Climatic Change

, Volume 81, Issue 3, pp 223-246

First online:

A normative ethical framework in climate change

  • Marco GrassoAffiliated withDipartimento di Sociologia e Ricerca Sociale, Università degli Studi di Milano BicoccaDepartment of Geography, King’s College London Email author 

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The article spells out four domains of international distributive justice and the consequent criteria of equity, the purpose being to identify a pluralistic normative ethical framework for climate mitigation and adaptation strategies. Justice and equity should play a major role in favouring collective action against climate change, because the more the various dimensions of such action are just, the more any international climate initiative is feasible in principle. As far as mitigation is concerned, the definition of a just initial allocation of endowments focuses on the criterion of differentiated equality, taking account of undeserved inequalities as suggested by Rawls’ theory of justice as fairness. With regard to the subsequent exchange of endowments, the Pareto principle, supplemented by the envy-freeness one, is a viable option. Possibly a sound reference for the just financing of adaptation activities is the criterion of differentiated historical responsibility, backed by Rawls’ theory of justice as fairness. As regards the allocation of adaptation resources, the criterion of lack of human security, as substantiated in Sen’s capability approach, seems promising.