Micro-Offsets and Macro-Transformation: An Inconvenient View of Climate Change Justice

47 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2009 Last revised: 20 Oct 2014

See all articles by Michael P. Vandenbergh

Michael P. Vandenbergh

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Brooke A. Ackerly

Vanderbilt University

Forrest Forster

Vanderbilt University

Date Written: July 15, 2009

Abstract

We have been asked to examine climate change justice by discussing the methods of allocating the costs of addressing climate change among nations. Our analysis suggests that climate and justice goals cannot be achieved by better allocating the emissions reduction burdens of current carbon mitigation proposals — there may be no allocation of burdens using current approaches that achieves both climate and justice goals. Instead, achieving just the climate goal without exacerbating justice concerns, much less improving global justice, will require focusing on increasing well-being and inducing fundamental changes in development patterns to generate greater levels of well-being with reduced levels of material throughput. We identify several core characteristics of the public and private policy architectures and initiatives necessary to accomplish this task. We also propose examples of short- and long-term initiatives. Our near-term approach recognizes that a focus on public law remedies and nation-states is necessary but not sufficient. We suggest a feasible new mechanism, equity micro-offsets, that could reduce emissions while improving well-being among the poor. Equity micro-offsets can harness altruistic preferences, market mechanisms, and private oversight to reduce emissions and increase well-being in poor countries. Equity micro-offsets also suggest the nature of the long-term political, social, and economic macro-transformation that may be necessary. From household cook stove initiatives to policy architectures that include forestry, agriculture, and other overlooked sectors, achieving climate and justice goals will require transformative approaches, not just improved cost allocations.

Keywords: climate change, greenhouse gases, environmental law, environmental policy, international agreements, social justice, environmental justice, microfinance, and offsets

Suggested Citation

Vandenbergh, Michael P. and Ackerly, Brooke A. and Forster, Forrest, Micro-Offsets and Macro-Transformation: An Inconvenient View of Climate Change Justice (July 15, 2009). Harvard Environmental Law Review, Vol. 33, No. 303-348; Vanderbilt Public Law Research Paper No. 09-12; Vanderbilt Law and Economics Research Paper No. 09-18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1434677 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1434677

Michael P. Vandenbergh (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

Brooke A. Ackerly

Vanderbilt University ( email )

2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240
United States

Forrest Forster

Vanderbilt University ( email )

2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240
United States

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