Current Research

  • Building the Canadian Green Economy
  • Markets, Duties and Climate Politics
  • The Ethics and Politics of Carbon Pricing

I am currently working on two extensive research projects on the topic: “Accelerating the Canadian Green Economy Transition : fairness, markets and social acceptability “. How can we take care of workers, households and best signal markets such as to accelerate the decarbonization of the Canadian economy? These projects are financed by the SSHRC Develpment Insight Grants and the FRQSC Équipe de Recherche.

Also, my research targets topics in climate politics and political theory. I detail below the current projects I have worked on in the past. A recurring idea in these projects is understanding the connection between political theory and real-world politics. I have developed a methodology for non-ideal political theory, which aims to show how political theory can guide 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. This page summarizes their content, what has already been published and how they are progressing. I begin with my book, Justice in a Non-Ideal World, London: Rowman and Littlefield International, 2019.

Justice in a Non-Ideal World

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. 

The Ethics of Carbon Pricing

 One of my central research projects targets the Ethics of Carbon Pricing. A first paper on this topic was published in 2019 in Ethics, Policy and Environment. I have a second paper currently under revision. 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. I will use this framework to inform the design of carbon pricing mechanisms, and in particular how its revenues should be used, in Québec and Canada.

Climate Justice after Paris

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, which appeared 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.

The Moral Limits of Markets

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.

The Political Theory of Polycentric Climate Governance

I am also currently working on the specific connection between climate ethics and climate governance. A new article has just been published in International Environmental Agreements. Contributions to the climate governance literature have highlighted the importance of recognizing its new polycentric nature, which includes roles for non-state and subnational actors in climate change mitigation and in leadership for climate action. Yet, the literature is missing a normative cartography—that is, a mapping of the distribution of moral duties in the real world—which is tailored to a context of polycentric governance. This paper answers the question: how can moral duties be distributed in a context of polycentric climate governance such as to diminish the problem of non-compliance? This implies the following question: do duties change in situations of non-compliance in a context of polycentric governance, and if so how? Acknowledging polycentric governance is the key to an effective distribution of moral duties, as it allows for a more accurate mapping of non-state and subnational actors’ duties in leading the charge against climate change. Correspondingly, a normative cartography fitted to this context will be instrumental in showing how morally informed climate governance can diminish the problem of non-compliance. This paper focusses on the distribution of moral duties in a context of polycentric governance as a contributing factor to inducing agents to act according to the collective goal. It argues that a more fine-grained distribution of climate duties, tailored to polycentric climate governance, contributes to addressing the problem of non-compliance.