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Duty-bearers' concerns about duties for global justice: Are they legitimate? And why should justice theorists care?

ERI 149
Arts and Law, Research
Wednesday 29th January 2020 (15:15-17:00)
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Contact (Wouter Peeters)

  • Wouter Peeters (Centre for the Study of Global Ethics, University of Birmingham)

Wouter's main research interests include global justice, environmental sustainability and the ethics and politics of climate change. He has published a number of articles on these issues, as well as a book on Climate change and individual responsibility: Agency, moral disengagement and the motivational gap.

This seminar is part of the 2019-20 Global Ethics Tea Seminar Series hosted by the Centre for the Study of Global Ethics.

Duty-bearers’ concerns about duties for global justice: Are they legitimate? And why should justice theorists care?

Global justice imposes duties on all of us (political institutions, individuals, corporations, …). However, duty-bearers often respond to these duties with worries, including fairness in the allocation of duties and relationships with other duty-bearers in collective action problems, effectiveness and efficiency, conflicting duties, and – most famously – the demandingness objection. Some of these concerns are legitimate and others are not. How can we distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate concerns and how can we respond to them? Why should justice theorists address them?

My plan was to present a paper on these questions, answers to which would ideally have been developed much further than they currently are. I would like to talk a bit about this during the seminar and would appreciate your input, but I would like to devote most of the time to the following paper (which still falls under the umbrella of my duty-bearer project).


Private and voluntary carbon offsetting: Some criteria for an ethical practice

Carbon offsetting allows you to neutralize your carbon dioxide emissions (for example of a flight) by preventing the same amount of emissions to enter the atmosphere elsewhere (for example by substituting wood stoves in Kenya with solar cookstoves). It is a highly contested practice and opinions about it are polarized: some believe this to be a panacea for people to reduce their emissions (without having to give up cherished activities such as flying), while others compare it to medieval indulgences and call it ‘carbon colonialism’. In this paper, I develop a position in the middle: I will substantiate some technical and normative criteria, and argue that if (and only if) these are met, carbon offsetting can be a legitimate strategy for meeting one’s climate duties.

The talk will start at 15:15, but please join us for tea and cake from 14:30.

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