British Academy & Leverhulme Trust

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Tim Hayward's research for this project analyses the claim that affluent nations are running an ‘ecological debt’. Such a debt would entail duties of justice on them not only to reduce their use of natural resources but also to redistribute some of the benefits already attained through their use. These duties of justice would be determined by reference to human rights principles that are already recognized internationally.  He is currently completing work on a book entitled Global Justice, Human Rights and Ecological Debt.

Background and Aims:

Developed countries like the UK benefit from the use of more natural resources and environmental services than is either ecologically sustainable or arguably, especially in light of global inequalities, their du e share.  From the perspective of developing countries, we can be accused of running an ‘ecological debt’.  Such accusations may scarcely be heeded at present, but as global competition for available natural resources and environmental services intensifies, and some of the largest Newly Industrialising Countries become serious power rivals, concerns about the injustice of current usage are liable to be compounded by security concerns.  Therefore prudence combines with ethics to commend preparing to address them.

            Allegations of ecological debt can be understood as claims that there is an unjust distribution of rights in the planet’s various natural resources and environmental services. The allocation of rights is certainly haphazard: international law accommodates an array of property and sovereignty rights which have arisen historically as products of unregulated exploitation, wars, colonialism, power politics, ad hoc negotiations, and, in the best of cases, multilateral treaty agreements.  Meanwhile, as international institutions create new rights - for example, carbon emissions rights or intellectual property rights in genetic resources - old rights, and particularly rights of territorial sovereignty, are being significantly modified.  How just these regimes are, individually and in the aggregate, is the central question for assessing allegations of ecological debt.

 Publications from the project

 ‘International Political Theory and the Global Environment: Some Critical Questions for Liberal Cosmopolitans',
Journal of Social Philosophy, 40.2 (2009): 276-295.

 'On the Nature of Our Debt to the Global Poor’, Journal of Social Philosophy, 39.1 (2008): 1-19.

 ‘Human Rights Versus Emissions Rights: climate justice and the equitable distribution of ecological space’, Ethics and International Affairs 21.4 (2007): 431-450.

 ‘Ecological Citizenship: justice, rights, and the virtue of resourcefulness’, Environmental Politics 15.3 (2006): 435-446.

 ‘Ecological Citizenship: a rejoinder to Dobson’, Environmental Politics 15.3 (2006): 452-3.

 ‘Global Justice and the Distribution of Natural Resources’, Political Studies 54.2 (2006): 349-369.

 ‘Thomas Pogge’s Global Resources Dividend: a critique and an alternative’, Journal of Moral Philosophy, 2.3 (2005): 299-314.