Date: 12 October 2022
Place: Holländargatan 13, Stockholm, or online.
To address climate change we need to reduce net emissions globally. Most international processes and frameworks have involved seeking to get countries to make cuts to their emissions. Net zero has recently emerged as a new norm, one in which different actors (including but not limited to countries) pledge to achieve a form of GHG neutrality—ensuring that they put no more carbon into the atmosphere than they take out— by a certain date. But given that actors can be related to emissions in different ways, it is not clear which emissions should be treated as belonging to their inventories. In this paper, we examine criteria, both existing and proposed, that might be used to determine which emissions should be regarded as belonging to different actors. We argue that all of them, taken on their own or in combination with others, are inadequate and we provide an underlying explanation of why this is so. We conclude by considering what responsible actors ought to do in light of this, given the emergence of net zero norms and the character of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Christian Barry is Professor of Philosophy. His research focuses on ethical theory, philosophy of action, and international justice.
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