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From Climate Change to Sustainability: An Essay on Sustainable Development, Legal and Ethical Choices

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This paper discusses some fundamental impediments to implementing the complex concept of sustainable development within the international legal framework in general, and the climate change regime in particular. It argues that sustainable development should primarily be seen as a normative concept, closely linked to an idea of environmental justice that incorporates the interests not only of present humans but also of future generations and the non-human environment. The paper explores the relationship between sustainability as a moral idea and sustainability as located in a legal context. It argues for the evolution of a coherent system of ethics and law of sustainability, with particular relevance to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. The importance of multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research is emphasised. It is suggested that the fundamental challenges posed by a globally changing climate might function as an important impulse to "cross-faculty" research and innovative thinking. The results of such thinking might in turn inform international action in tackling climate change. Although the investigation cannot be exhaustive, this paper aims to serve as an impetus for multidisciplinary research and further discourse on the reconciliation of society and the environment, law and ethics.


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