Is the EU ETS a just climate policy?

Jo Dirix, Wouter Peeters, Sigrid Sterckx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) is in dire straits. Prone to design problems and suffering from the effects of the economic crises the scheme is criticised for its poor achievements. In this paper we will analyse some of the features of this situation from an ethical perspective. The major part is dedicated to the complications within each phase of the EU ETS and to the recent developments it has undergone. We will briefly discuss the remedies suggested by prominent commentators. Furthermore, any policy tool to tackle climate change should be evaluated in view of the profound equity issues that are inherent to the climate problem. We will evaluate the EU ETS according to two justice-based criteria, related to effectiveness and the distribution of the duties involved in climate change, respectively. We will conclude that the EU ETS, in its current form, clearly lacks fairness on both criteria. However, the biggest problem is the unwillingness of EU leaders to mend, what could be, a commendable climate policy tool. To that extent, we argue, those leaders are acting unjustly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)702-724
Number of pages23
JournalNew Political Economy
Issue number5
Early online date2015
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2015


  • climate change
  • emissions trading
  • EU ETS
  • justice


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