Dr Wouter Peeters

Dr Wouter Peeters

Department of Philosophy
Lecturer in Global Ethics

I am a Lecturer in Global Ethics. My main interests are in climate change, environmental sustainability, social justice, cosmopolitanism and bioethics. I also dabble in intersubjective ethics and recognition theory.

Feedback and office hours

Office hours:

  • Thursday 15:00 - 17:00


  • PhD in Philosophy and Moral Sciences (Brussels). Dissertation: Freedom and responsibility in the face of climate change. How the capabilities approach and common-sense morality (ought to) respond to global environmental problems
  • MA in Philosophy and Moral Sciences (summa cum laude, Brussels)
  • BA in Educational Sciences (Ghent)


I obtained my PhD in Philosophy and Moral Sciences in December 2014 from Vrije Universiteit Brussels. In 2015-2016, I was a Visiting Professor in Social and Political Philosophy at Ghent University. Since 1 September 2016, I am a Lecturer in Global Ethics at the University of Birmingham.


  • Reasoning, Propaganda and the Public Discourse
  • The Ethics and Politics of Climate Change
  • Global Bioethics
  • Global Ethics Placement

Postgraduate supervision

I am happy to supervise students working on political philosophy, global (bio)ethics, climate change, environmental sustainability and intersubjective ethics.

Find out more - our PhD Philosophy  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My PhD dissertation examined the challenges climate change and other problems of environmental sustainability pose to our conceptions of individual freedom (the capabilities approach in particular) and responsibility (more specifically, common-sense morality).

Building on this, my current research focuses on the perspective of duty-bearers on issues of global justice. Alleviating human rights deficits such as poverty and climate change will not only depend on action undertaken by collective agents (such as states and international institutions), but also by individuals. However, this suggestion is met with several objections: individual duty-bearers have worries and concerns regarding their responsibilities of global justice. These concerns merit ethical attention since they might impede action.

Examples include but are not limited to the objection that the actions necessary to protect human rights would demand too much of agents (the over-demandingness objection) and the concern that nothing individuals can do will make any difference (the problem of ineffectiveness). Another important question might concern the relationship with other duty-bearers, including institutions, other individuals, companies and NGOs. People also have a legitimate interest in being treated fairly, so they would object to an unfair distribution of the burdens involved in for example poverty alleviation or climate change abatement. 

My aim is to investigate these and other concerns in order to develop a novel account of the duties and responsibilities for realising human rights that accommodates the legitimate concerns of duty-bearers and persuasively debunks their misconceptions.

My contributions to the Justice Everywhere Blog can be read at: http://justice-everywhere.org/author/wouterpeeters/


Recent publications


Peeters, W, De Smet, A, Diependaele, L & Sterckx, S 2015, Climate change and individual responsibility: Agency, moral disengagement and the motivational gap. Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137464507


Bell, D, Swaffield, J & Peeters, W 2019, 'Climate ethics with an ethnographic sensibility', Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 611-632. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-019-09794-z

Peeters, W, Bell, D & Swaffield, J 2019, 'How new are the New Harms really? climate change, historical reasoning and social change', Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 505-526. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-019-09795-y

Peeters, W, Diependaele, L & Sterckx, S 2019, 'Moral disengagement and the motivational gap in climate change', Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 425-447. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10677-019-09995-5

Dirix, J, Peeters, W & Sterckx, S 2016, 'Emissions trading ethics', Ethics, Policy and Environment, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 60-75. https://doi.org/10.1080/21550085.2016.1173282

Dirix, J, Peeters, W & Sterckx, S 2016, 'Is the Clean Development Mechanism delivering benefits to the poorest communities in the developing world: A critical evaluation and proposals for reform', Environment, Development and Sustainability, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 839-855. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-015-9680-8

De Smet, A, Peeters, W & Sterckx, S 2016, 'The delegated authority model misused as a strategy of disengagement in the case of climate change', Ethics and Global Politics, vol. 9, pp. 1-21. https://doi.org/10.3402/egp.v9.29299

Dirix, J, Peeters, W & Sterckx, S 2015, 'Is the EU ETS a just climate policy?', New Political Economy, vol. 20, no. 5, pp. 702-724. https://doi.org/10.1080/13563467.2014.999758

Peeters, W, Dirix, J & Sterckx, S 2015, 'The capabilities approach and environmental sustainability: The case for functioning constraints', Environmental Values, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 367-389. https://doi.org/10.3197/096327115X14273714154575

Peeters, W, Dirix, J & Sterckx, S 2015, 'Towards an integration of the ecological space paradigm and the capabilities approach', Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 479-496. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-014-9498-7

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Peeters, W, Dirix, J & Sterckx, S 2014, Putting sustainability into sustainable human development. in O Lessmann & F Rauschmayer (eds), The capability approach and sustainability . Routledge, pp. 57-75. <https://www.routledge.com/The-Capability-Approach-and-Sustainability/Lessmann-Rauschmayer/p/book/9780415712538>


Peeters, W 2017, A sufficientarian perspective on human development goals. in I Muñoz, M Blondet & G Gamio (eds), Ética, Agencia, y Desarrollo Humano: V Conferencia de la Asociación Latinoamericana y del Caribe para el Desarrollo Humano y el Enfoque de Capacidades. Fondo Editorial - Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, pp. 127-147.

De Smet, A, Peeters, W & Sterckx, S 2014, A non-reductionist defence of global citizenship. in D McBain (ed.), Power, Justice and Citizenship: The Relationships of Power. Inter-Disciplinary Press, Oxford, Oxford, pp. 123-133.

Peeters, W, De Smet, A & Sterckx, S 2014, Individual agency and responsibility in mitigating climate change. in D McBain (ed.), Power, justice and citizenship: The relationships of power. Inter-Disciplinary Press, Oxford, Oxford, pp. 3-17. <http://www.interdisciplinarypress.net/product/power-justice-and-citizenship-the-relationships-of-power/>

Conference contribution

Dirix, J, Peeters, W & Sterckx, S 2014, Diversified climate action: The top-down failure and the rise of emissions trading. in G Collste & L Reuter (eds), Proceedings from the 50th Societas Ethica Annual Conference 2013.: Climate change, sustainability, and an ethics of an open future. August 22-25; 2013; Soesterberg; The Netherlands. vol. 098, Linköping University Electronic Press, pp. 63-78. <http://www.ep.liu.se/ecp/contents.asp?issue=98&volume=>

View all publications in research portal


  • Climate change
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Social justice
  • Bioethics