Research

My research targets topics in ethics and political philosophy. I detail below the current projects I am working on. A recurring idea in these projects is understanding the connection between political morality and real-world politics. Part of my research focuses on the underlying mechanisms of this connection, while other aspects focus directly on the application of moral and political principles to the resolution of real-world problems. As far as world problems are concerned, my primary focus is on climate change.

These projects will lead to one or more papers, or books. This page summarizes their content, what has already been published and how they are progressing. I begin with my book project, Justice in a Non-Ideal World, London: Rowman and Littlefield International, Forthcoming 2018.

 


    • My book – titled ‘Justice in a Non-Ideal World’ –  investigates ways through which the non-ideal theorist contributes to the normative weightlifting of political philosophy by gathering knowledge from other disciplines (in particular social sciences, economics, climate sciences) without presupposing ideal theory. The realization of justice in the real world requires moral principles and political action. This book offers a roadmap for these two notions to connect. I argue that non-ideal theorising provides not only non-normative supplementations to political theory, in terms of elements that count as empirical and social scientific input, but also some of its core normative components. The problem this book sets out to fix is centrally a problem with the normative incompleteness of ideal theory. I explain how action-guiding principles are formulated by seeking cross-disciplinary input. Also, the book casts light on the concepts that occupy the space between political morality and real-world politics, which are often used as reasons to obstruct the progression of social justice, e.g. feasibility, compliance and path-dependence. This book argues for a re-appropriation of these concepts in the name of political morality. Many examples will be provided, but the book focuses especially on the case of climate change. It will offer a detailed case study on the realization of climate justice. I found that non-ideal theory provides valuable insights to formulate an action guiding political theory, in order to address issues such as tax competition, climate justice and carbon pricing, which require the collaboration of researchers across a range of disciplines.

 


    • Another project I am currently working on targets the collective action problem in our fight against climate change in the aftermath of the Paris Agreement. On November 4 2016 the Paris agreement entered into force: enough countries – responsible for at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions – have ratified it. In the course of 2016, following the agreement, countries have submitted their plans for reductions in green-house gases emissions – the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). I show in this paper that NDCs are one of the features of the Paris Agreement that present a striking change in global climate governance, especially in comparison to the Kyoto treaty and the failed Copenhagen accord: they are part of an innovative bottom-up approach. The question is: can a bottom-up approach to climate governance overcome the global-scale collective action problem posed by climate change? In this article, I will argue that the bottom-up framework put in motion by the Paris agreement is a crucial part of the solution to this collective action problem.

 


    • One of my central research projects targets the Ethics of Carbon Pricing. Market-based approaches feature prominently around climate roundtables and will very likely become a central pillar of mitigation policies. The economic literature on market-based approaches to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions dates back to the 1970’s. Yet, the existing literature lacks materials that integrate the ethical and the distributive components of market- based instruments. This absence is salient, considering that the distribution of burdens in the emissions reduction effort between nations is among the key obstacles to effectively implementing an international agreement. Utilizing empirical studies on market-based instruments for climate change mitigation (MBIs) and theoretical literature on climate justice, this interdisciplinary project – bridging climate ethics and environmental economics – aims at providing normative tools for moving forward in the political decision-making process about carbon-pricing mechanisms. In order to do so, I explore four questions at the intersection of ethics and economics, with regard to (i) the justification of market-based policies and (ii) the distributive implications of these instruments.This project is divided in two parts. Part I, composed of two papers, will focus on the non- distributive justifications. The first paper will lay down the normative foundations of carbon pricing. I argue for two claims: (a) the a priori non-moral value of efficiency will impact positively on our moral judgement of MBIs and (b) the economic ‘polluters pay’ principle supports a responsibility-based argument from an ethical standpoint that finds its roots in the moral duty not to harm. The work undertaken in the first paper will pave the way for a second paper. Based on the notions of efficiency and responsibility, we will be in a position to assess whether emissions offsetting, often taken to be complementary to market-based approaches, is a justifiable policy, and so should be permitted as part of our overall carbon-reduction strategy. I will argue, based on the non-moral value of efficiency and a moral principle of responsibility, that while the case for carbon pricing is sound, we should not allow for carbon offsetting. Part II focuses on the distributive implications of market-based regulations. The first paper targets two trade-offs between fairness and efficiency. The first trade-off arises between the allocation of the revenues generated by MBIs to incentivise the development of existing sustainable energy and their allocation as a compensatory measure to lower income families who will suffer most from the price increase of carbon intensive goods. The second trade-off arises between a free exchange of carbon permits and the guarantee that emissions will be reduced in already polluted areas. I argue in this paper that, once we consider efficiency and fairness jointly, the best course of action is to invest in developing and diffusing sustainable energy, provided the design of MBIs is sensitive to communities living in already polluted areas. The second paper investigates the question about whether carbon-pricing policies need to be aligned with principles of global climate justice. This paper exposes how carbon-pricing agreements can be sensitive to the global distribution of the climate efforts, in particular by arguing that the distribution of the revenues from MBIs should target poor and developing countries as a way to compensate for the harm done. This argument aims to connect the duty not to harm and the idea to compensate poor nations, notably through initiatives such as the UN Green Climate Fund.This research project integrates normative and empirical analysis of carbon pricing mechanisms. This will result on the normative framework with which we will assess the design of carbon-pricing instruments.

 


    • Another series of papers I am working on focus on climate justice and ‘the development challenge’. My goal is to develop an approach to climate justice that allows to address what has been labelled in the debate ‘the development challenge’, according to which we could not simultaneously realise the goal of climate change mitigation and the goal of allowing poorer people to develop. This research project aims to find ways for global agents to fulfil their moral duties to mitigate climate change in a way that is fair. Distributing the agents’ share of the burden in emissions reduction is an important step in the architecture of climate agreements. A first generation of contributions to the climate justice debate overly focussed on the distribution of right to greenhouse gas emissions. I argue that an analysis of climate scientific constraints informs the moral debate in one important respect: using the right to emit as the ‘currency’ of climate justice research does not allow to overcome the development challenge. A second part of this project is dedicated to associate moral duties with the more precise strategies that overcome the trade-off between the two goals of the development challenge. The objective of this research is not arbitrate between the two axes of the trade-off but rather to look at the moral duties to pursue challenges that allow us to accomplish the objective of the two axes better. This requires knowledge of dynamic processes of climate policy and governance today and involves the development of moral duties for multilevel agency. The international top-down architecture that has dominated the climate governance scene for the last decades is being replaced by a fragmented and decentralized regime. This regime is composed of a multitude of agents, grouped at different level of government (regional, national, cities, private companies and courts), using different tools (markets, legal tools, corporate social responsibility, technological development, national incentives, and government interventions). Theories of climate ethics must develop moral tools which are better tailored to address this new reality.