The challenges associated with climate change are omnipresent. There is overwhelming evidence that human-induced climate change is taking place, yet positions on how to react to this phenomenon are diverse. On a global level, disagreements reflect continuing inequalities between North and South. While representatives of the so-called First World demand energy consumption limitations and environmental protection efforts from countries like China, Brazil and India, representatives of the latter argue that the wealth and power of the Western world has long depended on the availability of cheap raw materials and resources from abroad. The legacies of colonialism and imperialism re-appear through the environmental back door and fuel debates about sustainability.
The struggle to agree on a definition of ‘sustainable development’ has been ongoing since the 1970s, with many of the problems raised but remaining unresolved. Today, many call for the strengthening of global governance mechanisms. This includes the institutionalisation of protections for global public goods, be it through international treaties, trade-related instruments or networks of public and private actors. There is also a growing interest in whether litigation can play a productive role.
Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the multifaceted problems resulting from ever-increasing population density, deforestation, biodiversity loss, environmental pollution and profound global interconnectedness – not only in finance, economics and culture but also with regard to biological, ecological and environmental factors. The pandemic demonstrates the need for public health strategies that reach beyond national borders.
An interdisciplinary approach is required to address these problems. Research is needed that overcomes compartmentalised categories and embraces an integrated perspective. This cluster provides a forum for collaboration on climate and environmental governance within the EUI, in addition to promoting exchange and joint initiatives with business, government, NGOs and academic colleagues beyond the EUI. The cluster’s activities included so far a seminar series, two interdisciplinary workshops and the award of a fellowship to conduct research at the Historical Archives of the European Union (HAEU), which are housed at the EUI.