Carbon debt and the (in)significance of history; 346-365
University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Abstract. My aim in this paper is to discuss the so-called (historical) carbon debt to see who should take responsibility for past carbon emissions and why, and indeed what role we should accord to history when looking for just allocation of duties to cover the costs associated with anthropogenic climate change. I shall argue that the beneficiary pays account, slightly modified, is the most promising approach. I also argue that carbon debt should not be interpreted as a call for reparations. Rather, what matters is restoring equality and this requires respecting the entitlements of all individuals to have their vital interests protected. Taking past emissions into account is significant insofar as it shows that the wealth of the affluent industrial countries is not morally protected as it is a consequence of activities that harm the entitlements of others.
Keywords: carbon debt, climate change, beneficiary pays, advantage, past emissions, reparations
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