Research

Current Research

  • Building the Canadian Green Economy
  • Markets, Duties and Climate Politics
  • The Ethics and Politics of Carbon Pricing
  • Global Climate Justice After Paris
  • Justice in a Non-Ideal World
  • The Moral Limits of Markets

I am currently working on an extensive research project: “A Just Transition for the Canadian Green Economy”. How can we take care of workers, households and best signal markets such as to accelerate the green economy transition?

Also, my research targets topics in climate politics and political theory. I detail below the current projects I am working on. A recurring idea in these projects is understanding the connection between politics and real-world politics. I have developed a methodology for non-ideal political theory, which aims to show how political theory guides political action. Part of my research focuses on the underlying mechanisms of this connection, while other aspects focus directly on the application of moral and political principles to the resolution of real-world problems. Regarding world problems, my primary focusses are climate change and the market economy.

These projects will lead to one or more papers, or books. This page summarizes their content, what has already been published and how they are progressing. I begin with my book project, Justice in a Non-Ideal World, London: Rowman and Littlefield International, Forthcoming 2019.

 Do moral and social principles guide political action? How do principles of justice and principles of moral responsibility connect with real-world politics? My book – titled ‘Justice in a Non-Ideal World’ – explores the methodology and the content of a theory of justice that turns the spotlight to these questions. This unveils the defining elements of a theory of justice designed for a non-ideal world. This book casts light on the concepts that occupy the space between political theory and read-world politics, which are often used as reasons to obstruct the progression of justice, e.g. feasibility, fact-sensitivity, compliance and path-dependence. It argues for a re-appropriation of these concepts in the name of justice. Many examples will be provided, especially in the fields of social justice, taxation, and climate politics. The realisation of justice requires political theory and political action. This book offers a roadmap for these two notions to connect. The central contributions of this book fall into three different levels: explaining how action-guiding principles are formulated by seeking cross-disciplinary input (mete-theoretical); offering a normative framework to address issues such as climate justice, tax evasion and tax avoidance, and carbon pricing (theoretical), and showing how the work in non-ideal theory helps bridging the gap between political theory and real-world politics (practical). This book proceeds from the analysis of crucial problems of justice as they arise in the arena of today’s politics and offers a way to summon moral principles in these contexts, in order for these principles to meaningfully guide action. It thereby suggests that there is a role for the political philosopher in bridging the gap between political theory and real-world politics. Besides my book, two papers on this topic have appeared in the Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy and in Moral Philosophy and Politics. 

 One of my central research projects targets the Ethics of Carbon Pricing. A first paper on this topic will appear soon in Ethics, Policy and Environment. Market-based approaches feature prominently around climate roundtables and will very likely become a central pillar of mitigation policies. The economic literature on market-based approaches to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions dates back to the 1970’s. Yet, the existing literature lacks materials that integrate the ethical and the distributive components of market- based instruments. This absence is salient, considering that the distribution of burdens in the emissions reduction effort between nations is among the key obstacles to effectively implementing an international agreement. Utilizing empirical studies on market-based instruments for climate change mitigation (MBIs) and theoretical literature on climate justice, this interdisciplinary project – bridging climate ethics and environmental economics – aims at providing normative tools for moving forward in the political decision-making process about carbon-pricing mechanisms. In order to do so, I explore four questions at the intersection of ethics and economics, with regard to (i) the justification of market-based policies and (ii) the distributive implications of these instruments. This will result on the normative framework with which we will assess the design of carbon-pricing instruments.


Another series of papers I am working on focus on climate justice and ‘the development challenge’. My goal is to develop an approach to climate justice that allows to address what has been labelled in the debate ‘the development challenge’, according to which we could not simultaneously realise the goal of climate change mitigation and the goal of allowing poorer people to develop. This research project aims to find ways for global agents to fulfil their moral duties to mitigate climate change in a way that is fair. Distributing the agents’ share of the burden in emissions reduction is an important step in the architecture of climate agreements. A first generation of contributions to the climate justice debate overly focussed on the distribution of right to greenhouse gas emissions. I argue that an analysis of climate scientific constraints informs the moral debate in one important respect: using the right to emit as the ‘currency’ of climate justice research does not allow to overcome the development challenge. A first paper, published in the Journal of Global Ethics (2017), puts forward a normative framework to differentiate between the climate-related responsibilities of different countries in the aftermath of the Paris Agreement. It offers reasons for applying the chief moral principles of ‘historical responsibility’ and ‘capacity’ to climate finance instead of climate change mitigation targets. This will (i) provide a normative basis to realize the goal of climate change mitigation while allowing for developing and newly industrialized countries to develop economically, and (ii) offer an account of the distributive principles that can regulate climate finance. This is a real-world interpretation of the 1992 UNFCCC principle of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ that takes into account the progress accomplished at the COP21 in Paris and offers a solution to the still unsolved problem of differentiated responsibilities. This paper offers an application of this proposal to the Green Climate Fund.
A second paper, forthcoming in 2018 in The Routledge Handbook of Climate Justice, pursues this thought. Climate finance aims at reducing global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, enhancing carbon sinks, and reducing vulnerability of populations and ecosystems to a changing climate. When signing the Paris Agreement in December 2015, advanced economies maintained their pledged to mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020 to address the pressing mitigation and adaptation needs of developing countries. This sum should represent ‘new and additional’ funds to the total climate finance portfolio. Today, not only present financial commitments are far below the mark, but the existing redistributive mechanisms lack a structured method to replenish their resources. Climate finance needs moral theory, effective political practice and insights about how to connects the two. This paper presents climate finance as an instrument of climate justice and as a signal for effective climate action. As both an instrument and a signal, it aims at allowing countries to develop economically while reducing their GHG emissions. To do so, this paper offers an account of what principles of climate justice should regulate climate finance and what are some of the central practical implications of these principles, including: what agents should be involved in the distribution and what sources of finance should be counted.

 Another research project I am currently working on targets the moral limits of markets. This topic has received attention in important recent contributions to ethics and political philosophy (Sandel 2012; Satz 2010; Grant 2012; Sen 1987) and in classical text such as Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. These works, including Smith’s, offer us important reasons to seriously consider cases where markets penetrate spheres they were previously absent from. They offer important reasons to distinguish between markets in different sectors. What these debates lack is a discussion that integrates different arguments for and against the market. Such a discussion would allow to tackle the double question: What is the place for the market and why does the market must be kept in its place? The boundaries of the market are moral.
Another project I am currently working on targets the collective action problem in our fight against climate change in the aftermath of the Paris Agreement. (This paper is currently under review). On November 4 2016 the Paris agreement entered into force: enough countries – responsible for at least 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions – have ratified it. In the course of 2016, following the agreement, countries have submitted their plans for reductions in green-house gases emissions – the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). I show in a first paper that NDCs are one of the features of the Paris Agreement that present a striking change in global climate governance, especially in comparison to the Kyoto treaty and the failed Copenhagen accord: they are part of an innovative bottom-up approach. The question is: can a bottom-up approach to climate governance overcome the global-scale collective action problem posed by climate change? In this article, I will argue that the bottom-up framework put in motion by the Paris agreement is a crucial part of the solution to this collective action problem. A second paper associates moral duties with the more precise strategies that overcome the trade-off between the two goals of the development challenge. The objective of this research is not arbitrate between the two axes of the trade-off but rather to look at the moral duties to pursue challenges that allow us to accomplish the objective of the two axes better.  I discuss the dynamic processes of climate policy and governance today, which involve the development of moral duties for multilevel agency. The international top-down architecture that has dominated the climate governance scene for the last decades is being replaced by a fragmented and decentralized regime. This regime is composed of a multitude of agents, grouped at different level of government (regional, national, cities, private companies and courts), using different tools (markets, legal tools, corporate social responsibility, technological development, national incentives, and government interventions). Theories of climate ethics must develop moral tools which are better tailored to address this new reality.