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A Moral Analysis of Carbon Majors' Role in Climate Change

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Two-thirds of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions over the past two centuries can be traced to the activities of a handful of companies ('carbon majors'). Based on their direct contribution to climate change in terms of carbon emissions and on a number of morally relevant facts, this article proposes a normative framework to establish the responsibilities that carbon majors have in relation to climate change. Then, the analysis articulates these responsibilities in the form of two duties: a duty of decarbonisation and a duty of reparation. The duty of decarbonisation entails a large-scale transformation that carbon majors ought to undergo in order to reduce and eventually eliminate carbon emissions from their entire business model. The duty of reparation implies rectification through disgorgement of funds for the wrongful actions of carbon majors, which resulted in negative climate impacts, starting from the most socially vulnerable groups affected by climate change. Finally, the article indicates possible practical implications of these duties.
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Keywords: Climate change; carbon majors; duty of decarbonisation; duty of reparation; responsibility

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2020

This article was made available online on June 14, 2019 as a Fast Track article with title: "A Moral Analysis of Carbon Majors’ Role in Climate Change".

More about this publication?
  • Environmental Values is an international peer-reviewed journal that brings together contributions from philosophy, economics, politics, sociology, geography, anthropology, ecology and other disciplines, which relate to the present and future environment of human beings and other species. In doing so we aim to clarify the relationship between practical policy issues and more fundamental underlying principles or assumptions.

    Environmental Values has a Journal Impact Factor (2019) of 2.158. 5 Year Impact Factor: 2.047.
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