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Climate change, justice and future generations

My research interests cover a range of topics in contemporary political theory; global justice and policy; and environmental politics. In particular, I am currently engaged on research on the issues of politics and equity raised by climate change and policies dewsigned for its management. I welcome PhD proposals and research collaboration in the following areas:

Distributive Justice

  • Currencies of distributive justice (welfare, resources, capabilities, needs)
  • The pattern of distributive justice (equality, priority, sufficiency)
  • Global poverty and justice

Intergenerational and environmental justice

  • The ethics of resource depletion
  • Rights of unborn and future generations
  • The non-identity problem

Ethics and politics of climate change

  • The Kyoto Protocol after 2012
  • Distributing greenhouse emissions rights
  • Greenhous gas emissions trading
  • Distributing the burdens of climate change mitigation and adaptation

Current Research Projects

Renegotiating the Kyoto Protocol: Equity, Politics, and Policy

Global climate change raises a number of important issues for political scientists and theorists. One key issue concerns the construction of effective and equitable policies that seek to manage the threats associated with global climate change in order to protect the interests of existing and future generations. At the heart of this debate lies the status and interpretation of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to this Convention. This research project aims to identify and clarify the major issues and themes that frame ongoing negotiations amongst the 194 Parties ot the UNFCCC to construct an equitable, effective and politically feasible global climate architecture for the coming century. It addresses the appropriate aims, objectives and policy mechanisms for global climate policy - and deals with a number of challenges to the agreement of a long-term climate architecture to replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires at the end of 2012, including the role of developing countries in any future agreement; the use of market environmental mechanisms such as emissions trading and carbon tax schemes; and the appropriate balance between climate mitigation and adaptation.

  • (2013) ‘Global climate change’, in Robert Falkner (ed) Handbook of Global Climate and Environmetnal Policy (Oxford: Blackwell), forthcoming.

  • (2012) ‘Legitimizing the license to pollute: emissions trading, political legitimacy and procedural justice’, Democratization, 19(5), 932-50.
  • (2011) ‘Cashing in on Climate Change: Political Theory and Global Emissions Trading’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy (CRISPP), 14(2), 59-79.
  • (2011) ‘Cosmopolitanism, climate change and greenhouse emissions trading’, International Theory, 3(1), 37-69.
  • (2010) 'Towards good carbon governance: examining and evaluating climate change policy in the UK, EU and China' (working paper).
  • (2007) ‘Equity and the Kyoto Protocol’, Politics, 27(1), 8-15.


Distributing the burdens of climate change

How should the responsibilities of climate change justice - defined as the equitable distribution of benefits and burdens arising from global climate change - be distributed across countries and generations? This question has become a central aspect of the ongoing public debate about climate change, yet it has resisted tidy solution in the face of a number of recent philosophical accounts. At first glance, it might seem obvious that existing human beings should bear the main responsibilities since they are the only agents who can act now to prevent costly climate impacts that are still avoidable (mitigation) or adopt policies that will manage the negative impacts of impacts that are no longer avoidable (adaptation). Yet, there is a wide range of agents to which responsibilities of justice might be allocated such as individual countries, supranational organisations, national and multinational corporations, international institutions, or the developed world as a whole. This research project seeks to develop a theory of burden sharing that explains how burdens of adaptation and mitigation should be distributed between (and within) developed and developing nations.

  • (2012) ‘Give it up for climate change: a defence of the beneficiary pays principle’, International Theory, 4(2), 300-30.
  • (2011) ‘Climatic justice and the fair distribution of atmospheric burdens’, The Monist 94(3), 412-32.
  • (2008) 'Distributing the Burdens of Climate Change', Environmental Politics 17(3): 556-75 (Special Issue on theme of Global Environmental Change and Intergenerational Justice).