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Senses of Justice in Climate Policy: Representation and Policy-Making in Cap and Trade Systems

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Justice is a notoriously slippery concept. The multi-dimensional aspect of justice can be a boon because it makes a broad scope of issues visible during any decision-making process. However, it could also be that this slippery character is what allows justice to be simplified or overlooked in policy decision contexts even when it is at the heart of the debate. This paper examines how justice has been dealt with through the development of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), the largest and most coherent ongoing attempt to have a North American greenhouse gas (GHG) cap and trade system. By identifying the implicit and explicit understandings of justice embedded in the Western Climate Initiative’s rationale, development process, and proposed mechanisms, this paper demonstrates how justice has come to be simplified so that in the context of the WCI it is focused primarily on ‘fair play’ among a small set of stakeholders. This relatively thin notion of justice is then considered within larger discussions of justice and climate policy in an attempt to challenge assumptions about what can and should be included as relevant in climate policy decision making.

This talk is part of the CRASSH series.

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