FEEM Research Seminar on “Exporting Harm: The Morality of Fossil Fuel Exports”
12:30 - 14:00
In this paper I will discuss an aspect of the problem of how to divide the World’s remaining “carbon budget” – the amount of CO2-e that can be emitted if we are to avoid dangerous climate change. I will argue that there is a prima facie case for allocating responsibility for the harms caused by “exported emissions”- such as those produced by coal exports, as well as those that are produced within a country’s borders. My paper sets out some of the factors that determine a country’s budget and argues that the current methods for allocating emissions and responsibilities for their harms are inadequate and more complex than they appear.
I will consider several dimensions of the harm caused by unrestricted fossil fuel exports. First, what kind of harm is caused by such exports? Second, whether analogies exist between other harmful exports – medical waste, tobacco, unsafe jobs, uranium – and fossil fuels to examine how the kind of harm caused by global warming is different from standard cases of harm where only two parties are involved. Finally, what allocating responsibility for harms means in practice.
In the second part of the paper I will discuss what follows from this argument for exporters. For example, if this kind of argument is true, then exporting countries face a range of responses that they could be obligated to perform including: phasing out exports, limiting new developments and exploration, compensating for harm, including a portion of the emissions of their exports in their domestic carbon budget or adopting faster domestic transitions. The paper will evaluate which of these responses exporters have an obligation to perform. I will also discuss some of the other consequences of this approach, such as whether and to what degree there are different constraints on developing countries that export fossil fuels, the likelihood of ‘negative’ carbon budgets for big fossil fuel exporters and the consequences for their climate transitions.