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Intergenerational Equity

December 12, 2009

Speakers on the panel

So the other day I went for a session at COP which was on Intergenerational Equity. I found this intriguing because it sort of highlighted the moral imperative towards climate action today and that we need to remember to leave behind a better world for our children, grand-children and even great-grand-children. Or do we?

The Climate Legacy Initiative is just one example of a means to promote intergenerational equity. It uses constitutions and laws, set out with the objective to make sure that people do not pollute, or do not destroy lands on which people need to survive. Tracy Bach, a law professor at Vermont Law School explained that the “brunt and inaction of climate change will be the highest for young people of today” and this was in line with the Young and Future Generations Day on the 10th of December. Her argument boils down to the fact that we must bring the law of the government in line with the law of nature. In order to do this, she says, is through the adherence to 3 principles that will also ensure intergeneration equity. These 3 principles are options, quality and access.

  • Diverse Options: A responsibility to ensure that future generations have the ability to make choices about how they live in the world they inherit.
  • Environmental Quality: A responsibility to pass on a world that has not been damaged by our actions—and to repair the actions of the past.
  • Equal Access: A responsibility to give equal access to public resources.

These three principles are encapsulated in the simple idea of the Intergenerational Golden Rule: When making decisions about our world, we should do unto our children as we wish our parents had done unto us. (Vermont Law School)

The issues that moral obligations are potentially strong in changing societal’s mindset but when these are translated into laws, they lose their moral imperative and moral force. It becomes as if society has lost the need to adhere to the social contract of keeping the earth clean and unpolluted for future generations.

We must also remember that NATURE DOES NOT NEGOTIATE and we are currently acting as if we have a plan(et) B. We cannot continue “business as usual” but must move forward and negotiate among ourselves, especially through intergenerational collaboration to find a solution.

Aman Jain, President of AIESEC argued that intergenerational collaboration entails the cooperation of older generations in providing platforms and adequate funding for the young to stand up and take action. Similarly, the young of today must want to stand up and work. Both need each other to continue the legacy of the work being done today. If we translate this to what has been happening here at COP15, the platform is set (of course by the UNFCCC but greater than that, it is by those older and more experienced than us) but we must WANT it and DO it so that it will happen. Post-COP15 will be a challenge to all of us to practice what we have learnt here and to showcase to our fellow peers in Singapore that we can make the change and we can “be the change that we want in this world”.. wise words from Gandhi. So remember that intergenerational equity isn’t just about leaving behind a better world for your future children and children’s children but to work at ensuring that the world IS A BETTER PLACE.

Love from COP15,



Vermont Law School Available online at:

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