Political Equality: Levelling the Playing Field

  • Luke Tomlinson


This chapter explores how actors should participate in the decisions of the UNFCCC. It draws on a concept of political equality to show that fair procedures require some form of equality between participants. This concept of political equality is drawn from common arguments for democracy. I claim that fair procedures are those that respect autonomy, equality and justification. I then use these arguments to show that political equality in decisions entails bother equality of status and equality of opportunity. Having formulated this concept of political equality, I then discuss what this means for equality in the decisions of the UNFCCC. I show that asymmetries in financial resources, technical expertise and scientific information sometimes affect the ability of actors to represent themselves in the UNFCCC, highlighting that formal rights to participation are insufficient for fairness. I then identify what rules are needed to meet this requirement of equality, including, whether there should be a limit on the number of delegates that each party can have or whether certain parties should be given technical or financial assistance.


Procedural Justice Equal Opportunity State Delegation Equal Status Capability Approach 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Aristotle. 1999. Nicomachean ethics. Indianapolis: HacketGoogle Scholar
  2. Beitz, C.R. 1989. Political equality: An essay in democratic theory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bohman, J. 1997. Deliberative democracy and effective social freedom: Capabilities, resources, and opportunities. In Deliberative democracy: Essays on reason and politics, ed. J. Bohman and W. Rehg. Cambridge, MA/London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bruce, J.P., L. Hoesung, et al. 1995. Climate change 1995: Economic and social dimension of climate change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Second Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Chasek, P., and L. Rajamani. 2003. Steps toward enhanced parity: Negotiating capacities and strategies of developing countries. In Providing public goods: Managing globalization, ed. I. Kaul, P. Conceição, K. Goulven, and F. Mendoza. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Christiano, T. 1990. Freedom, consensus, and equality in collective decision making. Ethics 101(1): 151–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Christiano, T. 1996. The rule of the many: Fundamental issues in democratic theory. Boulder/Oxford: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  8. Christiano, T. 2004. The authority of democracy. Journal of Political Philosophy 12(3): 266–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Christiano, T. 2008. The constitution of equality: Democratic authority and its limits. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cohen, J. 1989. Deliberation and democratic legitimacy. In The good polity: Normative analysis of the state, ed. A. Hamlin and P. Petit. New York: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  11. Cohen, J. 1997. Procedure and substance in deliberative democracy. In Deliberative democracy: Essays on reason and politics, ed. J. Bohman and W. Rehg. Cambridge, MA/London: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  12. Dahl, R.A. 1956. A preface to democratic theory. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  13. Dimitrov, R.S. 2010a. Inside Copenhagen: The state of climate governance. Global Environmental Politics 10(2): 18–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dimitrov, R.S. 2010b. Inside UN climate change negotiations: The Copenhagen conference. Review of Policy Research 27(6): 795–821.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Doran, P., and J. Gloel. 2007. Capacity of developing countries to participate in international decision-making. International Institute for Sustainable Development.Google Scholar
  16. Dryzek, J. 2000. Deliberative democracy and beyond. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Dryzek, J.S. 2010. Foundations and frontiers of deliberative governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dubash, N.K. 2009. Copenhagen: Climate of mistrust. Economic & Political Weekly XLIV(52): 8–11.Google Scholar
  19. Estlund, D.M. 2008. Democratic authority: A philosophical framework. Princeton/Oxford: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Gould, C. 1988. Rethinking democracy: Freedom and social cooperation in politics, economics and society. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Gupta, J. 2000. “On behalf of my delegation…” A survival guide for developing country climate negotiators. Published jointly by the Center for Sustainable Development of the Americas and the International Institute for Sustainable Development.Google Scholar
  22. Gutmann, Amy, and D.F. Thompson. 2000. Why deliberative democracy is different. Social Philosophy and Policy 17(01): 161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Harvey, F., and J. Vidal. 2011. Global climate change treaty in sight after Durban breakthrough climate conference ends in agreement after two weeks of talks. London: The Guardian.Google Scholar
  24. IPCC. 1990. IPCC special report on participation of developing countries. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.Google Scholar
  25. Kelsen, H. 1955. Foundations of democracy. Ethics 66(1): 1–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Knight, J., and J. Johnson. 1997. What sort of political equality does democratic deliberation require? In Deliberative democracy, ed. J. Bohman and W. Rehg. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  27. Mansbridge, J., et al. 2010. The place of self-interest and the role of power in deliberative democracy. Journal of Political Philosophy 18(1): 64–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rawls, J. 1993. Political liberalism. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Richards, M. 2001. A review of the effectiveness of developing country participation in the climate change convention negotiations. London: Overseas Development Institute.Google Scholar
  30. Rousseau, J.-J. 1762. The social contract. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  31. Saunders, B. 2010. Democracy, political equality, and majority rule. Ethics 121: 148–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Scholte, J.A. 2011. Building global democracy? Civil society and accountable global governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schroeder, H., M.K. Boykoff, et al. 2012. Equity and state representations in climate negotiations. Nature Climate Change 2: 834–836.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sen, A. 1993. Capability and well-being. In The quality of life, ed. M.C. Nussbaum and A. Sen. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. South Centre. 2004. Strengthening developing countries’ capacity for trade negoitations: Matching technical assistance to negotiating capacity constraints. Written at the request of the Office of the G77 and China in New York for the G-77 and China High-Level Forum on Trade and Investment, Doha, Qatar, December 5–6, 2004.Google Scholar
  36. Steffek, J., C. Kissling, et al. 2008. Civil society participation in European and global governance: A cure for the democratic deficit? Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  37. UNfairplay. 2011. Leveling the playing field. A report to the UNFCCC secretariat on negotiating capacity.
  38. Verba, S. 2003. Would the dream of political equality turn out to be a nightmare? The American Political Science Association 1(4): 663–679.Google Scholar
  39. Vihma, A., and K. Kulovesi. 2012. Strengthening global climate change negotiations; Improving the efficiency of the UNFCCC process. Nordiske Arbejdspapirer Nordic Working Papers. Nordic Council of Ministers.Google Scholar
  40. Weiler, F. 2013. Determinants of bargaining success in the climate change negotiations. Climate Policy 12(5): 552–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Werksman, J. 1999. Procedural and institutional aspects of the emerging climate change regime: Do improvised procedures lead to impoverished rules? Concluding Workshop for the Project to Enhance Policy-Making Capacity Under the Framework Convention on Climate Change and The Kyoto Protocol. Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development, London.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luke Tomlinson
    • 1
  1. 1.LondonUK

Personalised recommendations