Published on 24.05.2022

Responsibility and justice in dealing with climate and other environmental risks

Small question: Who pays?

Many, if not all, environmental challenges involve risks. These range from damage and loss of material and immaterial goods to impairment of health and fatalities. In most cases, such climate and environmental risks can only be minimised, not fully avoided. Especially when it comes to protective and other adaptation measures, environmental policy therefore always negotiates the fair handling of risks. Since risks can rarely be distributed equally among all those potentially affected, these negotiations are about the fair distribution of environmental risks or the fair differentiation of responsibilities when investing in protection and adaptation measures.

In this presentation, Ivo Wallimann-Helmer discussed three arguments which, in his opinion, show why, when dealing with climate and environmental damage or risks, the sole and exclusive responsibility should not always be borne by their polluters. First, it is often more efficient and fairer to demand assistance from those who actually have the relevant competencies and resources. Second, attributing responsibility for elimination based on the causation of an evil limits the duty to provide assistance to the share of climate and environmental risks that are actually anthropogenically caused. Thirdly, only those directly affected can actually decide how to assess the climate and environmental risks they face and for which they may have to be compensated. However, the weight given to these arguments in the differentiation of responsibility depends strongly on the context.

See the recording of the lecture on 16.05.2022 at

MoMo is a Berlin philosophy working group of philosophers, literary scholars and other humanities and social scientists interested in recent theoretical developments. More information on the event and the lecture slides can be found at