Conceptualizations of justice in climate policy

Sonja Klinsky, Hadi Dowlatabadi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

108 Scopus citations


Distributive justice in climate change has been of interest both to the ethics and to the climate policy communities, but the two have remained relatively isolated. By combining an applied ethics approach with a focus on the details of a wide range of proposed international climate policies, this article proposes two arguments. First, three categories of proposals are identified, each characterized by its assumptions about the nature of the ‘problem’ of climate change, the burdens that this problem imposes, and its application of distribution rules. Each category presents potential implications for distributive justice. The second, related, argument is that assumptions about technology, sovereignty, substitution and public perceptions of ethics shape the distributive justice outcomes of proposed policies even though these areas have largely been overlooked in discussions of the subject in either literature. The final lesson of this study is that the definition, measurement and distribution of burdens are all critical variables for distributive justice in climate policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-108
Number of pages21
JournalClimate Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate change
  • Climate policy
  • Distributive justice
  • Ethics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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