Developments at the Boundary between Environmental Constitutionalism and Climate Justice

A growing group of countries now expressly address climate change in their constitutions. Courts from diverse parts of the world are recognizing that governmental inaction in the face of climate change can abridge a right to a healthy climate as implied by an express constitutional right to life or the right to a healthy environment. These trends are likely reflective of an emerging worldwide phase in constitutional litigation.
The paper conceptualizes what has come to called ‘climate justice,’ that is, the social and economic consequences of the disproportionate effect of climate change. It will details the extent to which countries have adopted express constitutional means to address governmental inaction about climate change. It will then reports on how courts have engaged these and associated provisions. We conclude that climate constitutionalism has significant potential for shaping how the rule of law can contribute to climate justice, especially at the domestic level.

Human Rights, Social Contract Theory and Climate Crisis

Our Western-style constitutional systems are not only built on 16th to 18th century social contract theory, but also mainly on a liberal understanding of individual human rights. They are an element of constitutions and international treaties and are increasingly used as a basis for claims of individuals against states for more action to tackle the climate change crisis. However, a human right to a sustainable climate meets plenty of challenges if understood as a classic human right. The question is whether human rights offer a solution to legal questions of the climate crisis by empowering people to demand specific measures from states. This paper aims at showing how globally the search for solutions has altered the understanding of human rights and will continue to do so. It sheds light on whether the premises on the relationship between state and individual and burdens on individual freedom can still be answered by paradigms from social contract theories.

A Social Contract for Third-Party Beneficiaries – The Transnational Perspective of Environmental Constitutionalism

For the rightful acquisition of property, John Locke states a central precondition: Property may only be acquired, if “enough, and as good” is left for others’ enjoyment. Violations of this requirement –also an expression of equality– that occur in the state of nature are (among other breaches of natural law) prevented through the conclusion of the social contract. Today, the wealth creation in industrialised nations wilfully neglects to leave “enough, and as good” for others. Through excessive carbon emissions the livelihoods of great parts of the world population are threatened. However, since the primary victims of climate crisis live in least developed countries, they stand outside the social contracts of the front-ranking emitters. While in Locke’s time the protection of foreigners’ only required their inclusion into the social contract when entering into societal territory, modern insights into the interconnectedness of the biosphere bring the limitations of this idea into focus.

Insights from social contract theory to inform constitutional sustainability clauses to adequately address climate change

Climate change is one of the most alarming events which will very like have devastating effects for a lot of people worldwide, mostly not responsible for this development. Interestingly, indeed several scholars from various disciplines have opened up “a debate on the role that social contracts may play in a new and dynamic global context that will be increasingly shaped by the impacts of and responses to climate change.” (O’Brien et al 2009). While scholars with diverse academic backgrounds such as geography, political science, and applied ecology, have put forward resilience thinking in general, and specific “changes in social contracts” in selected countries in particular, this paper seeks to further the interdisciplinary debate by aiming to inform constitutional sustainability clauses of the moral duties of such ecological social contracts. This paper creates a basis of which constitutional sustainability clauses can become adequate legal means to address climate change.