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The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Collective reflections about development practice and cities


The road to Rio 2012

By Barbara Lipietz, on 21 June 2012

The trials and tribulations of climate change regulation: an interview with Alain Lipietz.

Photo by ©Fora do Eixo

No other issue has entered international negotiations with as much urgency as climate change and yet, effective and concerted international action remains painfully elusive. As a new negotiation round opens in Rio, are we anywhere closer to unpacking the deadlocks? In a recent interview, renowned economist and environmental activist Alain Lipietz offers an incisive account of two decades of fortunes and misfortunes in global negotiations against climate change.

Lipietz explains why and how climate change brought about the realisation that “humanity is not only threatened by the exhaustion of its resources […] but by an excess of production itself […] which produces so much waste we no longer know what to do with it.” He traces the trajectory through which the conceptualisation of the atmosphere as a ‘non-rival’ and free access global common started to be reframed as a global ‘pit’ in urgent need of regulation.

While agreeing with Ostrom’s claim that “there are no common goods which have not been regulated, whose excludability has not been regulated … [through]… socio-political compromises”, Lipietz explains the struggles involved in fostering collective action to protect the global commons – at a planetary scale but with specific reference to the role of the European Union. The interview exposes the spectrum of claims and counterclaims around the development of socio-environmental regulation, the socio-political dilemma of whose access should be regulated and whose should be excluded, as well as the mechanisms capable of breaking the deadlocks of conflicting interests. Ultimately, Lipietz argues that developing effective climate change regulation – and its actual enforcement – will require the backing of a sizeable and assertive ecological political movement.

Click here to download the full interview.

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