Bridging The Emissions Gap: A Plea For Taking Up The Slack

Philosophy and Public Issues - Filosofia E Questioni Pubbliche 3 (1):273-301 (2013)
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With the existing commitments to climate change mitigation, global warming is likely to exceed 2°C and to trigger irreversible and harmful threshold effects. The difference between the reductions necessary to keep the 2°C limit and those reductions countries have currently committed to is called the ‘emissions gap’. I argue that capable states not only have a moral duty to make voluntary contributions to bridge that gap, but that complying states ought to make up for the failures of some other states to comply with this duty. While defecting or doing less than one’s fair share can be a good move in certain circumstances, it would be morally wrong in this situation. In order to bridge the emissions gap, willing states ought to take up the slack left by others. The paper will reject the unfairness-objection, namely that it is wrong to require agents to take on additional costs to discharge duties that are not primarily theirs. Sometimes what is morally right is simply unfair.

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Anne Schwenkenbecher
Murdoch University


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