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Keywords:

  • atmosphere;
  • commons;
  • emissions rights;
  • justice;
  • sinks

Emissions rights are commodities and many hold that these commodities (or alternatively the revenue from their auction) should be allocated to (adult) individuals on an equal per capita basis. Proponents of this equal per capita allocation (EPCA) often argue for it on the grounds that the atmosphere or greenhouse gas emissions sinks are a ‘commons’. But how can we assess the strength of these ‘commons arguments’ for EPCA? As most of those making such arguments do not have a background in academic philosophy, their arguments are not grounded in the philosophical literature on justice – a literature that seeks to provide a specification and justification of what constitutes a fair distribution of resources within society. This paper therefore seeks to set out clearly the various commons arguments for EPCA and to assess what, if any, support can be found for them within the justice literature. To make the various commons arguments as clear as possible, and to make analysis of these arguments as straightforward as possible, they are set out formally, that is, as premises followed by a conclusion. The conclusion of the analysis is that there is little support within the justice literature for these commons arguments for EPCA.