Cosmopolitanism, climate change, and greenhouse emissions trading

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Page, Edward (2011)

This article examines the question of whether international markets in allowances conferring the right to emit greenhouse gases are consistent with a cosmopolitan approach to global and intergenerational justice. After placing emissions trading within the context of both climate change policy and cosmopolitan political theory, three normative objections are examined to the use of emissions trading to mitigate the threat of dangerous climate change. Each objection arises from a different application of cosmopolitan thinking: (i) the potentially corrosive impact of greater use of emissions allowances markets on the environmental values of successive generations of atmospheric users; (ii) the awkward relationship between emissions markets and the norms of procedural justice endorsed by all prominent cosmopolitans; and (iii) the injustice expressed by policy instruments that commodify the atmosphere. It is argued that, while each objection should prompt some care in the construction and implementation of emissions trading schemes to guarantee their legitimacy among existing and future users of the atmosphere, they do not generate a decisive normative challenge to the use of markets, properly defined and regulated, to slow global warming.
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