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Environmental Values

Moderate Emissions Grandfathering

Carl Knight

Environmental Values 23 (2014): 571-592. doi: 10.3197/096327114X13947900181635


Emissions grandfathering holds that a history of emissions strengthens an agent's claim for future emission entitlements. Though grandfathering appears to have been influential in actual emission control frameworks, it is rarely taken seriously by philosophers. This article presents an argument for thinking this an oversight. The core of the argument is that members of countries with higher historical emissions are typically burdened with higher costs when transitioning to a given lower level of emissions. According to several appealing views in political philosophy (utilitarianism, egalitarianism, prioritarianism and sufficientarianism) they are therefore entitled to greater resources, including emission entitlements, than those in similar positions but with lower emissions. This grandfathering may play an especially important role in allocating emission entitlements among rich countries.


Climate justice; emission rights; egalitarianism; grandfathering; prioritarianism; sufficientarianism; utilitarianism

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

Bystanding and Climate Change. Carol Booth

Climate, Collective Action and Individual Ethical Obligations. Marion Hourdequin

Bearing the Weight of the World: On the Extent of an Individual’s Environmental Responsibility. Ty Raterman

Ethics and Climate Change: A Commentary on MacCracken, Toman and Gardiner.Peter Singer

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Climate Change, Irreversible Change and Changing Perspectives. Claudia Carter

Fairness in Allocating the Global Emissions Budget.David R. Morrow

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