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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Isolationism and the equal per capita view

Torpman, Olle;


In climate ethics, there is a debate about how the carbon budget, in terms of emissions permits, should be divided between people. One popular proposal, sometimes called The Equal per Capita View, says that everyone should have an equal share of the available emissions permits. Several authors have objected to this view, arguing that: (i) the equal per capita view implies isolationism since it treats emissions permits in isolation from other considerations of justice such as development, poverty and trade; and (ii) isolationism is implausible since it yields a number of problematic implications; therefore (iii) the equal per capita view is implausible. I examine this argument against the equal per capita view by scrutinizing the presumed problematic implications of isolationism. I show that they are either mistakenly inferred from isolationism or irrelevant as to whether isolationism is plausible or not. I conclude that the equal per capita view should not be discarded for being an isolationist approach. Rather, both isolationism and the equal per capita view should be considered as potential action guides. This result is of relevance to the climate political debate, since it could promote progress in the climate negotiations that are needed for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as set by the Paris Agreement.


Isolationism; integrationism; emissions permits; emissions distribution; equal per capita; climate change

Published in

Environmental Politics

2021, volume: 30, number: 3, pages: 357-375

Authors' information

Torpman, Olle
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG13 Climate action

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences
Climate Research
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)

Publication Identifiers


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