Evaluating Peace and Reconciliation in International Climate Negotiations

Evaluating peace and reconciliation to address historical responsibility within international climate negotiations


Achieving an effective and inclusive climate regime may require resolving conflicts about historical responsibility and future-oriented climate action. Despite differences in context, peace and reconciliation processes offer a wealth of experience for addressing the tensions between past-oriented concerns about historical responsibility and future-oriented desires for deeper mitigation. Using an iterative workshop process that includes researchers, practitioners and policy experts in the climate policy and peace and reconciliation spheres, this project will produce a theoretically sound and politically relevant proposal that applies lessons from peace and reconciliation processes to international climate policy debates.

We have started our engagement activities in September:

  • First Workshop held at the Hague Institute for Global Justice in September 2015. Find links to the blogs BELOW!
  • Second Workshop this focused on developing a politically oriented, concrete policy proposal of how to apply lessons and tools from transitional justice to the climate context Brussels, March 2016. Find links to the blogs BELOW!

We are planning one final workshop for this project:

  • Third Workshop: A engagement activity coinciding with the UNFCCC sessions leading up to the 2016 loss and damage mechanism review (Bonn, June 2016).

International climate policy negotiations are at a crossroads. Geopolitical changes combined with the increasing urgency of ambitious climate action have re-opened debates about equity in the international climate arena. Tensions about historical responsibility have been particularly difficult and could intensify as climate impacts become more severe, as developing countries face mounting pressure to take mitigation action, and as the UNFCCC workstream on loss and damage is reviewed at COP 22 in 2016. Resolving conflicts about the role of historical responsibility in a future-oriented climate policy may be necessary to enable a global transition to a regime capable of facilitating the depth of collective action required.

This project builds on international experience with peace and reconciliation processes in order to develop a new approach to climate equity that may be better suited to reconciling past-oriented concerns about historical responsibility and associated obligations with future-oriented desires for broader and deeper mitigation. Although substantial policy experience has been gained through efforts to address other complex conflicts at the interface of historical responsibility and imperatives for new collective futures – such as the transition from apartheid in South Africa – lessons from these processes have not been examined or applied in the climate context. The contexts may seem profoundly different, but international climate policy debates share three key similarities with conflicts in which peace and reconciliation processes have been pursued. These elements include: a) unavoidable interdependence and mutually harmful consequences of not finding an agreement; b) limited ability to address justice concerns through existing legal systems (national or international); and c) profound disagreements about how the past and future should relate in a period of transition.

Through an iterative series of academic research and policy workshops this project will assess the theoretical and political utility of a peace and reconciliation approach in the climate context. The product of this process will be a policy proposal that illustrates how this approach could be used to reshape the contours of current climate negotiations. Ongoing conflicts about the role of historical responsibility and the type of future regime desirable within the global climate arena have the potential to systematically undermine an ambitious global agreement, a challenge this proposal aims to tackle directly.

For further reading see Sonja Klinsky’s blog: ‘How transitional justice can help climate negotiations’
‘Rob Byrne’s Blog: ‘Why climate negotiations should tackle technology injustice’ Joy Hyvarinen’s Blog ‘Could lessons from transitional justice help to realize a fair and effective global response to climate change?’
and Ari Huhtala’s blog: OPINION: Justice in the climate negotiations – and in the real world

The project is led by Climate Strategies Member Sonja Klinsky.

This project is funded by the KR Foundation and supported by Konrad Adenauer Foundation.