Who owes what to future generations? Integrating global and intergenerational justice.


Some of the most pressing issues humanity is faced with, like climate change, have both an intergenerational and global dimension. This raises the question of how the costs of acting on concerns for future generations should be allocated globally. How do existing inequalities and injustices influence how much people can and should contribute? This project will provide a principled answer. The project consists of three parts. First, I show that global and intergenerational justice are deeply connected, something that the justice literature overlooks. In many cases we cannot theorize one without the other. Second, I will develop an integrated principled account of who owes what to future generations, drawing on the strengths of debates at the global/intergenerational intersection focussing on particular problems, like climate ethics. I will show that a theory of justice that does not ground obligations in particular kinds of relations (like co-citizenship) is best able to offer a plausible theory. This entails globally shared responsibility for future generations wherever they are. Third, I will work out the real world implications of this view, taking into account existing inequalities and existing institutional and motivational obstacles. This proposal makes three more general contributions. Substantively, it reveals the degree to which obligations of global justice depend on obligations of intergenerational justice and vice versa. I will make the methodological point that trends (like pluralism, isolationism or disaggregation) advising against monist, integrated, theories of justice are highly problematic in this light. This leads to the third, practical, contribution. Tackling problems in which poverty and the flourishing of future generations are at stake are extremely pressing. Piece-meal approaches impede the capacity of theories of justice to formulate action-guiding principles and concrete proposals. I will show that an integrated approach can do better.


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. T. Meijers

Affiliated with

Universiteit Leiden

Team members

Dr. T. Meijers


01/01/2020 to 31/12/2023