The climate change mitigation effort is being translated into several actions and discourses that make collateral benefits and their rationale increasingly relevant for sustainability, in such a way that they are now a constant part of the political agenda. Taking a broader and consensual perspective, co-benefits are considered here to be emerging advantages of implementing measures to lower greenhouse gases.
Starting with the analysis of policy documents referring to two European urban transportation strategies, the emergent co-benefits are problematized and discussed to better understand their moral aspect. Further ethical reflection is conducted after an analysis of some unintended consequences of the co-benefits rationale arising from the examples. The discussion focuses primarily on the challenges of an
integrative moral justification for co-benefits and also for their role in the climate change mitigation effort. We also discuss the limitations of the current normative models that frame a co-benefits rationale, both from a moral viewpoint and in relation to the overall climate change mitigation strategy.
In this article, we propose the concepts of well-being and freedom, as portrayed by the Capability Approach, as possible guiding notions for the moral and social evaluation of goodness of these emergent benefits as well as their rationale. Additionally, some preliminary conclusions are drawn regarding the potential of the presented concepts to support climate change mitigation action. Finally, we outline a scenario where the Capability Approach is the moral guideline for a co-benefits rationale and illustrates its potential in terms of enhancing climate change mitigation strategy.