Explaining the Concept of Intergenerational Equity: The Case of the Youth Movement in Copenhagen

By Beatrice Mosello.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context

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Talking about environmental justice also implies addressing the much-discussed yet under-theorised concept of intergenerational equity. What does intergenerational equity actually mean, and how to concretely achieve it? This paper will attempt at answering these crucial questions by analysing the youth presence in Copenhagen during the COP15 climate negotiations. An initial literature review will lead us to observe that, although the concept of intergenerational equity has not (yet) been translated into a legal obligation in the sense that it is not explicitly embedded within international, national or regional legal instruments, it still remains a moral responsibility vis-à-vis future generations, which deserve the right to be accounted for in today’s climate change-related decision-making. Nevertheless, despite the absence of a legal rooting, and from a more practical point of view, intergenerational equity means concrete opportunities for implementation. To prove this hypothesis, we will introduce the case of the youth movement that has generated in Copenhagen before, during and after the COP15 negotiations. We will argue that the mobilisation of the world’s youth at local, national, regional and international levels is crucial for operationalising intergenerational equity and hence, at least partly, realising environmental justice. To this end, intergenerational cooperation, education, unity of action and values, commitment, and the capability to use social networks and the media are all key factors intervening in the equation. Our reflexion, therefore, stresses the importance for intergenerational equity not only to embody a requirement for our predecessors to take measures now to address the problems they caused in the past. Additionally and fundamentally, intergenerational equity must mean we, the young generations of today, take measures to avoid perpetrating the same environmental injustices that we accuse others to have committed against us. This basically involves moving our lifestyle away from comfortable consumptive patterns and towards a more aware and informed behaviour that first and foremost conforms to morality and nature.

Keywords: Climate Change, Civil Society, Participation, Intergenerational Equity, Environmental Sustainability, Social Networks

The International Journal of Social Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp.37-50. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 285.546KB).

Dr. Beatrice Mosello

Research Assistant/PhD Student, Environmental Unit, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva, Switzerland

Beatrice Mosello is a Ph.D. candidate at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. After having completed a Bachelor’s degree in Development Studies at the University of Pavia (Italy), she obtained a Master’s in Political Science at the Graduate Institute in 2008, with a thesis on multilateral cooperation on the issue of conflict diamonds. After having completed an internship at the Italian Mission to the United Nations in New York, she was a research assistant at the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) in the Gender and Security programme, dealing primarily with mainstreaming gender into security sector reform in post-conflict contexts. She is currently employed as a research assistant at the Graduate Institute of International Studies within the framework of the European Union-funded, Assessing Climate Impacts on the Quantity and Quality of Water (ACQWA) project, investigating the socio-economic drivers of climate change.