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Many developing states argue that they should be compensated for the costs of adapting to climate change. They point out that industrialised states are responsible for the bulk of historical greenhouse gas emissions and per capita first world emissions continue to dwarf developing world emissions. Yet, given the substantial internal inequality and rapidly rising emissions within developing states such as China and India, the same arguments that justify international adaptation compensation might equally justify internal redistributive measures. This paper addresses the question of how international institutions that fund adaptation to anthropogenic climate change should be designed. After reviewing both communitarian and cosmopolitan arguments about adaptation assistance we propose that a more just and more effective international agreement on climate change adaptation must achieve a higher degree of consistency between the principles of burden sharing applied internationally and domestically. Adaptation assistance should target human welfare directly rather than through compensation payments between states. The application of these arguments is briefly demonstrated primarily by use of China as an example.


CAPS Working Paper Series No.195 (Aug 09)

Recommended Citation

Harris, P. G., & Symons, J. (2009). Justice and adaptation to climate change in the Asia Pacific region: Designing international institutions (CPPS Working Paper Series No.195). Retrieved from Lingnan University website: