Sustainable Development, Global Governance, and Justice

Severe poverty, massive inequalities and climate change are conspiring to create some of the most pressing practical problems facing humanity. Billions of people live in desperate poverty and are especially vulnerable both to shocks in the global financial system and to the impacts of climate change. A major moral reason to be concerned about climate change is the effect that it will have on the poor.
The extreme deprivation and vulnerability of persons living in poverty is inconsistent with an international order based on the inherent dignity of persons as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The persistence of severe poverty, growing inequality, and increasing CO2 emissions are evidence of massive failures in our current system of global governance.
Within Research Area 1, research on politics is not understood one-sidedly as a process in which power, rule and violence, or structures acting over long periods of time and other factors, conceived as “external” factors, operate, but as one in which norms and normative orientations play a central role. Numerous issues associated with the problem of climate change provided an occasion to address fundamental moral questions concerning the possible emergence of a just international normative order. For example, the term “right to sustainable development” can play an important role in the arguments of poor countries that international climate protection policy must not neglect their legitimate development goals. A certain kind of intergenerational normative order also comes to the fore with particular urgency in the context of such questions. The view that people who are now alive have a moral obligation towards future generations to combat climate change justifies climate protection policies, but this view in turn also requires specific forms of justification.
This research project combined investigations into questions in moral and political philosophy with analyses of international organizations and institutions and of the kind of action that produces appropriate social change. The research of the PI focused in particular on the social and normative context of climate change and poverty. The dissertation project of the PhD student and assistant Daniel Callies entitled “Intentionally Manipulating the Climate: The Ethics and Governance of Climate Engineering” addressed arguments that can be brought against climate engineering research.
Key findings were the justification and clarification of the concept of the right to sustainable development, as well as the development of a forward-looking account of responsibility for a regime dealing with climate change. The arguments developed in this context support the view that the international climate regime must be designed in ways that make it compatible with the goal of the least developed countries to pursue economic development to overcome poverty. In addition, the importance of poverty for identifying and responding to climate change was defended. The arguments developed by Daniel Callies support the view that, although climate engineering research cannot be prohibited on moral grounds, a legitimate international governance structure is needed to regulate research and possible applications.

The most important events and presentations of this project:

Lecture: Progress, Destruction, and the Anthropocene (by Darrel Moellendorf), University of Duisburg-Essen, May 2017.

Lecture: Progress, Destruction, and the Anthropocene (by Darrel Moellendorf), Liberty Fund/Social Philosophy and Policy conference, Redondo Beach, June 2017.

Workshop: Author-Meets-Critic-Section on his The Moral Challenge of Dangerous Climate Change (by Darrel Moellendorf), ECPR Prague, September 2016.

Presentation: “Climate Engineering and Playing God” (by Daniel Callies), Warwick Graduate Conference on Political and Legal Theory, University of Warwick, England, February 2016.

Presentation: “Institutional Legitimacy and Solar Radiation Management” (by Daniel Callies),  Science, Technology, and Public Policy Fellows Workshop, Harvard University, November 2016.


The most important publications within this research project:

Moellendorf, Darrel:  “Taking UNFCCC Norms Seriously”, in: D. Roser and J. Heyward (eds.): Climate Change and Non-Ideal Theory, Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 104–124.

Moellendorf, Darrel:  “Can Dangerous Climate Change Be Avoided”, Global Justice Theory Practice Rhetoric 8, 2016, [online] [05.10.2017].

Moellendorf, Darrel:  “Global Distributive Justice: The Cosmopolitan Point of View,” in: D. Held and P. Maffettone (eds.): Global Political Theory, London: Polity Press, 2016.

Moellendorf, Darrel and Axel Schaffer: “Equalizing the Intergenerational Burdens of Climate Change–An Alternative to Discounted Utilitarianism”, Midwest Studies in Philosophy, XL, 2016, pp. 43–62.

Moellendorf, Darrel: "The Moral Challenge of Dangerous Climate Change: Values, Poverty, and Policy", Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.


People in this project:

  • Project members
    • Visak, Tatjana (former member) | Profile

Publications of this project:

  • Kollár, Eszter (2017): "The Distinction Between Taxation and Public Service in the Debate on Emigration." Law, Ethics and Philosophy
  • Reglitz, Merten (2016): "Medical Brain Drain: Free-Riding, Exploitation, and Global Justice," Moral Philosophy & Politics 3 (1): 67-81
    Details | Link to full text | 10.1515/mopp-2015-0021
  • Reglitz, Merten (2016): "A Kantian Argument against World Poverty," European Journal of Political Theory
    Details | Link to full text | 10.1177/1474885116662566
  • Reglitz, Merten (2016): "The Practice-Independence of Intergenerational Justice," Utilitas 28 (4): 415-440
    Details | Link to full text | 10.1017/S095382081600008X
  • Kollár, Eszter (2016): "Global Equality of Opportunity and Self-determination in the Context of Immigration." Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
    Details |
  • Open-Access-Logo Kollár, Eszter (2016): "Symposium on Brain Drain: The Merits and Limits of Furthering Normative Solutions in Source Countries," Moral Philosophy and Politics 3, 1 (2016)
    Details | Link to full text
  • Kollár, Eszter (2016): "What is wrong with the emergency justification of compulsory medical service?", Journal of Medical Ethics, 2016 (doi:10.1136/medethics-2015-103163)
    Details | Link to full text
  • Kollár, Eszter; Laukötter, Sebastian; Buyx, Alena (2016): "Humanity and Justice in Global Health: Problems with Venkatapuram’s Justification Of the Global Health Duty," Bioethics 30, 1 (2016)
  • Moellendorf, Darrel (2015): “Climate Change Justice,” Philosophy Compass, on line, March 2015, 173-186.
    Details | Link to full text
  • Callies, Daniel (2015): “Adaptation after the Paris Negotiations: Who Ought to Foot the Bill?” Agenda for International Development, December 2015
    Details | Link to full text
  • Reglitz, Merten (2015): "Fairness for Non-Participants: A Case for A Practice-Independent Egalitarian Baseline," Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy
    Details | Link to full text | 10.1080/13698230.2015.1037575
  • Reglitz, Merten (2015): "Political Legitimacy without a (Claim-) Right to Rule," Res Publica 21 (3): 291-307
    Details | Link to full text | 10.1007/s11158-015-9267-0
  • Kollár, Eszter; Loi, Michele (2015): “Prenatal Equality of Opportunity,” Journal of Applied Philosophy 32, 1 (2015): 35–49
    Details | doi: 10.1111/japp.12067
  • Moellendorf, Darrel; Schaffer, Axel (2014): “Beyond Discounted Utilitarianism - Just Distribution of Climate Costs,” Karlsruher Beiträge zur Wirtschaftspolitischen Forschung 34 (2014).


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