Splintering South: Ecologically Unequal Exchange Theory in a Fragmented Global Climate
Keywords:Ecologically Unequal Exchange, Climate change politics, United Nations climate negotiations, 2015 Paris climate negotiations
The article examines the changing nature of politics in the United Nations climate negotiations through the lens of ecologically unequal exchange theory, focusing on the lead up to and aftermath of the 2015 Paris negotiations. We identify and discuss three areas of tension that have emerged within the G-77 coalition: tensions within the global semi-periphery, tensions between the semi-periphery and periphery, and tensions within the periphery. Together, these tensions challenge the main link of solidarity in the G-77 coalition: the idea that all countries in the global South share a common predicament in the global system, with the North solely to blame. Drawing upon this case, we offer three related insights to develop ecologically unequal exchange theory. First, theory and empirical work must better consider the role of the semi-periphery, and divisions within the semi-periphery, in reproducing ecologically unequal societies. Second, theory should account for how fragmentation between the periphery and semi-periphery may produce distinct challenges for peripheral states to resist governance forms which intensify ecologically unequal exchange. Third, theory should better account for the ways in which ecologically unequal exchange as mobilized as a collective action frame reflects and diverges from the real-world distribution of environmental goods and bads in the world system.
AdaptationWatch. 2015. Toward Mutual Accountability: The 2015 Adaptation Finance Transparency Gap Report. Available at https://unfccc.int/files/cooperation_and_support/financial_mechanism/standing_committee/application/pdf/aw_report_24_11_15_lo_res.pdf
Alessi, Christopher. 2012. “Expanding China-Africa Oil Ties.” Council on Foreign Relations, February 8th. Available at http://abdas.org/?p=1875
Arrighi, Giovanni, and Jessica Drangel. 1986. "The Stratification of the World-Economy: An Exploration of the Semiperipheral Zone." Review (Fernand Braudel Center) 10(1):9-74.
Bond, Patrick. 2010. "Climate Debt Owed to Africa: What to Demand and How to Collect?" African Journal for Science, Technology, Innovation and Development 2(1):83-113.
_____. 2012. Politics of Climate Justice: Paralysis Above, Movement Below. Cape Town, South Africa: University of Kwa Zulu Natal Press.
Botzen, Wouter J.W., John M. Gowdy, and Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh. 2008. "Cumulative CO2 Emissions: Shifting International Responsibilities for Climate Debt." Climate Policy 8(6):569-576.
Bunker, Stephen G. 1985. Underdeveloping the Amazon: Extraction, Unequal Exchange, and the Failure of the Modern State. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Burns, Thomas J., Edward L. Kick, and Byron L. Davis. 2003. "Theorizing and Rethinking Linkages Between the Natural Environment and the Modern World-System: Deforestation in the Late 20th Century." Journal of World-Systems Research 9(2):357-390.
Burns, Thomas J., Byron Davis, and Edward L. Kick. 1997. "Position in the World-System and National Emissions of Greenhouse Gases." Journal of World-Systems Research 3(3):432-466.
Cardoso, Fernando Henrique and Enzo Faletto. 1979. Dependency and Development in Latin America. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Center for Global Development. 2015. “Developing Countries Are Responsible for 63 percent of Emissions,” August 18th.
Chase-Dunn, Christopher K. 1998. Global Formation: Structures of the World-Economy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Chatterton, Paul, David Featherstone, and Paul Routledge. "Articulating Climate Justice in Copenhagen: Antagonism, the Commons, and Solidarity." Antipode 45(3):602-620.
Chayes, Abraham and Charlotte J. Kim. 1998. “China and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.” Pp. 503-540 in Energizing China: Reconciling Environmental Protection and Economic Growth, edited by Michael B. McElroy, Chris P Nielsen, and P. Lydon. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Ciplet, David, J. Timmons Roberts, Martin Stadelmann, Saleemul Huq, and Achala Chandani. 2011. Scoring Fast Start Climate Finance: Leaders and Laggards in Transparency. International Institute for Environment and Development. Available at: http://pubs.iied. org/17100IIED/?s=IIEDBRIEF
Ciplet, David, J. Timmons Roberts, Pa Ousman, Achala Abeysinghe, Alexis Durand, Daniel Kopin, Olivia Santiago, Keith Madden, and Sophie Purdom. 2013a. A Burden to Share? Addressing Unequal Climate Impacts in the Least Developed Countries. International Institute for Environment and Development. Available at: http://pubs.iied.org/pdfs/17181IIED.pdf
Ciplet, David, J. Timmons Roberts, and Mizan Khan. 2013b. “The Politics of International Climate Adaptation Funding: Justice and Divisions in the Greenhouse.” Global Environmental Politics 13 (1):49-68.
Ciplet, David. 2014 "Contesting Climate Injustice: Transnational Advocacy Network Struggles for Rights in UN Climate Politics." Global Environmental Politics 14(4):75-96.
_____. 2015. "Rethinking Cooperation: Inequality and Consent in International Climate Change Politics." Global Governance 21(2):247-274.
Ciplet, David, J. Timmons Roberts, and Mizan Khan. 2015. Power in a Warming World: The New Global Politics of Climate Change and the Remaking of Environmental Inequality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Downey, Liam. 2015. Inequality, Democracy, and the Environment. New York: New York University Press.
Doyle, A. 2015. “China to Surpass US as Top Cause of Modern Global Warming.” Reuters. April 13th.
Earth Negotiations Bulletin. 1995. “Working Group 1,” December 11. Available at http://www.iisd.ca/vol12/1211011e.html.
Economy, E. 1997. “Chinese Policy-Making and Global Climate Change: Two-Front Diplomacy and the Internationality Community.” Pp. 19-41 in The Internationalization of Environmental Protection, edited by M. Schreurs and E. Economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Edwards, Guy and J. Timmons Roberts. 2015. A Fragmented Continent: Latin America and the Global Politics of Climate Change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Energy Information Administration. 2013. International Energy Outlook 2013. Available at
Escobar, Arturo. 1998. “Whose Knowledge, Whose Nature? Biodiversity, Conservation, and the Political Ecology of Social Movements.” Journal of Political Ecology 5(1):53-82.
Frey, R. Scott. 2015. “Breaking Ships in the World-System: An Analysis of Two Ship Breaking Capitals, Alang-Sosiya, India and Chittagong, Bangladesh.” Journal of World-Systems Research 21(1):25-49.
Friedman, Lisa. 2013a. “China’s Friendship with Costa Rica May Conflict with Its Green Goals.” ClimateWire, June 20th.
_____. 2013b. “New Alliance Attempts to Bridge North-South Gap in U.N. Climate Talks.” ClimateWire, January 22nd.
_____. 2015. “Turkey: Can a Country Planning 80 Coal-Fired Power Plants Get Serious about Climate Change?” Climate Wire, October 9th.
Guardian. 2013. “World Carbon Dioxide Emissions by Country.” The Guardian, July 15th.
_____. 2014. “World Carbon Dioxide Emissions Data by Country: China Speeds Ahead of the
Rest.” The Guardian, January 31st.
Gupta, Joyeeta. 1997. The Climate Change Convention and Developing Countries: From Conflict to Consensus? Vancouver, Canada: Springer.
Hart, Melanie, Pete Ogden, and Greg Dotson. 2015. “U.S.-China Climate Announcements Lay Foundation for Success in Paris.” Center for American Progress.
Hecht, Susanna, Anthony Anderson, and Peter May. 1988. "The Subsidy from Nature: Shifting Cultivation, Successional Palm Forests, and Rural Development." Human Organization 47(1):25-35.
Heggelund, G. 2007. “China’s Climate Change Policy: Domestic and International Developments.” Asian Perspective 31:155–191.
Hornborg, Alf. 2001. The Power of the Machine: Global Inequalities of Economy, Technology, and Environment. Lanham, MD: Rowman Altamira.
Hurrell, Andrew and Sandeep Sengupta. 2012. "Emerging Powers, North–South Relations and Global Climate Politics." International Affairs 88(3):463-484.
India. 2015. “India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution: Working Toward Climate Justice.” Available at http://www4.unfccc.int/submissions/INDC/Published%20Documents/India/1/INDIA%20INDC%20TO%20UNFCCC.pdf.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2007. Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, edited by O. F. Canziani, M. L. Parry, J. P. Palutikof, P. J. van der Linden, and C. E. Hanson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
_____. 2013. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, edited by T. F. Stocker, D. Qin, G. K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S. K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, B. Bex, and B. M. Midgley. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jorgenson, Andrew K. 2004. "Uneven Processes and Environmental Degradation in the World-Economy." Human Ecology Review 11(2):103-117.
Jorgenson, Andrew K., and Brett Clark. 2009. "The Economy, Military, and Ecologically Unequal Exchange Relationships in Comparative Perspective: A Panel Study of the Ecological Footprints of Nations, 1975-2000." Social Problems 56(4): 621-646.
Kasperson, Roger E., and Jeanne X. Kasperson. 2001. Climate change, vulnerability, and social justice. Stockholm: Stockholm Environment Institute.
Katz, Ian. 2014. “China’s Treasury Holdings Climate to Record in Government Data.” Bloomberg Business, January 15th.
Khan, Mizan. 2013. Towards a Binding Climate Change Adaptation Regime: A Proposed Framework. London: Routledge.
Khor, Martin. 2015. “Third World Network Bulletin.” Third World Network, November 10th.
Klein, Naomi. 2010. "Paying Our Climate Debt." Pp. 71-76 in Climate Change -- Who's Carrying the Burden?: The Chilly Climate of the Global Environmental Dilemma, edited by L. Anders Sandberg and Tor Sandberg. Ottawa, Canada: Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives.
Krasner, Stephen D., 1985. Structural Conflict: The Third World Against Global Liberalism. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Mathiesen, Karl and Fiona Harvey. 2015. “Climate Coalition Breaks Cover in Paris to Push for Binding and Ambitious Deal.” The Guardian, December 8th.
Mauldin, William. 2015. “China’s Xi Wants More Funds from Rich Nations in Climate Deal.” Wall Street Journal, November 30th.
McGrath, M. 2014. “China’s per capita Carbon Emissions Overtake EU’s.” BBC. September 21st.
Méndez, Rafael. 2012. “La Tercera vía Latinoamericana en la Negociación del Clima.” El País, December 5th. Available at http://sociedad.elpais.com/sociedad/2012/12/05/actualidad/1354699047_259945.html
Mol, Arthur P. and Gert Spaargaren. 2000. “Ecological Modernisation Theory in Debate: A
Review.” Environmental Politics 9(1):17-49.
Najam, Adil. 2005. "Why Environmental Politics Looks Different from the South." Pp. 111-126 in Handbook of Global Environmental Politics, edited by Peter Dauvergne. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.
Nepal. 2015. “Submission by Nepal on Behalf of the LDCs Group on the ADP Workstream 1.” Available at http://www.1o5c.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/LDC.pdf.
O'Brien, Karen L. and Robin M. Leichenko. 2000. “Double Exposure: Assessing the Impacts of Climate Change within the Context of Economic Globalization.” Global Environmental Change 10(3):221-232.
OECD Development Assistance Committee. 2014. Climate-Related Development Finance in 2013—Improving the Statistical Picture. OECD Report.
Okereke, Chukwumerije. 2006. “Global Environmental Sustainability: Intragenerational Equity and Conceptions of Justice in Multilateral Environmental Regimes.” Geoforum 37(5):725-738.
Oxfam America. 2012. The Climate Fiscal Cliff: An Evaluation of Fast Start Finance and Lessons for the Future. Available at https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/oxfam-media-advisory-climate-fiscal-cliff-doha-25nov2012.pdf
Oxfam International. 2015. Fair Shares: A Civil Society Equity Review of INDCs. Available at https://www.oxfam.org/sites/www.oxfam.org/files/file_attachments/ib-civil-society-review-climate-indcs-191015-en_2.pdf
Pettit, J., 2004. “Climate Justice: A New Social Movement for Atmospheric Rights. “IDS Bulletin 35(3):102-106.
Pickering, Jonathan and Christian Barry. 2012. "On the Concept of Climate Debt: Its Moral and Political Value." Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 15(5):667-685.
Prebisch, Raul. 1950. The Economic Development of Latin America and its Principal Problems, New York: United Nations.
Rice, James. 2007. “Ecological Unequal Exchange: International Trade and Uneven Utilization of Environmental Space in the World System.” Social Forces 85(3):1369-1392.
Roberts, David. 2011. “The Top Five Takeaways from the Durban Climate Talks.” Grist, December 11th. Available at: http://grist.org/climate-change/2011-12-12-the-top-five-takeaways-from-the-durban-climate-talks/.
Roberts, J. Timmons and Peter E. Grimes. 2002. "World-System Theory and the Environment: Toward a New Synthesis." Pp. 167-196 in Sociological Theory and the Environment: Classical Foundations, Contemporary Insights, edited by Frederick H. Buttel, August Gijswijt, Peter Dickens, and Riley E. Dunlap. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
Roberts, J. Timmons, and Bradley C. Parks. 2006. A Climate of Injustice: Global Inequality, North-South Politics, and Climate Policy, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
_____. 2007. "Fueling Injustice: Globalization, Ecologically Unequal Exchange and Climate Change." Globalizations 4(2):193-210.
_____. 2009. “Ecologically Unequal Exchange, Ecological Debt, and Climate Justice: the History and Implications of Three Related Ideas for a New Social Movement.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 50(3-4):385-409.
Rothstein, R.L. 2015. Global Bargaining: UNCTAD and the Quest for a New International Economic Order. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Schiavenza, Matt. 2014. “China Economy Surpasses US in Purchasing Power, But Americans Don’t Need to Worry.” International Business Times, October 8th.
Schroeder, Heike. 2010. "Agency in International Climate Negotiations: The Case of Indigenous Peoples and Avoided Deforestation." International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics 10(4):317-332.
Shandra, John M., Christopher Leckband, Laura A. McKinney, and Bruce London. 2009. "Ecologically Unequal Exchange, World Polity, and Biodiversity Loss: A Cross-National Analysis of Threatened Mammals." International Journal of Comparative Sociology 50(3-4): 285-310.
Shiva, Vandana. 1996. “Agricultural Biodiversity, Intellectual Property Rights and Farmers' Rights.” Economic and Political Weekly 31(25):1621-1631.
Singer, HW. 1950. "The Distribution of Gains between Investing and Borrowing Countries." American Economic Review 40(2):473-485.
Sinha, Amitabh. 2015. “Here Are India’s INDC Objectives and How Much It Will Cost.” The Indian Express, October 2nd.
Smith, Christopher. 2010. "Bali Firewall and Member States' Future Obligations within the Climate Change Regime.” The Law Environment and Development Journal 6, 284.
Terlouw, C. P. 1993. “The Elusive Semiperiphery: A Critical Examination of the Concept of Semiperiphery.” International Journal of Comparative Sociology 34(1):87-102.
Terry, Geraldine. 2009. “No Climate Justice without Gender Justice: An Overview of the Issues.” Gender & Development 17(1):5-18.
Tutu, Desmond. 2008. “We Do Not Need Climate Change Apartheid in Adaptation.” Human Development Report 2007/2008. New York: United Nations Development Programme.
United Nations Environment Programme. 2014. The Adaptation Gap Report: A Preliminary Assessment. Nairobi, Kenya: United Nations Environment Programme.
United Nations. 2017. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Available at http://unfccc.int.
Vanhala, Lisa, and Cecilie Hestbaek. 2016. "Framing Climate Change Loss and Damage in the
UNFCCC Negotiations." Global Environmental Politics 16(4):111-129.
Vidal, John and David Adam. 2007. “China Overtakes US as World’s Biggest CO2 Emitter.” The Guardian, June 19th.
Vihma, Antto. 2010. "Elephant in the Room: The New G77 and China Dynamics in Climate Talks." The Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Briefing Paper 6.
Vihma, Antto, Yacob Mulugetta, and Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen. 2011. "Negotiating Solidarity? The G77 Through the Prism of Climate Change Negotiations." Global Change, Peace & Security 23(3):315-334.
Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1979. The Capitalist World-Economy. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2011. The Modern World-System I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century. Berkeley: University of California Press.
How to Cite
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- The Author retains copyright in the Work, where the term “Work” shall include all digital objects that may result in subsequent electronic publication or distribution.
- Upon acceptance of the Work, the author shall grant to the Publisher the right of first publication of the Work.
- The Author shall grant to the Publisher and its agents the nonexclusive perpetual right and license to publish, archive, and make accessible the Work in whole or in part in all forms of media now or hereafter known under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License or its equivalent, which, for the avoidance of doubt, allows others to copy, distribute, and transmit the Work under the following conditions:
- Attribution—other users must attribute the Work in the manner specified by the author as indicated on the journal Web site;
- The Author is able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the nonexclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the Work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), as long as there is provided in the document an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post online a prepublication manuscript (but not the Publisher’s final formatted PDF version of the Work) in institutional repositories or on their Websites prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work. Any such posting made before acceptance and publication of the Work shall be updated upon publication to include a reference to the Publisher-assigned DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and a link to the online abstract for the final published Work in the Journal.
- Upon Publisher’s request, the Author agrees to furnish promptly to Publisher, at the Author’s own expense, written evidence of the permissions, licenses, and consents for use of third-party material included within the Work, except as determined by Publisher to be covered by the principles of Fair Use.
- The Author represents and warrants that:
- the Work is the Author’s original work;
- the Author has not transferred, and will not transfer, exclusive rights in the Work to any third party;
- the Work is not pending review or under consideration by another publisher;
- the Work has not previously been published;
- the Work contains no misrepresentation or infringement of the Work or property of other authors or third parties; and
- the Work contains no libel, invasion of privacy, or other unlawful matter.
- The Author agrees to indemnify and hold Publisher harmless from Author’s breach of the representations and warranties contained in Paragraph 6 above, as well as any claim or proceeding relating to Publisher’s use and publication of any content contained in the Work, including third-party content.
Revised 7/16/2018. Revision Description: Removed outdated link.