Colin Hickey

Published On


Page Range

pp. 297–334


  • English

Print Length

38 pages

12. Climate Change, Distributive Justice, and “Pre-Institutional” Limits on Resource Appropriation

In this paper I argue that individuals are, prior to the existence of just institutions requiring that they do so, bound as a matter of global distributive justice to restrict their use, or share the benefits fairly of any use beyond their entitlements, of the Earth's capacity to absorb greenhouse gases (EAC) to within a specified justifiable range. As part of the search for an adequate account of climate morality, I approach the task by revisiting, and drawing inspiration from, two prominent models from classical political philosophy for thinking about norms (rights, permissions, limits, etc.) regarding “pre-institutional” appropriation of unowned resources; Locke and Kant, respectively. The basic resources they develop—connected to fundamental norms of equality and rights to self-preservation and freedom—in order to generate their particular schema for distributive shares prior to the existence of just institutions can be usefully and plausibly connected with the scarce, valuable, rival, non-excludable, global, and unowned resource that is EAC in order to undergird a picture of individual climate duties in the contemporary world. It is a picture that comes with some fairly radical implications, especially for the well-off.


Colin Hickey

Assistant Professor in the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics at University of Amsterdam

Colin Hickey is an Assistant Professor at the University of Amsterdam, in the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics. Previously, he was a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University in the University Center for Human Values and the High Meadows Environmental Institute, and before that he was a postdoctoral researcher at Utrecht University with the Fair Limits Project. He received his PhD in philosophy from Georgetown University. His work focuses on moral and political philosophy, especially issues of climate justice and responsibility.