The Case for Emissions Egalitarianism
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, vol. 22, no 2., doi.org/10.1007/s10677-019-10016-8
There is a fixed limit on the greenhouse gas emissions that the atmosphere can absorb before triggering dangerous climate changes. One of the debates in climate ethics concerns how the available emissions should be divided between people. One popular answer, sometimes called “Emissions Egalitarianism” (EE), proposes a distribution of emissions permits that gives everyone an equal per capita share of the atmospheric absorptive capacity. However, several debaters have objected to EE. First, it has been argued that there is no principled reason to accept EE, since it cannot be justified on the basis of any moral theory. Second, it has been argued that there is neither any pragmatic reason to accept EE, since it is impracticable, politically unfeasible, and fails to reach its goal. This paper defends EE against these objections. First, it shows that EE can be justified on libertarian, utilitarian, and fairness grounds, respectively. Second, it shows that EE is neither more impracticable, nor more politically unfeasible, than its rivals. It also argues that EE does not fail to reach its goal. Consequently, there is a case to be made for EE.