Conference article

Diversified Climate Action: The Top-Down Failure and the Rise of Emissions Trading

Jo Dirix
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Brussels, Belgium

Wouter Peeters
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Brussels, Belgium

Sigrid Sterckx
Universiteit Gent, Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences, Gent, Belgium

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Published in: 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

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 98:6, p. 63-78

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Published: 2014-08-21

ISBN: 978-91-7519-289-5

ISSN: 1650-3686 (print), 1650-3740 (online)


This paper focuses on the diversified climate action the international community is currently witnessing. Besides examining possible reasons for the failure of the top-down approach to effectively halt rising emission levels; the development of bottom-up initiatives is discussed. In addition; this paper evaluates the European Union’s emissions trading system (EU ETS) according to two criteria of justice; with a special focus on two characteristics of the EU ETS: grandfathering and offsetting. The final section of this paper addresses the rise of emissions trading systems and considers the claims made by prominent commentators who believe emissions trading to be inherently unethical. The paper concludes; first; that whether emissions trading is morally reprehensible depends on its design and; second; that the EU ETS fails to respect justice-based criteria and points to the unwillingness of EU leaders to mend a flawed climate policy tool.


Climate governance; top-down failure; bottom-up emergence; emissions trading ethics; EU ETS; grandfathering and offsetting


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