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Overall scientific concept and goals

As planned, the project (Project Part 1) proposed to investigate what a fair initial allocation of emission rights would be by examining and applying theories of distributive justice to this question. In the course of the research, the project concluded that in order to answer this question properly, it was first necessary to investigate the presuppositions of applying (theories of) distributive justice to this problem.


Project Part 2 concerned historical emissions and justice in adaptation to climate change and thus the applicability of principles of rectificatory justice and their contents. It investigated who is responsible for the adaptation costs plus the damages that remain even after optimal adaptation and raised the question what such compensatory duties might involve.


Contribution to the advancement of the field

The project part 1 advanced the field by demonstrating the central relevance of the so-called 'ethics of ontology' in discussions of climate ethics. Most relevantly, this ethics includes the questions: should there be people in the future and, if so, how many, living what kinds of lives? The project argued that in order to determine a fair distribution of emission rights, it was necessary to first ask those questions. It also argued that they are theoretically prior to the questions of justice, and that theories of justice did not have the resources to conduct the inquiry. The project part therefore advanced the field by attempting to show how and why some relatively neglected questions were of fundamental importance in it.

The project part 1 broke new ground by showing the limitations of theories of justice and the relevance of the ethics of ontology in determining a fair distribution of emission rights. It attempted to shift the focus of the prevailing discussion. It also broke new ground by showing that the widespread assumption that the distribution of emission rights ought to be treated as a question of distributive justice was, at the very least, in need of much more argument.


Project part 2 advanced the field of climate justice, first, by linking conceptions of rectificatory justice, responsibility and agency from different debates in legal theory and moral and political philosophy and providing a firmer background theory for the Polluter Pays Principle. Second, project part 2 contributed to and linked the emerging debate on the cultural aspects of climate change with the also fairly new focus on climate change and human rights.

The most significant contributions of project part 2 to the debate of climate justice and political philosophy more generally were a) developing a new defence of the idea that we are responsible in a morally significant way for the consequences of our acts even where the conditions of blameworthiness do not apply that allows attributing liability for historical emissions despite the excusable-ignorance objection, and b) proposing to understand the cultural and political impacts of climate change as a matter of human rights by introducing the idea of cultural bases of self-respect as primary goods.


Most important hypotheses / research questions developed

The most important new hypotheses of project part 1 was that the ethics of ontology is of central relevance in climate ethics, and that it is theoretically prior to questions of justice. This hypothesis, if correct, outlines an entire field of research that, while not in itself new, has been very neglected in the climate change debate. One important old hypothesis that was disproved is the view that we can ignore the question of whether and how many future people there should be on the basis of the pragmatic assumption that there will very likely be future people.


The most important new hypothesis of project part 2 was the cultural aspects of climate change are important not only for determining which mitigation and adaptation strategies are most suitable for any particular community but ought to be taken seriously which regard to evaluating which rights-infringements follow from climate change and should be subject to rectificatory action.


Leiter des Arbeitsbereichs Univ.-Prof. Dr. Lukas Meyer Telefon:+43 (0)316 380 - 2300
Fax:+43 (0)316 380 - 9705



Projektmanagement und Sekretariat
Attemsgasse 25/II 8010 Graz
Mag. Kanita Kovačević Telefon:+43 (0)316 380 - 2299
Fax:+43 (0)316 380 - 9705

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