Professor Simon Caney awarded ESRC Climate Change Leadership Fellowship
Simon Caney has been awarded an ESRC Climate Change Leadership Fellowship for his ‘Equity and Climate Change` project, which is due to start on 1 October 2008 and run for three years.
The ESRC Leadership Fellowship will enable Simon to develop and defend a justice-centred analysis of climate change. The research to be conducted has three aspects:
1. Principles of Justice. First, it examines what would be the equitable way to respond to the problems posed by anthropogenic climate change. In this context it advances six distinct claims. First, it proposes that anthropogenic climate change is unjust, in part, because it jeopardizes fundamental human rights. It maintains that humans have a right to the protection of four key interests (interests in health, subsistence, the capacity to be self-supporting, and the interest in not being subject to enforced relocation) all of which may be jeopardized by climate change. Second, it provides an analysis of the concept of dangerous anthropogenic interference and argues that this should be understood as climate change that results in widespread, persistent and systematic threats to the fundamental human rights identified above.
Third, it defends a novel position on intergenerational equity and pure time preference. In particular, it argues that the human right not to be exposed to risks of dangerous climate change should be subject to a zero pure time discount rate,
but it allows that other values may be subject to a positive pure time discount rate. It also examines the different accounts of intergenerational justice, and argues that each generation has an obligation to leave successive generations with the opportunities and resource base that it would have liked to inherit itself. Fifth, it develops a rights-based ethical framework for assessing when it is fair to expose others to risks and uncertainties and building on this it defends a specific version of the `precautionary principle`. Sixth, it aims to develop an account of moral responsibility, which specifies how the burdens of combating climate change should be shared. It defends in particular a hybrid approach which affirms the Polluter Pays Principle but which complements it with an Ability to Pay Principle.
2. Policies. The second component of the research programme draws on the normative framework defended above to identify the ethical criteria which should inform climate policies. There is a rich literature on the economics of different
mitigation and adaptation policies but there is very little discussion of the ethical guidelines which might inform the evaluation of different policies. The research programme aims to rectify this omission. It makes five distinct contributions.
First, it proposes criteria for assessing carbon trading, including the EU ETS as well as recent proposals for individual domestic tradable quotas. Second, it develops guidelines for evaluating the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint
Implementation and explores ways of improving these policies. Third, it explores the meaning of `adaptation` and the limits to the possibility of adaptation. Fourth, it identifies the principles which should underlie the funding of adaptation.
Finally, it develops a set of principles that can guide the use of other potential energy sources (examining, for example, whether nuclear energy is permissible).
3. Institutions. The third and final component of the research programme examines how national and international political institutions should be reformed so that they are best able to deal with the global and intergenerational character of climate change. In this context, Simon`s research will make four contributions. First, it will argue that the intergenerational and international character of climate change makes it a particularly intractable problem. Second, it highlights the need for `procedural justice` and `legitimacy` as well as `effectiveness`. Third, it examines different mechanisms for encouraging political actors to take into account the interests of future generations. Fourth, it proposes various ways of reforming political institutions so that they facilitate coordinated international action to combat climate change.
Simon Caney is Professor in Political Theory, University Lecturer, and Fellow and Tutor in Politics, Magdalen College