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Global Sinks and Local Carbon Rights: Improvement, Attachment, or Management?

Environmental Policy
Political Theory
Climate Change
Ethics
Clare Heyward
University of Warwick
Clare Heyward
University of Warwick
Dominic Lenzi
Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change - MCC Berlin

Abstract

Chris Armstrong (2016) argues that attempts at justifying special claims generally take one of two forms. Arguments to special claims from improvement hold that an agent A’s interaction with a resource, R, has improved its value (either to everyone, or at least to many) and that agent A is entitled to keep at least a portion of this added value. Arguments to special claims from attachment hold that an agent A’s interaction with a resource, R, means that it comes to have distinctive significance to A. This is usually cashed out in terms of R become part of A’s life plans. According to Armstrong, special claims from attachment ought not to alter the profile of distribution (that is they cannot justify departures from the baseline) but they ought to be accommodated in the satisfaction of that baseline. That is, an agent may be entitled to have certain resources that he or she is “attached” to as part of her general allocation. In this paper, we consider the place of a third possible justification of special claims. We call it, provisionally, special claims from sustainable management. As we shall explain, the idea of sustainable management departs from typical understandings about what it is to “improve” a resource. However, arguments used by those who endorse special claims from improvement can plausibly be used in justifying claims of special management. We consider whether sustainable management is best understood as a new, broader understanding of “improvement”, potentially accommodated by arguments from attachment, or whether it deserves consideration as a third, distinct basis for justifying special claims. To provide a concrete example, we consider the case of the Surui, an indigenous tribe in Amazonia, who, have recently obtained a non-binding legal opinion that they have a “right to carbon” sequestered in their land.