• Ethics in Governing Negative Emission Technologies

    To reach the goal of the Paris Agreement to not overshoot 1.5°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, various countries have committed themselves to net zero emissions, for example the UK and Switzerland by 2050. Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) – more broadly referred to as negative emission technologies – will to be necessary to meet these objectives. As the high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is driving global warming, CDR is a countermeasure: it produces “negative emissions” in the sense that carbon is removed from the atmosphere to an amount higher than the emissions produced. CDR includes efforts to increase the amount of carbon stored on land or in water in biomass by changes in land-use management for coastal areas (“blue carbon”) and land areas (i.e. afforestation), carbon mineralization (accelerated “weathering”) and ocean fertilization. In addition, there are more technologically advanced measures such as Direct Air Capture and Carbon Storage (DACCS), where CO2 is filtered from air and stored underground, and Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS), where biomass is burned and the collected carbon stored away.

    As governance principles for CDR are much needed, the aim of this project is to identify the moral criteria for deciding the permissibility, preferability and obligation of states and individuals to develop and employ CDR. The three driving questions are: Under which conditions, if ever, is the use of CDR permissible? If weighted by moral criteria, is CDR preferable to other climate policies? And if CDR are permissible and preferable – do states and/or individuals have an obligation to employ CDR and to go net negative in their emissions? In order to identify moral criteria to answer these questions this research relies on the ethical debate about climate justice. The criteria will serve as the basis for defining principles for governing CDR.

    Collaborators: Hanna Schübel, Prof. Ivo Wallimann-Helmer

    Contact: hanna.schuebel[at]

    Duration: 2019 - 2023

  • Understanding (justice for) loss and damage

    For a long while, the negative effects of climate change were projected to materialize far off. Talking about climate justice meant talking about justice towards future generations. Policymakers, political theorists, and philosophers were focused on mitigation and adaptation policies to prevent the negative effects of climate change. However, the already-occurring effects of climate change raise the question of what it is owed to people who have already suffered from significant climate change impacts and the kind of claims of justice that they have. These already-occurring effects of climate change have been called ‘loss and damage’. Since the topic of loss and damage has only emerged recently in the literature on climate justice, there are still many open questions concerning how to understand loss and damage as a distinctive problem.

    In her doctoral thesis, Laura García-Portela developed an ex-post minimal understanding of loss and damage under a human rights framework (see García-Portela 2021). The core idea is that loss and damage occurs, at least minimally, when people’s human rights are infringed. She is now in the process of publishing this work and exploring whether this minimal idea of loss and damage could be expanded. Moreover, loss and damage are usually categorised between economic and non-economic losses and damages. In her work, she has further distinguished because victim-entered and agent-centered non-economic losses and damages; and has proposed agent-entered symbolic reparations to solve some justice and moral problems related to the second (see García-Portela 2020). 

    Furthermore, García-portela has a work-in-progress paper (together with Douglas Maroun) on the evaluation of scientific attribution methods, which are key to solve issues around liability for loss and damage. This overarching project on loss and damage aims at identifying the key unresolved issues surrounding this newly arising topic, as well as integrating the different disciplines involved.

    Collaborators: Dr. Laura García-Portela, Prof. Ivo Wallimann-Helmer

    Contact: laura.garciaportela[at]

    Project duration: 2021 - 2025

  • Justice and Food Security in a Changing Climate - EurSafe2021 Conference

    With the Sustainable Development Goals the global community has agreed to end hunger and malnutrition in all of its forms by 2030. However, the number of chronically undernourished people has increased continuously each year from 775 million in 2014 to 821 million in 2017. Ongoing climate change and the necessary action to be taken are very likely to aggravate this situation even more.

    The EurSafe Conference 2021 in Fribourg focuses on the key concerns of ethics and justice as a consequence of these climate change challenges, encouraging papers exploring the following areas:

    1. Climate mitigation and food security
    2. Geoengineering, agriculture and land
    3. Adapting agriculture to sustain food security
    4. Animal ethics and food security

    The topics of the congress range from the four key themes across fundamental ethical issues and areas that relate to veterinary medicine, transparency in the food chain, professional food ethics, etc. Besides more conceptual and theoretical contributions, we also welcome papers that use case studies and studies that examine and propose guidelines on how to deal with key challenges of food security.

    Dates: 24.-26. June 2021

    Organizers: Hanna Schübel, Prof. Ivo Wallimann-Helmer

    Conference website

  • Indigenous rights, climate change and adaptation: A challenge for climate justice

    Climate change leads to more frequent extreme weather events, which in turn strongly increase the pressure on agricultural systems. This disproportionately threatens the rights of indigenous communities, as they often depend on subsistence farming for their livelihoods and maintain deep cultural relationships with their natural environment. Paradoxically, indigenous communities are rarely represented within the institutional structures of climate adaptation processes. This project adopts a normative ethical perspective to consider issues of procedural justice and analyzes how to protect the rights of indigenous communities, particularly their right to food sovereignty, in response to climate change through their integration into climate adaptation processes. In doing so, it responds to the urgent need for climate justice scholarship to focus more closely on processes and agency in adaptation.

    This project divides into three objectives: 1) Explain and justify the indigenous right to food sovereignty within the climate justice debate and explore the potential of procedural justice to secure this right, 2) analyze the role of procedural involvement in an empirical case study, and 3) develop a normative theory of procedural involvement that determines the reasons and conditions for the integration of indigenous communities in climate adaptation processes.

    The approach will involve a combination of methods. First, qualitative primary data will be collected during the case study through semi-structured interviews and content analysis. Second, climate justice principles and concepts from a substantial volume of secondary sources from several disciplines, but mainly climate ethics, will provide the foundation of an ethical analysis.

    The outputs expected from this research are of great scientific and practical value: The proposed normative theory will contribute to scholarship on climate ethics and advance understanding of the role of procedural justice in climate adaptation. The practical contribution of this project will be to provide high-quality scientific guidance for the involvement of indigenous communities into adaptation processes.

    Keywords: Climate Change, Climate Adaptation, Indigenous Communities, Human Rights, Climate Ethics, Procedural Justice

    Collaborators: Tanja Carrillo Sanchez, Prof. Ivo Wallimann-Helmer

    Contact: tanja.enserothl[at]

    Duration: 2020-2024


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