Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Just Allocation of Climate Burdens

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posted on 2021-11-12, 15:31 authored by Kingston, Ewan

Human-induced climate change threatens the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable people. Preventing the worst effects of climate change and compensating those who will suffer are tasks that should be taken up by individuals, firms and states, tasks that constitute a burden. In this thesis I suggest the use of particular principles for justly allocating this "climate burden". I first defend my use of an orthodox ethical approach from Dale Jamieson’s challenge that the ethics of climate change must be revisionary. I also reply to Luc Bovens’ Lockean argument that a history of high emitting justifies giving past polluters more rights to emit. Then, I propose a two-track theory under which the climate burden is divided in two. These two different parts are allocated by a contribution-based "polluter pays" principle and by an "ability to pay" principle. The "fault burden" is the burden from greenhouse gas emissions produced since it became reasonable to suppose that such emissions were harmful, except for the emissions from the very poor, which are not included. The fault burden should be allocated to those who have contributed to it, in proportion to their contribution. The "no fault burden" is the remaining portion. The no-fault burden should be allocated by an "ability to pay" principle which requires all parties (except for the very poor) to shoulder burdens that constitute an equal drop in whatever goods we deem most relevant. Finally I defend the two track theory from the claim that a "beneficiary pays" principle better allocates the burden caused by past emissions.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

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Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Das, Ramon