[SydPhil] Resources, Morality and Mining July 21

Jeremy Moss j.moss at unsw.edu.au
Mon Jul 18 16:57:01 AEST 2016

Resources, morality and mining
Practical Justice Initiative
July 21st 4-6 pm

To mitigate the threat of climate change, we must transition to a low-carbon economy via new methods of energy production and by eventually phasing out fossil fuels.  This event will consider some of the issues that arise for a transition away from fossil fuels. The presentations will focus on issues such as: how might we justly share the costs of natural resource conservation, especially in terms of the global climate and remaining fossil fuel reserves?  Ought we to divest from fossil fuels? And, what role, if any, should government subsidies play? The speakers will address the various dimensions of this more specific question from a variety of angles.

Organized by the Practical Justice Initiative.  In this seminar, we invite you to discuss what is needed to achieve just strategies in our responses to mitigating climate change in transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

Room 310 Morven Brown Building, UNSW Kensington Campus.

 Presentations -

·           Prof Chris Armstrong, University of Southampton Center for Citizenship, Globalization, and Governance;  'The Burdens of Conservation.'

This paper answers the question: if some natural resources ought to be conserved (which might mean actively protected, or simply not used), who should bear the costs, globally speaking? What role should we give, in answering that question, to considerations of responsibility for threats to resources, patterns of benefits from conservation, and ability to pay? I illustrate the argument with reference to examples, one of which is rainforest protection, and another key one of which is the costs of leaving the natural resource in the soil. The paper also finishes by considering some institutional mechanisms for sharing the costs of conservation more fairly.

·           Prof Jeremy Moss, UNSW: 'The Morality of Divestment'.

Divestment from companies that produce or heavily utilise fossil fuels has become one of the biggest issues in the contemporary moral debate surrounding climate change. Pressured by student and civil society based movements, universities and other institutions are being asked to divest themselves of their fossil fuel related investments. To date, there have been some very major institutions and funds who have begun to divest, the most notable being Norway's Government Pension Fund. Many universities have also followed suit. There are many issues at play in the divestment debate, but one fundamental issue concerns the moral arguments that are used to justify divestment. Given that divestment is one of the biggest issues and fastest growing movements in the climate debate, it is important to be clear on these arguments. In this presentation I will briefly characterise what divestment means and to whom it applies. I will then look at negative and positive duty accounts of the duty to divest before looking at the standard objections to both.

·           Dr Violet McKeon, UNSW Practical Justice Initiative; 'Subsidizing Dangerous Climate Change.'

Many have argued that government subsidies for fossil fuel industries are 'perverse,' that is, that the effects they bring to bear are demonstrably adverse both economically and environmentally.  I will briefly outline the general thrust of these arguments, and illustrate the extent to which present data support that assessment.  This paper seeks to answer the question of what role government subsidies ought to play in the transition from a high-carbon economy to a low-carbon one.  I will argue that, insofar as the atmosphere's capacity to provide a stable climate is a shared vital resource, that states have an obligation to their citizens to promote the stability of that resource.  This implies also that states have an obligation to refrain from practices that destabilize the resource as well.  I will then assess the purpose of economic subsidies and argue that, not only ought governments cease providing them to fossil fuel industries, but that there is sufficient moral reason to divert that subsidy revenue to alternative energy producers, research and development, and various "clean tech" enterprises, providing several examples.

Jeremy Moss
Professor of Political Philosophy
University of New South Wales
T: 02-93852357
E: j.moss at unsw.edu.au

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