Professor of Political Theory at the University of Southampton.
If dangerous climate change is to be avoided, it is clear that the majority of the world’s fossil fuel supplies cannot be burned. Achieving that end will be difficult. But in the event that we do achieve it, we will face an important and somewhat neglected challenge: how to manage the losses attendant on the ‘decarbonisation’ of the global economy. Fossil-fuel exporting countries stand to lose out on a significant source of revenue if supplies are left unexploited. Among them are some of the world’s poorest countries. Might those countries, or their citizens, have a claim to assistance from the international community if these losses come to pass? If so, on what basis, and what form should any assistance take? This paper examines two distinct arguments for assistance. The first is based on the claim that when our expectations are thwarted by public policy, compensation may be morally required. The second is premised upon the right to development – a right which is potentially jeopardised when some fossil fuel assets must go unexploited. The paper argues that the second argument enjoys better prospects. It also discusses several mechanisms which might allow the international community to assist countries incurring losses arising from the need to stabilise our global climate.
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