Pollution-based climate justice: sources, thresholds, and patterns

Research project
Inactive research
Project size
1 416 000
Project owner
Department of Political Science

Short description

At the core of global climate change politics is a question of international distributive justice: how should the burden of combating climate change be allocated between countries? Many are convinced that the answer is, at least in large part, given by the Polluter Pays Principle (PPP), which says that the burdens should stand in proportion to countries’ past and present emissions of greenhouse gases.

Research questions

This project investigates a set of puzzles facing Polluter Pays Principle which have yet to be solved in the climate justice literature.

First, which method should we employ in accounting for countries’ emissions? Should we
count emissions where goods and serviced are produced, or should we count them where goods and services are consumed?

Second, how should we define subsistence emissions, that is, emissions that countries may lay claim to as a matter of basic right? Should we define them along objectivist lines, using concepts such as human survival or a decent standard of living, or should we also employ subjectivist considerations such as whether it would be considered unreasonably onerous to give up on a certain source of emissions.

Finally, once subsistence emissions are subtracted, how should the remaining rights to pollute be allocated between countries? Should they be allocated on an equal per capita basis or on the basis of some other principle? Using normative analysis, the project seeks to answer these questions in a systematic way. The aim of the project is to advance our understanding of PPP as well as to shed light on key questions in climate policy more generally. Climate change is one of the foremost problems of our time, and its management calls for solutions that are not only effective but also just. The results of the project contribute to our understanding of the key questions involved in allocating the international costs of combating climate change.