Justice in adaptation to climate change: Cosmopolitan implications for international institutions

Paul G. Harris, Jonathan Symons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


The creation and funding of international institutions for adaptation to climate change involve questions of justice. Should unconditional assistance flow to governments or should assistance be provided in ways that ensure benefits flow to vulnerable populations? Do major emitters of greenhouse gases have special obligations to assist the developing world adapt to climate change? Which actors are the proper bearers of obligations to assist? After reviewing both state-centred and cosmopolitan arguments about adaptation assistance, it is argued that neither philosophical perspective justifies the statist design of existing institutions. A more just and effective international agreement on climate change adaptation must achieve a higher degree of consistency between the principles of burden sharing applied internationally and domestically. Adaptation assistance should target human welfare rather than provide compensation to states, and should be funded through measures that impose similar emission costs on affluent people in both developed and developing countries. These arguments are briefly demonstrated using the case of China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)617-636
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironmental Politics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


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