Diversified climate action: The top-down failure and the rise of emissions trading

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Centre for Ethics and Humanism
  • Bioethics Institute Ghent


This paper focuses on the diversified climate action the international community is currently witnessing. Besides examining possible reasons for the failure of the top down approach to effectively halt rising emission levels, the development of bottom-up initiatives is discussed. In addition, this paper evaluates the European Union’s emissions trading system (EU ETS) according to two criteria of justice, with a special focus on two characteristics of the EU ETS: grandfathering and offsetting. The final section of this paper addresses the rise of emissions trading systems and considers the claims made by prominent commentators who believe emissions trading to be inherently unethical. The paper concludes, first, that whether emissions trading is morally reprehensible depends on its design and, second, that the EU ETS fails to respect justice-based criteria and points to the unwillingness of EU leaders to mend a flawed climate policy tool.


Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings from the 50th Societas Ethica Annual Conference 2013.
Subtitle of host publicationClimate change, sustainability, and an ethics of an open future. August 22-25; 2013; Soesterberg; The Netherlands
EditorsGöran Collste, Lars Reuter
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2014


  • climate governance, emissions trading, EU ETS, grandfathering