The Intrinsic Justifiability of Grandfathering in Climate Politics
Kamminga, Menno R.
Climate philosophers conceptualize ‘grandfathering’ as ‘emissions grandfathering’: past emission levels entitle to future emissions. With the notable but controversial exception of libertarian Luc Bovens (2011), they regard grandfathering as intrinsically, even if not instrumentally, unjust. Questioning both the standard dismissal and Bovens’s Lockean pro-argument, this article defends the intrinsic (albeit limited) fairness of grandfathering conceptualized as ‘resources grandfathering’: fossil resource creation entitles to future resources use. A threefold ‘social constructivist’ ethical argument for this position is developed. First, philosophers’ basic aversion to grandfathering, while consistent with their emissions-based understanding, rests on an undefended, shallow ‘cosmopolitan materialism’. Second, Bovens’s Lockean defense of the intrinsic fairness of grandfathering emission rights falls short for assuming a dubious ‘first-come first-served’ within a retained cosmopolitan materialism, although it sensibly suggests to include respect for investments in our understanding of grandfathering. Third, a ‘communitarian idealist’ defense of grandfathering, which stresses that ‘natural resources’ are cultural-historical creations, succeeds by undermining cosmopolitan materialism and eliminating first-come first-served. Thus, grandfathering supports Western countries and opposes (possibly) non-Western small rich or rapidly industrializing ones, and implies a critique of the view that the West owes a massive climate debt to developing countries. Yet, grandfathering, as distributional starting-point within a pluralist framework, should arguably be complemented by ‘no-harm’ and ‘ability to pay’.
EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Menno R. Kamminga, "The Intrinsic Justifiability of Grandfathering in Climate Politics" in: "Etica & Politica / Ethics & Politics (2020) XXII/3", EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, Trieste, 2021, pp. 751-768
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Internazionale