precondi- tion for judging a state’s responsibilities. If a state has no capacity to act appropriately, then how can it be held responsible?
Many scholars distinguish legal from moral responsibility. At ﬁrst glance, both types presumably refer to the same sort of responsibility, at least in an ideal world. However, mostly for practical reasons, they are not always iden- tical. The greatest diﬀerence between them is that legal responsibility is always judged by a jurisdiction, whereas moral responsibility is assessed by morals, a ‘kind of internal law, governing those inner thoughts and volitions which are completely subject to the agent’s control, and administered before the tribunal of conscience’ (Feinberg 1970, 33). Another distinguishing fea- ture of legal compared to moral responsibility is their temporal orientation. The focus of legal responsibility is always retrospective; for instance, a court asks whether A is guilty of doing harm to X. Accordingly, a person cannot be held legally responsible for something that he or she has not done (or failed to do). Usually, assessing moral responsibility follows a similar logic; we cast moral blame upon someone for something that he or she has done or failed to do. Moral responsibility, however, can also be prospective, as the concept of sustainable development demonstrates. Often, both legal responsibility and moral responsibility contain a causal component; one is either legally or morally at fault for the harm that one has committed.3 Thus, a person cannot be held responsible for something that has not happened because of their actions. With respect to climate change, however, it is exceptionally diﬃcult, if not impossible, to identify a single state or private enterprise as being at fault for causing climate change. On its own, causality is not a justiﬁed factor of responsibility; however, there are other conditions of moral and legal judge- ment as well, including intentions, motives and choices, which are important when determining responsibility. A person cannot be held responsible for an event that occurs incidentally or due to factors beyond their control. To be morally blameworthy, a person is usually expected to have had an opportu- nity and the freedom to ‘have acted otherwise than he did’ (Ross 1975, 15). Thus, free will and the absence of coercion is an important condition; a person has to have acted voluntarily in order to be held responsible for an event (May 1992, 16). However, that dynamic does not necessarily mean that people are held responsible for their actions only: omissions matter as well.
Consequentialist theorists, who emphasise the signiﬁcance of beneﬁcial outcomes, claim that a person can also be held morally responsible for his or her omissions. In fact, they make no distinction between consequences resulting from acts or omissions. That view opposes deontologism, whose proponents seek to determine why agents do what they do and thus ask what the real motives are behind their actions. ‘What matters much more to them [deontologists]’, Goodin (1995, 47) writes, ‘are individuals’ [or states’] motives and intentions. They also insist that it be done, and be seen to be done, for the right reasons’. Because deontologists pay less attention to the consequences of acts, they do not hold persons responsible for their omissions. The distinction between positive and negative responsibility is often demonstrated in terms of the diﬀerence between killing (i.e. in which an agent plays an active role) and letting die (i.e. in which an agent plays a passive role), which have the same consequence (Vanderheiden 2008, 151–152). However, in climate politics, it does not matter what an agent’s motives are in taking action; climate miti- gation does not have to be performed for humanitarian, environmental or other altruistic reasons but could be a side-eﬀect of energy security projects or the development of so-called ‘green jobs’.4 What counts is that states shoulder their responsibility to mitigate climate change and cut their greenhouse gas emissions, to which end they can choose the most suitable and cost-eﬃcient mitigating actions. Although some states prefer to rely upon market-oriented economic mechanisms, some choose to establish new regulations and taxes and some pursue new technologies, all such means seek to achieve the goal of climate protection.
Feinberg (1970, 31–32) points out that moral responsibility ‘cannot be a matter of luck’, as it often is in the law, but ‘must be something one can nei- ther escape by good luck nor tumble into through bad luck’. Feinberg illus- trates that concept – what Thomas Nagel (1979, 24–38) calls ‘moral luck’ – with the following example:
One man shoots another and kills him, and the law holds him responsible for the death and hangs him. Another man, with exactly the same motives and intentions, takes careful aim and shoots at his enemy but misses because of a last-minute movement of his prey or because of his own bad eyesight. The law cannot hold him responsible for a death because he has not caused one; but, from the moral point of view, he is only luckier than the hanged murderer.(Feinberg 1970, 31–32).
When it comes to international climate politics, Russia has beneﬁtted from the decision that the benchmark year of the Kyoto Protocol is 1990, a year prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union and, in turn, the closure of many ineﬃcient factories. Because post-Soviet Russia’s emissions are therefore compared to the emissions of all 15 former Soviet republics, the country does not need to not do anything in order to comply with targets for reducing international emissions. In that case, Feinberg’s example, when applied ana- logously, suggests that international climate law cannot hold Russia irre- sponsible even if it does nothing to mitigate climate change; however, from a moral standpoint, Russia is simply luckier than other polluting states. By contrast, Iceland is one of the few states operating entirely on renewable energy, which, though outstanding, is not the result of political decision making. More accurately, Iceland, as a small volcanic island blessed with geothermal energy sources, is simply a very lucky country in terms of renew- able energy resources. To some extent, both Russia’s and Iceland’s fulﬁlment of climate responsibility is a matter of luck; however, in moral terms, they could be urged to make additional eﬀorts to mitigate climate change, espe- cially if we assume that being responsible involves making sacriﬁces.
In addition to the division between legal liability and moral responsibility, there are other ways to conceptualise responsibility. For example, David Miller (2007, 81–109) provides an interesting alternative by distinguishing two senses of responsibility. On the one hand, outcome responsibility is the responsibility that people shoulder for their own actions and decisions; on the other, remedial responsibility acknowledges that people have responsibility to aid others in need of help. Another useful conceptualisation is Iris Marion Young’s division between the liability model of responsibility and the social connection model of responsibility. ‘Under this liability model’, Young (2006,
116) writes, ‘one assigns responsibility to a particular agent (or agents) whose actions can be shown to be causally connected to the circumstances for which responsibility is sought’. By contrast, the social connection model recognises that ‘[o]ur responsibility derives from belonging together with others in a system of interdependent processes of cooperation and competition through which we seek beneﬁts and aim to realize projects’ (ibid., 119).
Both Miller and Young argue that the concepts of legal and moral responsibility focus too much on causality and past actions by asking who is to blame for speciﬁc harms. In doing so, the concepts fail to identify the for- ward-looking responsibility of agents to seek beneﬁcial outcomes and prevent harmful ones from happening. After all, asserting responsibility involves more than pinpointing the chief culprit in a speciﬁc crisis. As Young (2006, 122) hypothesises, the point of responsibility is ‘not to blame, punish, or seek redress from those who did it [committed an act], but rather to enjoin those who participate by their actions in the process of collective action to change it’. As the principle of the responsibility to protect maintains, states have a forward-looking responsibility to prevent humanitarian crises whether or not they can be legally or morally held at fault for the course of events that have resulted in the current state of aﬀairs. If states do not contribute to resolving the problems for which they are not to blame, then harmful practices will persist and could negatively aﬀect other international practices in the process. Adhering to that system would contradict the ultimate purpose of assigning responsibilities – that is, ‘not for duty-bearers to suﬀer more but for right- bearers to enjoy more of what they are entitled to’ (Shue 1988, 697). Responsibility is therefore not only retrospective, although it largely consists of elements derived from legal and moral ethics.
Yet another conceptualisation is Robert Jackson’s situational ethics, which emphasises that, in the end, taking or assigning responsibility involves making responsible choices. Responsible choices should not, as Jackson (2000, 22) notes, be ‘confused with perfect choices’: ‘Human decisions, espe- cially political decisions, cannot be expected to be perfect’ but ‘only be expected to be justiﬁed’. Accordingly, ‘Responsible choices are the best choi- ces in circumstances, or at least most defensible choices’ (ibid.), meaning that when we assess state responsibility, we can at least expect states to make responsible choices in restrictive circumstances. Responsible choices are diﬃ- cult decisions made between ‘conﬂicting but equally compelling’ interests and values; sometimes such choices are ‘between greater and lesser evil’, and sometimes they involve sacriﬁce (ibid., 142). Because making responsible choices is highly diﬃcult decision making, Jackson suggests that we char- acterise a responsible state leader as ‘somebody who can make the best of a bad situation’ (ibid., 148).
As demonstrated in the previous section, responsibility is a social conception. There is no single moral compendium that applies to everybody in all cir- cumstances or any ‘ﬁnal authority’, comparable to God, which would have the highest moral authority. Life is far too complex to formulate a single, universal moral ethics, but statements about responsibility always derive from human practices. The only way to evaluate an actor’s responsibilities is to situate them in the context of the social practice or practices in which he, she or it operates as a moral actor. By extension, the responsibilities of states are not given or known facts of life, but deﬁning and allocating them are matters of ethics. Legal ethics makes no exception, either; viewing any legal text as a given is unnecessary because legal texts are generally reﬂections and products of social practices. Legal responsibility is thus always relative and cannot simply be ‘read oﬀ the facts’ or ‘discovered’ because it is ‘something to be decided’ (Feinberg 1970, 27).
Inspired by William Clapton (2011), who has theorised processes of ris- kisation, meaning social processes in which certain issues are identiﬁed, assessed and managed as risks and their constitutive eﬀects on international society, I apply the concept of responsibilisation to scrutinise processes in which (international) responsibilities are constructed. As much as issues become risks or security threats by way of riskisation or securitisation, some issues are responsibilised via discursive practices in order to promote their normative importance, for instance, or to oblige agents to take certain measures. My conceptualisation of responsibilisation diﬀers signiﬁcantly from the sort of responsibilisation that appears in studies of neoliberal governmentality and criminology in reference to a state’s disavowal of responsibility or shunting of responsibility to its citizens.5 By contrast, my notion of responsibilisation stresses that responsibilities are not given but socially conceived; consequently, the only way to study them is to investi- gate processes of how and by whom they are discursively shaped in (inter- national) social interactions as well as how and by whom they are performed in speciﬁc settings. Understanding why someone is considered to be responsible to another for an event in a speciﬁc context requires sys- tematically analysing numerous aspects of responsibility, especially agency, subject and object (i.e. who should be deemed responsible for what and to whom or what), normative context (i.e. which values underpin notions of responsibility), institutional organisation (i.e. whether notions of responsi- bility are institutionalised and, if so, then how) and the social and political eﬀects of responsibilisation (i.e. whose notions of responsibility work to empower or marginalise others), for instance (cf. Clapton 2011).
Responsibilisation suggests that though responsibility is impossible to see or measure, it can be discussed, hence my close attention to discourses in studying processes of responsibilisation. Interviews, for example, can aﬀord insights into what is understood to be responsible behaviour in speciﬁc con- texts and why. My understanding of responsibilisation assumes that secondary institutions are key venues of the international politics of responsibility because they oﬀer states and non-state actors a forum in which to negotiate deﬁnitions, discuss the distribution and implementation of rights and respon- sibilities in international society and monitor the fulﬁlment of those agree- ments. In contrast to primary institutions, secondary ones are empirically observable bodies, meaning that their decision-making procedures, rules and other organisational structures can be investigated. It is also possible to examine the power relations among members of secondary institutions and analyse the contributions of speciﬁc participants to processes of responsibili- sation. Moreover, secondary institutions and their constitutive documents are principal sources for collecting empirical research material about how pri- mary institutions have sustained and organised international society in the modern era (Kopra 2018, Kopra forthcoming).
Resolutions of the UN General Assembly provide a good starting point from which to consider the emergence and evolution of processes of respon- sibilisation in international society. At ﬁrst glance, such abstract declarations may seem insigniﬁcant and irrelevant to actual political practices. After all, they do not necessarily create legally binding obligations but instead express what states hope to achieve. From a legal perspective, however, they are important ‘acts from which views about customary law can be inferred’ (Perrez 2000, 278). ‘What matters’, Falkner (2012, 514) observes,‘is that they represent an explicit manifestation of an implicitly assumed and broadly accepted fundamental norm’. The more often the UN reiter- ates the environmental responsibility of states, for instance, the more likely the UN is to aﬀect both international law and state practices. At the same time, though changes in political discourses are integral to the process of changing political practices, focusing on discourse is not entirely suﬃcient for studying state responsibility. It is worthless to merely discuss responsi- bility because responsibility has to materialise in responsible actions both at home and abroad. When studying climate responsibility in particular, it is therefore necessary to look beyond statements expressing responsibilities, for how such words are institutionalised and acted upon requires scrutiny. Ultimately, we need to consider the broader ramiﬁcations of those pro- cesses as well.
Drivers of responsibility
Ian Hurd (1999) identiﬁes three general reasons why states participate in international practices: coercion, calculations as well as identity and belief (cf. Buzan 2004a, 103, 130–133, 253–261; Hurd 2007, 30–40; Hurrell 2007, 67–77; Wendt 1999, 247–250). I argue that all three drivers are active pro- cesses and that, contrary to the constructivist tendency, it is unnecessary and impossible to assess the extent to which a state has internalised the rules of international practice. First, coercion, which Hurd identiﬁes from a realist perspective, is the weakest reason of the three because social practices force- fully imposed by outsiders are not internalised whatsoever by actors them- selves. Second, calculations, identiﬁed from a liberalist perspective, rests upon rational self-interest comparisons of the costs and beneﬁts of participating in international practices. Third, identity and belief, identiﬁed from a con- structivist perspective, is the most profound and stable of the three reasons; states participate in and follow the rules of a given international practice because they believe in the moral legitimacy of the rule or the legitimacy of the international organisation that formulated it (Hurd 1999, 387). In reality, the relationship of the three drivers of internalising practices is complex, and none of them is likely to exist in a ‘pure, isolated form’ (ibid., 389). On the contrary, because all social practices are held together by a mélange of all three drivers, it is the ‘necessity of mixture, and how to deal with it, [that] … deﬁnes politics’ (Buzan 2004a, 130). Of course, states’ identities and pre- ferences change over time; the world changes, political leaders change and values change. Even if a state participates in an international practice for egoistic or other less-than-magnanimous reasons at one time, it does not mean that those interests alone will motivate the same practice in the future. At the same time, international practices can also inﬂuence participants’ beliefs and identities by shaping their values and preferences. Participation in international climate practices, for example, can change a state’s ideas of human wellbeing; though a state might have previously prioritised economic factors of wellbeing, it could begin to give greater value to cultivating a clean environment and a stable climate system. Over time, initially groundbreaking ideas can even become established practices taken for granted in social relations.
In the following sections I only brieﬂy introduce Hurd’s ﬁrst two reasons why states participate in international practices – coercion and calculations – for the former is not a widely meaningful factor in the context of climate responsibility, whereas the latter has already been extensively studied by rationalists. By contrast, because Hurd’s third reason, legitimacy and belief, is of interest to the study of state responsibility, I explore it in greater detail and from a broader perspective of identity politics. In particular, I argue the links among identity, participation in social practices and responsibility are espe- cially strong.
Coercion and regulations
‘Coercion’, Hurd (2007, 35) writes, ‘refers to a relation of asymmetrical phy- sical power among agents, where this asymmetry is applied to changing the behavior of the weaker agent’. Amid the circumstance of coercion, a state participates in an international practice because it is physically or psycholo- gically forced to. In other words, a state’s participation in the practice is motivated by the fear of retribution or of physical compulsion. Coercion has been an important means of the expansion of European international society; many non-Western states, including China, were coerced into participating in international practices by way of colonisation and other oppressive means prior to the twentieth century. However, practices of solidarity, including human rights, can also be spread via coercion. For instance, in response to climate change, an eco-intervention could be made to coerce reluctant states to adopt environmentally beneﬁcial laws.
Economic sanctions are a typical example of a non-violent form of coer- cion in contemporary international politics. International law can also be viewed as a more restrained and prudent form of coercion; when an interna- tional norm is given the status of law, states become legally bound to adhere to the norm. The status of law thus ‘constitutes an independent reason for action’ (Bodansky 2010, 91). To a similar extent, international treaties can set directives and speciﬁc responsibilities in order to guide the conduct of parti- cipants, who might be permitted, encouraged, or even required to take a cer- tain action or not. At times, states might also be socially coerced to follow the formal rules of a practice – for example, majority decision making – because they are ‘adopted in a manner that the actor accepts as legitimate’ even if the states themselves resist such rules (ibid., 90). Once a state has ratiﬁed a treaty, it is obliged to follow the treaty’s rules and fulﬁl its stipulated responsibility not because it has internalised the responsibility but because it is bound by the treaty and acting otherwise could warrant sanctions. In that case, a state’s compliance is not only coerced by international regulations but also moti- vated by calculations. Last, international regulations additionally inﬂuence state behaviour, whether or not the state has ratiﬁed a speciﬁc international treaty concerning the issue. Even if the political leaders of a state do not place a premium on solidarist practices such as human rights and animal welfare, international practices and regulations might nevertheless constrain and inﬂuence domestic policies. In that case, the agency of non-state actors is essential to creating social pressure put upon states.
Power politics is an important incentive for states’ participation in interna- tional practices. States can use international institutions to promote their values and policies globally, which is naturally considered to constitute a more legit- imate means than coercion. As Franz Xaver Perrez (2000, 340) observes:
eﬀorts to ensure international cooperation may be conceived sometimes rather as attempts to coerce less powerful states to bring their behaviour into conformity with the interests of the most powerful states than as eﬀorts to solve common problems cooperatively.
Although negotiations of responsibilities within secondary institutions are bound by power, the most powerful participants cannot dictate what sort of responsibilities participants ought to shoulder. All of the participants can usually participate in negotiations regarding what sort of responsibilities they are assumed to bear; in that sense, they are not coerced into taking responsi- bility, for such responsibilities are voluntary and not subject to coercion. It is therefore unlikely that real normative change results from coercion.
Liberalists maintain that states cooperate with each other because it is in their interest to do so. Above all, they argue, the costs of warfare have increased, and states cannot solve global problems without international cooperation. Moreover, international norms and organisations are available to help states to solve common problems and organise cooperative eﬀorts. From that per- spective, states participate in international practices and make commitments in order to promote and maintain their national interests for the same reason that they comply with international treaties that they have signed. Because most of the goals and interests of a state are domestic, a state’s participation in international practices is thus motivated by domestic interests; the needs and desires of the state guide the practices in which it participates, how it attempts to shape the goals and rules of the practice and which sorts of responsibilities it is willing to shoulder. In response to climate change, each state makes calculations regarding whether and, if so, then to what extent it is willing bear the costs of mitigating climate change and what the costs of non- participation should be in terms of lost credibility and ﬁnancial consequences. Such calculations necessarily involve normative evaluations of the value that a state places upon cultivating a healthy environment. For example, does a state regard environmental protection only in terms of costs, or does nature have some intrinsic value in the calculations?
Self-interest can be an inﬂuential incentive for states to participate in international practices. Cost–beneﬁt calculations can motivate a state to change its behaviour and assign responsibility for practices because non- participation would harm its interests and image on an international scale. However, interests do not entirely explain state behaviour. As constructivists maintain, interests are not given, and diﬀerent individuals, as well as states, have diﬀerent sorts of interest. ‘[I]nterests presuppose identities’, Wendt (1999, 231) writes, ‘because an actor cannot know what it wants until it knows who it is’. Ringmar (1996, 13) similarly observes, ‘It is only as some- one that we can want some-thing, and it is only once we know who we are that we can know what we want.’ Cost–beneﬁt calculations are therefore unlikely to cause profound changes in an actor’s preferences and values, and consequently, their inﬂuence can be brief or limited, if not both. Long-term relations among participants motivated by self-interest are thus diﬃcult to maintain because such participants do not value those relations or sorts of cooperation. Social practices that rely heavily on self-interest necessarily have weak foundations and can easily disintegrate if power relations shift (Hurd 1999, 387). Therefore, we have to examine a state’s identity in order to understand why it assumes responsibilities that can even involve under- mining its interests.
Identity, practices and responsibility
Cosmopolitans believe that globalisation and increased interdependence among states and populations have fostered the emergence of a global society characterised by solidarist notions of morality. In accordance with the argu- ably fragile global ‘we-feeling’, Hurd’s third reason why states participate in international practices indicates that states take part because they believe they have to. That belief relates closely to identity, which is both a subjective and an objective discourse of the self; it concerns how a person, society or state as well as others perceive and establish distinctiveness in social interactions. At the personal level, questions to that end include ‘Who am I?’, ‘What am I?’ and ‘What do others think I am?’ Identity is also always linked to others, the common question about which is ‘What am I not?’. Furthermore, identity is material as well as ideational. Although based on the material site of a body or the territory of a state, ideas – values, beliefs, knowledge, attitudes and memories – make it special. Identity is ‘what allows us to deﬁne what is important to us and what is not’ (Taylor 1989, 30). ‘My identity’, Charles Taylor (1989, 27) explains, ‘is deﬁned by the commitments and identiﬁcations which provide the frame or horizon within which I can try to determine from case to case what is good, or valuable, or what ought to be done, or what I endorse or oppose.’ Such ‘commitments and identiﬁcations’ are constructed within social practices – for example, religious, political, educational and family practices in which a person, society or state participates – that allocate certain responsibilities to participants. Identity is therefore a ‘lived experience of participation in speciﬁc communities’ (Wenger 1998, 151), and practices shape participants’ identities, notions of morality and senses of appropriate courses of action. Because practices anchor identities ‘in each other and what we do together’, it is challenging to transform identity in isolation from other participants involved in the practice (Wenger 1998, 89). If a person is exclu- ded from a practice important to his or her identity, he or she might face a so- called ‘identity crisis’. By extension, large communities such as states need to have normative and organisational ideas that ‘signify to their members what they stand for’ and ‘guide them in their interactions in the international arena’ (Legro 2005, 6). Ideologies, for instance, are beliefs that deﬁne what is deemed right and wrong in a society (Watson 1982, 68). They are incorpo- rated in identities and embedded in various social practices related to gov- ernmental procedures, education systems and the rhetoric of the political elite (Legro 2005, 6; cf. Haas 2005).
Again, an identity is not an exclusive, inherent asset of a person, society or state because others shape that identity as well. As Ringmar (1996, 13) explains, ‘We need recognition for the persons we take ourselves to be, and only as recognised can we conclusively come to establish an identity’. Status or social identity is therefore an important element of identity, and the pursuit of a favourable one can be a signiﬁcant driver for a state’s participation in international practices. That idea relates to questions of self-interest and cal- culations discussed above; it can be quite diﬃcult to distinguish legitimacy from interests, for states may accept international norms because doing so serves their interests. Conversely, the concept of legitimacy clariﬁes why states sometimes participate in practices against their own interests. According to Mark Suchman (1995, 574), legitimacy is ‘a generalised perception or assumption that the actions of an entity are desirable, proper, or appropriate within some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs, and deﬁni- tions’. If states accept the rules of an international practice as legitimate and justiﬁed, then they participate in the practice not only due to fear of retribu- tion or calculations of self-interest but because of their ‘internal sense of rightness and obligation’ (Hurd 2007, 30). The perception of legitimacy ‘may come from the substance of the rule or from the procedure or source by which it was constituted’ (ibid., 381). In that case, a state internalises the rules of a practice and incorporates them into its identity and interests, and, as a result, it assumes responsibility for the practice because it is the fairest course of action to take.
Consequently, there are fundamental links among practices, identity and responsibility. The ﬁrst link, between identity and responsibility in particular, is historical. To some extent, any current self-understanding is a product of past choices and commitments. For example, China’s contemporary identity and approach to responsibility has been shaped strongly by its past imperial and Maoist practices. The second link concerns the here and now and, at a personal level, asks the question ‘Who am I?’ Usually, the answer is a name (‘I’m Mary’) or a statement related to practices in which a person currently takes part (‘I’m the mother of Mary’, ‘I’m a Catholic’ or ‘I’m a professor’). The latter sort of answer thus refers to what Hart (1968, 212) would call role-responsibility, what Wendt (1999, 227) would call role identity and what role theorists would call role conceptions (e.g. Harnisch 2011). The third link is social; the commitments and identiﬁcations of others also shape self-understandings and the responsi- bilities that people assume. To quote Buzan (2004b, 68):
At the end of the day, it is not what states are, or what they say about themselves and others, that determines status, but how they calculate their own behaviour and, most importantly, how they respond to the behaviour of others.
Regarding China’s climate responsibility, the commitments of developed countries form an essential precondition of China’s motivation to assume greater global responsibility. At the same time, there is no causal relationship between identity and responsibility, and identities alone cannot explain action. To understand why and what sort of responsibilities a person assumes in practice, we have to explore their interests. By extension, when it comes to states, national interests and goals are important when assigning responsi- bilities because each state – more accurately, its government – has certain goals that it seeks to accomplish. Those goals reﬂect a state’s identity and values and motivate it to take certain actions. Accordingly, a state’s identity and interests inﬂuence the sort of practices in which it might participate and what sorts of responsibilities it is willing to or capable of assuming in relation to the practice. Free-riding and the failure to fulﬁl those responsibilities would harm its international image and self-conception – its identity – as a respon- sible member of the international society.
Climate change and practices of state responsibility
Within the English School, pluralists take a highly state-centric approach to responsibility. They emphasise the values of states and pay less attention to other ethical aspects of state practices. Because pluralists regard international order as the most valuable common good of international society, they stress the duty to uphold international order as a state’s primary responsibility to other states. In practice, however, a state’s policies and actions, especially those of a great power, aﬀect the lives of all people as well as non-human species worldwide. Conversely, the solidarist camp of the English School underscores human values in international relations. They maintain that a state’s chief responsibility is to promote human justice at home and abroad. Since both pluralists and solidarists make important observations of and contributions to international ethics, I do not conﬁne my theorisation of state responsibility to either one but employ Buzan’s highly useful conception of state-centric solidarism. According to my state-centric solidarist reading, both pluralists and solidarists essentially agree that the ultimate referent object of state responsibility is humans; both consider peace and security to be crucial to human wellbeing. From a pluralist perspective, states should uphold inter- national order because it is a precondition of international security and, in turn, of human wellbeing. By contrast, solidarists conceive international jus- tice to be an important condition of human wellbeing as well. Whereas soli- darists regard the entire community of humans as the referent object of state responsibility, pluralists focus on the wellbeing of citizens of individual states and scrutinise the ways in which states can fulﬁl their domestic responsibilities to their citizens. From the perspective of state-centric solidarism, the ultimate aim of international society is therefore to promote human wellbeing.
Although pluralism has a so-called ‘ought-side’, solidarism has been more purposeful in campaigning for situations that ought to be pursued in order to cultivate a fairer world. However, Buzan’s (2014a, 113) conception of state- centric solidarism argues that solidarism and pluralism are not necessarily opposite poles but ‘interlinked sides in an ongoing debate about the moral construction of international order’. Although Jackson can doubtlessly be categorised in the pluralist camp of the English School, he also oﬀers excep- tionally useful conceptual tools for analysing state responsibility from the perspective of state-centric solidarism. According to Jackson (2000, 170–178), governments have plural, multi-dimensional responsibilities: national ones based on realism and the promotion of national interests, international ones based on rationalism and the state’s membership in international society, humanitarian ones based on revolutionism or cosmopolitanism and member- ship in the human race and other responsibilities to the global commons based on the idea of global trusteeship and humankind’s responsibility for Earth’s health.
Inspired by Buzan and Jackson, I locate practices of state responsibility on a broad spectrum of diﬀering orientations towards moral referent objects.
Such a conceptualisation is not a matter of value judgement because I do not mean that one category is somehow more important than the others. By contrast, I intend to demonstrate that diﬀerent notions of responsibility are based on diﬀerent ideas about the referent objects of responsibility. At one end of the spectrum is pluralism, which focuses on states as moral referent objects. Environmental issues, apart from national environmental security, are thus largely ignored from the pluralist end, and the creation and enforcement of international norms is therefore diﬃcult and rare. At the other end of the spectrum is ecocentrism, which gives nature moral priority, and between those two ends are state-centric solidarism and cosmopolitan solidarism. Because the two ends of the spectrum are unlikely pursuits in reality, I dismiss the pluralist end of the spectrum, at which a state is responsible only for its own survival. Instead, I argue that, at a bare minimum, states have national responsibilities and are always responsible for the wellbeing of their citizens. If not, then why would states exist at all? Instead, I discuss the other end of the spectrum – ecocentrism – which I consider to be the ultimate ought-side of the responsibility of states. An important, albeit unanswerable, question thus concerns the relationship between cosmopolitanism and ecocentrism. If viewed as the very end of the spectrum, does ecocentrism presuppose a cos- mopolitan world society, or can international society be ecocentric?
State responsibilities are doubtlessly very complex. Although I distinguish four categories of general responsibilities, I do not by any means argue that the categorisation is exhaustive. A state’s responsibilities can overlap and conﬂict; they can also shift when circumstances change. Diﬀerent types of international societies have diﬀerent sorts of primary institutions and prac- tices because the ‘institutions of international society are according to its nature’ (Wight 1999 , 111). Likewise, distinct sorts of practices have distinct ethics; even if it is accepted that environmental trusteeship has emerged as a primary institution of international society (Buzan 2004a, 186; Buzan 2014a, 161–163; Falkner 2012; Falkner & Buzan 2018; Kopra forth- coming; Palmujoki 2013), the nature of the institution depends, for instance, upon where international society falls on the spectra of pluralism–solidarism and anthropocentrism–ecocentrism. In the system of states or in a highly pluralist international society, a state is interested only in the environment within its national territory. States conceive nature as a stock of resources and thus focus on environmental concerns such as pollution, waste and the insuf- ﬁciency of natural resources from a local perspective. In a more solidarist international society, by contrast, states cooperate to respond to global environmental concerns because they recognise that they cause as well as suﬀer from environmental harm beyond their borders. At the ultimate end of the pluralist-solidarist spectrum, states may follow ecocentric principles. Altogether, the primary institution of environmental trusteeship can be highly pluralist, yet its existence does not necessarily mean that a shared norm of climate responsibility exists. Although climate change is often viewed as a subcategory of environmental problems, it diﬀers starkly from traditional environmental problems.
Climate change is truly a global problem, and all attempts to counteract it presuppose the existence of an international society. Similarly to Jackson, I distinguish national and humanitarian responsi- bilities even though they can be merged into the single category of human- centric responsibility. Because I am slightly pessimistic about the potential of states to act for reasons above and beyond pluralism, I assume that states tend to pay greater attention to the wellbeing of their citizens than to the wellbeing of other humans. The term national responsibility also implies that states have state-centric responsibilities, including their own survival as sovereign states. In a cosmopolitan international society, both the categories of national and international responsibility can be abandoned because nationality becomes irrelevant to assessing the nature, scope and depth of responsibility. At the same time, environmental responsibility becomes parti- cularly diﬃcult to demarcate. If nature is viewed as having only instrumental value for humans, then diﬀerentiating it as an independent category becomes unnecessary and only the sort of environmental aspects that pertain to a state’s national, international and humanitarian responsibilities need to be discussed. In that case, the focus would fall upon the environmental security of each category. However, such a view would be too limited and would not acknowledge the intrinsic value of nature. To emphasise nature as a referent object of state responsibility, I choose to distinguish it as the ultimate end of state responsibility.
Although many realists have averred that a state’s responsibility stops at the national border, some have begun to question that assumption by introducing ethical questions into realist research agenda (cf. Chang 2011) and maintain- ing that states should respect the views and interests of other nations. Although Jackson’s conceptualisation of national responsibility derives sig- niﬁcantly from classical realism it does not necessarily dismiss ethics. On the contrary, it presents an enlightened version of realism holding that a state’s ﬁrst obligation’ and ‘chief duty’ is to preserve its national interests (Wight 1999 , 95; Watson 1982, 206). For Jackson (2000, 170), national responsibility is par excellence a ‘moral relation between a state and its citi- zens’ as he sees the moral obligation of national interest as the ‘fundamental standard of conduct’ and national security as a foundational value. In other words, Jackson suggests that national interest is a ‘moral idea governing the conduct of statespeople: the idea that the nation and its population are a treasure which they have the responsibility to safeguard’ (ibid., 21). Therefore, states have a moral obligation to defend national interests driven by a ‘moral concern for the ﬂourishing of the national population, for their good life’ (ibid.,171). Clearly, however, national interest can be viewed as a moral guideline only if deﬁned more broadly than in narrow, self-interested terms that focus on state security.6
From another angle, literature on happiness suggests that governments face strong incentives to assume the happiness of citizens as their ultimate responsibility (e.g. Duncan 2010; Bok 2010). However, thus far, Bhutan is the only nation to have adopted ‘gross-national happiness’ as the central aim of its national policy.7 A pluralist approach to national responsibility would suggest that the happiness of the state – or more broadly, the wellbeing of citizens – should be the only legitimate goal of national policies. However, solidarists would disagree for both moral and practical reasons. They would argue, for example, that even if a government’s moral duty is to promote the wellbeing of its citizens, it should not do so by infringing upon the wellbeing of citizens of other states because it has responsibilities beyond its own bor- ders. Moreover, they would add, responsible governments should not exclu- sively promote the short-term wellbeing of their present populations and not avoid making diﬃcult decisions that promote the long-term wellbeing of their citizens but conﬂict with their short-term (e.g. economic) interests.8
Because the concept of national responsibility emphasises the signiﬁcance of the domestic responsibilities of states, it identiﬁes international law and secondary institutions as ‘instrumental arrangements which are justiﬁed by how well they serve the national interest of states’ (Jackson 2000, 170). Accordingly, the concept maintains that states are foremost responsible for the wellbeing of their own citizens, not that of foreign countries and their populations (ibid., 171). As for foreign aﬀairs, that sort of normative standard supports Machiavellian principles of self-interest because it holds that a state needs to put its own nation and citizens ﬁrst and cooperate with other states only when necessary to promote national interests and, among other things, to avoid putting their citizens and military at risk of harm. Linklater and Suganami (2006, 235) rightly criticise Jackson’s (2000) argument for its incomparable normative basis for national responsibility. According to Jack- son, the ‘“ﬁrst duty of a government is to protect its own people. After that it can try to help whoever else it can”’ (quoted in Linklater & Suganami 2006, 235).
Taken literally, Jackson’s argument means that states have to ﬁrst do whatever they can to assist their own citizens and only afterwards may they pay attention to the needs and interests of citizens of other states. However, Linklater and Suganami admit that such an idea is not necessarily the inten- tion of Jackson’s argument, for it would mean that, during a war, a state could ignore the international codiﬁcation of humanitarian law and do whatever it pleased to secure the interests of its people and only later, if at all, think about the human suﬀering of the soldiers and civilians of opposing states (ibid.). Because Machiavellian principles were deﬁned amid a system of separate and often rival states, it is understandable that they consider state responsibilities in purely national terms. International society did not exist at the time, and there were no responsibilities beyond a state’s national borders; if there were, then they derived from the national interest of securing peaceful international order. In today’s global era, however, such principles are inevi- tably outdated and do not provide a normative basis for international ethics.
Sovereign states, at least liberal democratic ones, deﬁne and allocate their national responsibilities according to their constitutions and other laws. However, such practices do not mean that states are responsible for every- thing that occurs within their borders; after all, states are not protectors of property and life, nor are they responsible for their citizens’ actions. Entering into international agreements does not decrease a state’s sovereignty; it may even preserve that sovereignty when international cooperation is needed to diﬀuse transnational threats that risk its sovereignty. The concept of national responsibility does not necessarily ignore the environment, either. Unlike tra- ditional approaches to security that focus on a state’s national security, a broader approach is concerned with human and environmental security and emphasises the idea that states bear a responsibility to protect their citizens from threats of environmental origin. It is becoming increasingly more certain that causal links therefore exist between environmental degradation and inter- and intra-state conﬂicts.
Based on liberalism, Jackson’s conceptualisation of international responsi- bility suggests that, unlike the Hobbesian ‘war of all against all’, states form an international society. Such an international society is constitutional in nature, for its members’ duties and rights are written into international law, among which the UN Charter (1945) is the most fundamental. When inter- national society recognises a state’s sovereignty and membership in such a society, the state presumably accepts and becomes capable of exercising its rights and responsibilities in that society. It is, to quote Eagleton (1928, 5), upon this agreement to observe the rules of the community that international responsibility is founded’. Given the constitutional relationship, states are not only accountable to their own citizens but also ‘responsible for upholding international law and the society of states as a whole’ (Jackson 2000, 172). They have a general responsibility to preserve international society and maintain its functioning, and they are obliged to pursue their national responsibilities without infringing upon the rights of other states. Due to the state-centric basis of international society, the most essential international right listed in the UN Charter is non-intervention, meaning a responsibility to not intervene unless in lawfully recognised circumstances. States also have a right and responsibility to participate in diplomatic practices, meaning that, at a minimum, every state should respect the UN Charter, prevent harm to others and refrain from unnecessary military action. However, if a state fails to uphold its responsibilities, methods of sanctioning states in the absence of a supranational body remain unavailable.
From the perspective of the English School, international law provides an important normative framework no less binding than domestic law within which and with reference to which states make choices about what actions to perform in international society. Apart from the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts drafted and compiled by the International Law Commission in 2001, however, there is no international law regarding state responsibility. From the perspective of international law, states can be held responsible for pollution only if such pollution is wrongful under interna- tional law. Because carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions are legal forms of pollution caused primarily by the activities of individuals and private corporations, states cannot be held legally responsible for the damage caused. Conversely, the idea of a state’s international responsibility usually refers to its political responsibilities as the most authoritative within interna- tional society.
As members of international society, all states have equal, general respon- sibilities derived from the UN Charter. They have a responsibility to safe- guard international peace and security, prosperity and the wellbeing of people of present and future generations both locally and globally. They are also obliged to not cause harm to others. In practical terms, however, the circum- stances and capacities of states vary considerably, as does their power and capability to shoulder international responsibilities. Henry Shue’s (1993) dichotomy between the general responsibilities of all states and the special responsibilities of states with greater capabilities elucidates the practices of global responsibility, including those related to the climate. Regarding climate responsibility, Shue’s distinction between subsistence emissions and luxury emissions clariﬁes that not all greenhouse gas emissions are equally detri- mental. In short, developing countries’ subsistence emissions, or survival emissions, are unavoidable because they are produced in order to guarantee a basic minimum standard of living for the poor. Whereas general responsi- bilities relate to so-called ‘arithmetical justice’, meaning that states have equal rights and responsibilities, the distribution of special responsibilities is a poli- tical decision made by international society as a whole in the ‘consideration of its common good or interest’ (Bull 2002 , 77). Although states gen- erally agree that the distribution of responsibilities is a matter of fairness and some states have special responsibilities, political debate about the ethical underpinnings of ways to deﬁne and distribute responsibilities equitably remains heated. From another perspective, moral philosophers have elaborated upon the fairness of the allocation of climate responsibilities (e.g. Caney 2010; Gardiner 2011; Gardiner, Caney, Jamieson & Shue 2010; Vanderheiden 2008). From a legal and moral perspective, a signiﬁcant causal link joins con- tribution and responsibility. If a person, society or state is guilty of an action, then it has a responsibility to remedy that action’s eﬀects. In international environmental politics, that notion has been best captured by the so-called polluter pays’ principle, which is nevertheless problematic at least for three reasons. Many polluters cannot pay because they are dead, many simply cannot aﬀord to pay and many refuse to pay (Caney 2010, 134). Although it is impossible to pinpoint who is guilty of causing climate change, which is caused by countless people participating in morally and legally accepted practices, they can be collectively held responsible for it.9 However, would it be fair to ask all states or people to shoulder similar responsibility to mitigate climate change?
Jackson’s (2000) idea of humanitarian responsibility derives from cosmopoli- tanism and the notion of world society. Cosmopolitanism maintains that people have universal negative responsibilities not to dispossess other people’s rights (Shue 1988, 690). Due to their speciﬁc positions and capacity to improve or harm the wellbeing of fellow humans around the world, state leaders are responsible for the good life of all people, not only the citizens of their respective countries (Jackson 2000, 174–175). Therefore, states have a fundamental positive responsibility to ‘respect the dignity and freedom of human beings’ and need to do their utmost to defend human rights all over the world. From a humanitarian standpoint, ‘respect for human beings – whoever they are and whatever they happen to be living – is a fundamental normative consideration in foreign policy’ (ibid., 174). At the same time, the humanitarian approach is also deeply rooted in Western traditions, including Christianity. From the Chinese perspective, conversely, it is entirely Euro- centric to justify the humanitarian responsibilities of states by invoking nat- ural law and the universal valuation of human rights.
International practices emphasising human rights began to evolve after the atrocities committed during World War II, when liberal-democratic states agreed upon new humanitarian principles for international society. Procedu- rally, the humanitarian approach is now written into international humani- tarian law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) recognises that all humans are born free and have an equal right to life, liberty and security. In practical terms, the humanitarian approach is recognisable in the strong human rights doctrines of Western countries. Linklater and Suganami (2006, 243) regard Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that all humans have the right to be free from ‘torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’, as the ‘grundnorm of the solidarist position on good international citizenship’. During the Cold War, questions of human right norms were muted in practice. In more recent dec- ades, however, interest in international humanitarian ethics has rapidly risen as globalisation has introduced new sorts of political concerns, including global inequality and justice, sustainable development and non-state actors’ increased role in world politics. Although those global developments indicate that states ‘cannot advance signiﬁcantly beyond a pluralist conception of good citizenship’, there is nevertheless room for solidarist ethics (ibid., 229).
In particular, the concept of sovereignty as responsibility developed by Francis M. Deng et al. (1996) has stimulated extensive political and academic discussions about state responsibility that have prompted a shift from the right to interfere to the responsibility to protect (e.g. Wheeler 2000). In 2001, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (2001, XI) introduced the ‘responsibility to protect’, for which it highlighted two basic principles: that ‘state sovereignty implies responsibility, and the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies with the state itself ’ and that where a population is suﬀering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and the state in question is unwilling or unable to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect’. The UN General Assembly (2005) adopted the ‘responsibility to protect’ as follows:
Each individual State has the responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This responsibility entails the prevention of such crimes, including their incitement, through appropriate and necessary means. We accept that responsibility and will act in accordance with it. The international com- munity should, as appropriate, encourage and help States to exercise this responsibility and support the United Nations in establishing an early warning capability.
The UN General Assembly (2005) has deﬁned the responsibility to protect to consist of three pillars: a state’s responsibilities to its citizens, international society’s responsibility to assist states to fulﬁl their responsibilities and inter- national society’s responsibility to take collective action if a state manifestly fails to protect its citizens. That deﬁnition reveals two important aspects of state responsibility. On the one hand, sovereignty remains the fundamental principle of international society. Indeed, the deﬁnition conﬁrms that sover- eignty is an essential precondition of state responsibility, for without indepen- dence from external control and full authority over a territory, a state cannot exercise full responsibility. Therefore, the ‘exclusive territorial jurisdiction of the state’, as Eagleton (1928, 7) writes, ‘is the chief source of its responsibility’. On the other, the deﬁnition indicates that state responsibility presupposes the existence of international society and is therefore constructed in social interac- tion. After all, if there were only one state, then the concepts of external sovereignty and the responsibility to protect would not make much sense.
Climate change violates basic human rights, including the right to life, the right to health and the right to subsistence (Caney 2009, 230–231). The Human Rights Council of the UN acknowledged that dilemma in 2008 when it passed its ﬁrst resolution related to climate change, according to which climate change poses an immediate and far-reaching threat to people and communities around the world and has implications for the full enjoyment of human right’ (Human Rights Council 2008). Because climate change endan- gers the traditional practices of indigenous people and the very existence of island nations, legal cases against developed countries for violating indigen- ous communities’ human rights by causing climate change have already begun to emerge.10 An important breakthrough in state climate responsibility occurred in 2015, when a court in the Hague ordered the Dutch government to cut emissions at least by 25 per cent within ﬁve years in order to protect its citizens from climate change.
Since carbon dioxide, the chief human cause of climate change, is a so- called ‘stock pollutant’, meaning that today’s emissions might not harm us today but could cause problems for future generations, humanitarian respon- sibility can be extended to include future generations as well. Although the idea that people are concerned with the lives of future generations is nothing new, the capacity of the present generation to negatively aﬀect the wellbeing of future generations is relatively novel. Although we cannot know with any certainty what the interests of future generations will be, we can assume that some basic needs, including access to clean water and air, are common to all humans and other animals regardless of time and place. Furthermore, if we agree that future generations have corresponding rights, then the present generation has responsibilities to them. After all, if contemporary practices harm the basic interests of future generations, then they violate their rights, and no optimism about the future’s advanced technologies to clean today’s pollution can reduce the responsibility of the present generation. The princi- ple of sustainable development clearly acknowledges that fact, at least in principle. In reality, however, intergenerational responsibilities are often not discussed in terms of humanitarian responsibility (cf. Weiss 1989).
According to Jackson (2000, 175–178), people have a conservationist respon- sibility because the health of Earth is vital to humans. Because people can live without nation-states but not without the planet, we are bound to shoulder responsibility for the global environment. That norm has been best captured by the idea of global trusteeship, which holds that because humans have the industrial power to shape the balance of nature, they also have a responsi- bility to conserve it. The greatest ‘responsibility for the global commons’ falls to governments, which are the ‘chief trustees or stewards of the planet’ because they have juridical power to regulate activities and control potential harm to the environment (ibid). From Jackson’s pluralist perspective, states are expected to protect nature within their jurisdictions and take international action to preserve the global environment.
Although I do not disagree with Jackson’s idea of responsibility for the global commons in general, it needs to be revisited for two reasons. First, the deﬁnition of global commons is not clear enough. Often, the global commons refers to the oceans, the atmosphere, the ozone layer, global biodiversity, outer space, the North Pole and Antarctica, of which global biodiversity is the least clear, particularly in respect to its location. Apart from ecosystems in the oceans, Antarctica and the North Pole, biodiversity is not global in a physical sense but always exists in the territory of speciﬁc countries. For example, the Amazon rainforest is typically described as a global commons despite its location in the territory of several sovereign states. People who happen to live in those countries have the privilege to decide what to do with the rainforest, how to use its biodiversity as natural resources and how to treat speciﬁc species. Consequently, as a local resource, biodiversity is gov- erned according to a sovereign state’s political, cultural and social values, principles and norms. Second, it seems that Jackson’s conceptualisation of global trusteeship is highly anthropocentric. Because it suggests that humans, particularly state leaders, are responsible for the health of the planet as the only home we ultimately have, humans are the sole objects of moral respon- sibilities, whereas nature has no intrinsic value (i.e. the value of ends, or nature for its own sake) but only instrumental value (i.e. the value of means, or nature in terms of resources). From that perspective, states have to shoulder responsibility for the global commons only because it is in the interest of humans. By contrast, considering the intrinsic value of nature would indicate that nature must be respected and preserved for its own sake and that states have responsibilities to the natural world as such. Nevertheless, the instrumental value judgement of nature does not necessarily mean that humans have no responsibility to nature but face a strong instrumental incentive to protect nature because it provides ecosystems vital to humans.
Ecocentrism recognises that humans and therefore states have a moral standing vis-à-vis Earth and not only for anthropocentric and instrumental reasons. Ecocentrism recognises various human interests related to the envir- onment and thus national interests as well. It does not overlook the role of anthropocentric interests such as economic needs for natural resources and human welfare, but it does provide a more encompassing approach by also recognising the interests of non-human species, ecological communities and future generations of both humans and non-humans. At a fundamental level, the conservation of biodiversity is a moral recognition that all species have rights and should not be treated as lifeless or valueless objects (Eckersley 1992). The ecocentric conceptualisation of state responsibility is not merely a utopian idea. Practices of environmental constitutionalism, which regard the environment as a ‘proper subject for protection in constitutional texts and for vindication by constitutional courts’, are now evolving worldwide (May & Daly 2015, 1–2), and a growing number of states explicitly recognise the substantive environmental rights of citizens and the government’s environ- mental responsibilities (ibid., Appendices A and C). Although such environ- mental rights and duties are largely motivated by anthropocentric reasons, a more ecocentric constitutionalism ‘advancing the right of nature’ is not uncommon (ibid., 255).11 Plus, contemporary international law ‘already car- ries the seeds of possibility for non-anthropocentric conceptions’ of responsi- bility (Bosselmann 2015, 40), as I demonstrate in the following chapters. Currently, however, international environmental law is highly fragmented and largely ill equipped to fulﬁl climate responsibility (cf. Voigt 2008), and no independent international treaty on environmental rights exists. In fact, the UN International Law Commission’s State Responsibility Project in the
1980s and 1990s abandoned the idea that state criminal responsibility includes the widespread pollution of the seas and atmosphere (Koivurova 2014, 174–175). At present, the most prominent articulation of ecocentric responsibility appears in the Earth Charter (2000), a civil society initiative launched in 2000, whose ﬁrst principle urges humans to ‘Respect Earth and life in all its diversity’, based on an ontological assumption that ‘all beings are inter- dependent and every form of life has value regardless of its worth to human beings’. However, because the Earth Charter is not endorsed by states, its legal status remains a document of soft law and is not legally binding for governments. Nevertheless, because it is a statement expressed by the world over civil society, it is, to use Klaus Bosselmann’s (2015, 110–111) words, arguably one of the most legitimate international statements of principle ever to be made’. As such, it should be morally binding to states.
Both the legal and moral conceptualisations of responsibility are pivotal for analysing the scope of state responsibility, especially from a historical per- spective. However, they do not pay attention to the fact that international responsibilities are not static but produced and reproduced in social interac- tion. Because they do not recognise that states can fulﬁl their forward-looking responsibilities only by joining with others in the practices of international society, legal and moral approaches to responsibility are insuﬃcient views for studying state responsibility (cf. Young 2006, 123). This chapter has demon- strated that responsibility not only looks retrospectively at the past even if it largely consists of elements derived from legal and moral ethics. In that regard, the English School’s theorisation of responsibility has proven to be valuable. This chapter has also demonstrated that state-centric solidarism oﬀers an enlightened approach for conceiving state responsibility by acknowledging that, in addition to inter-state responsibilities, governments are always responsible for the wellbeing of individuals. From a thinner, plur- alist perspective, they are chieﬂy responsible for the citizens of their own states, whereas from a thicker, solidarist perspective, they have responsibilities for the wellbeing of all humans worldwide. The thickest perspective acknowl- edges that states also have responsibilities for the wellbeing of planet Earth.
1 See Shue (1980) for a detailed study of basic rights and Alfredsson (2010), Anton and Shelton (2011) and Weiss (1989, 95–117), for example, for comprehensive analyses with numerous examples of how the environment has been treated in the ﬁeld of human rights and how international environmental regimes incorporate human rights.
2 For a detailed analysis of legal responsibility in the context of civil and criminal law, see Fletcher (1998), Ross (1975), Hart (1968) and Morris (1961).
3 For a detailed elaboration on causation and responsibility, see Hart and Honoré
4 By contrast, China’s climate policies are sometimes criticised because they are not implemented for the so-called ‘right’ reasons. For example, Richerzhagen and Scholz (2008, 311) complain that though renewable energy has been priortised in China’s energy strategy since 2006, related measures may not have been imple- mented for the climate’s sake but to cut energy costs and increase energy security, which are essential measures to maintain economic growth.
5 According to Alison Wakeﬁeld and Jenny Fleming in the Sage Dictionary of Policing, responsibilization is a ‘term developed in the governmentality literature to refer to the process whereby subjects are rendered individually responsible for a task which previously would have been the duty of another – usually a state agency – or would not have been recognized as a responsibility at all. The process is strongly associated with neoliberal political discourses, where it takes on the implication that the subject being responsibilized has avoided this duty or the responsibility has been taken away from them in the welfare state era and managed by an expert or government agency’.
6 Public opinion is not synonymous with national responsibility; at times, the fulﬁl- ment of the latter requires diﬃcult decisions and policies that conﬂict with the former. In democratic societies, politicians might fail to shoulder their national responsibilities because they have to consider voters’ opinions and preferences in order make a case for their re-election.
7 According to Bok (2010), Bhutan’s four pillars of gross national happiness are
good governance and democratization, stable and equitable socioeconomic devel-
opment, environmental protection and the preservation of culture.
8 Environmental protection is an excellent example, for it sometimes conﬂicts with people’s short-term interests, especially those measured in economic terms. Simi- larly, banning cigarettes would promote people’s health and thus their happiness. In the short term, however, people would probably not be pleased with the ban, and their happiness might even diminish.
9 Larry May’s (1992, 38) distinction between shared and collective responsibility holds that ‘[w]hen a group of people shares responsibility for a harm, responsibility distributes to each member of the group. When a group is collectively responsible for a harm, the group as such is responsible; but this does not necessarily mean that all, or even any, of the members are individually responsible for the harm.’
10 See, for example, the Petition to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights Seeking Relief from Violations Resulting from Global Warming Caused by Acts and Omissions of the United States (2005) and the Petition to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights Seeking Relief from Violations of the Rights of Arctic Athabaskan Peoples Resulting from Rapid Arctic Warming and Melting Caused by the Emission of Black Carbon by Canada (2013).
11 For example, Ecuador’s constitution includes a chapter on nature’s rights.
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