Simon Caney

Simon Caney

Professor in Political Theory, University Lecturer, and Fellow and Tutor in Politics, Magdalen College
Political Theory
Magdalen College

Simon Caney is Professor in Political Theory.  He is the author of Justice Beyond Borders (2005) and many articles in politics, philosophy journals.  His recent work has been published in Philosophy & Public AffairsJournal of Political Philosophy, Politics, Philosophy & Economics and Social Philosophy and Policy.

He currently co-directs the Oxford Martin School research programme on 'Human Rights for Future Generations'.

In addition to publishing in academic journals, he has engaged in work for public bodies.  He was a co-author of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics report Biofuels: Ethical Issues (2011) and has written background papers for the World Bank (2009), the International Council on Human Rights Policy (2010), the Mary Robinson Foundation Climate Justice (2014), and Oxfam (USA) (2016).  He is currently a member of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.  He is also a Lead Author for one chapter in the International Panel on Social Progress (2017) and a Contributing Author for another chapter.

My research interests are primarily in contemporary political philosophy (especially theories of distributive justice, equality, environmental justice, intergenerational justice and human rights). I have also written on liberal neutrality, political perfectionism, rights, cultural diversity and multiculturalism, and democratic theory.  I have a special interest in the application of political philosophy to global politics and have written on global distributive justice, human rights, sovereignty, global governance, self-determination, and humanitarian intervention. I also have a particular interest in the ethical issues raised by global climate change and have written a series of articles on equity and climate change - in particular, the relationship between human rights and climate change, the fair share of greenhouse gas emissions, the allocation of the burdens of combating climate change, intergenerational justice and climate change, and the objections to emissions trading. I am currently working on two books.

[1] I am writing a book on Global Justice and Climate Change with Professor Derek Bell (under contract to Oxford University Press). The book develops and defends both a 'minimal' and a 'maximal' account of climate justice.  In doing so it defends the claim that climate change jeopardizes persons human rights; provides an account of what constitutes 'dangerous' anthropogenic interference and thus what the target of climate policy should be; and explores what justice requires in the face of risk and uncertainty. The book also examines whether the rights and interests of future people should be subject to a positive discount rate; who should bear the burden of combating climate change and how the responsibilities should be distributed; how the opportunity to engage in activities which emit greenhouse gases should be distributed; the ethical issues surrounding carbon trading, non-fossil-fuel sources of energy (eg biofuels) and geo-engineering; how trade-offs between preventing dangerous climate change and harmful mitigation policies should be made; what climate justice requires in our non-ideal world; and, what kind of political institutions are needed to prevent dangerous climate change.

[2] I am also currently writing a book entitled On Cosmopolitanism (under contract to Oxford University Press). This defends a cosmopolitan theory of economic, environmental, and political justice. Many are sceptical of global principles of justice or affirm very minimal principles. I challenge this consensus and seek to defend an egalitarian set of principles of global economic justice.  I argue against the common tendency to treat aspects of global justice (such as territory, natural resources, trade and migration) separately from each other, and maintain that we need a more integrated and systematic approach.  I challenge the arguments advanced by practice-dependent theorists and also those who argue that egalitarian ideals apply only within existing social, economic or political relationships.  I thus defend a non-associational global egalitarianism (Part I). I then argue that global economic justice has environmental impacts and environmental preconditions, and thus that a defensible account of cosmopolitan justice has to ensure that it is ecologically sustainable.  Since the environmental impacts are often felt in the future, an account of global justice needs to take into account our responsibilities to future generations.  I thus develop principles of intergenerational justice (grounded in the egalitarian theory developed earlier), and explore what implications these have for the nature of our current entitlements (Part II). Finally, I explore what those who are denied what they are entitled to as a matter of global justice may do to secure their just entitlements and help bring about a fairer world.  I argue that those in this situation have a right to resist global injustice, and, moreover, that this comes in two forms - (i) a right to act in ways which further the extent to which one can enjoy those rights with immediate effect, and (ii) a right to engage in long-term structural reform that addresses the underlying causes of global injustice.  I develop an account of what kinds of injustice trigger this right to resist global injustice, what conditions must be met before resistance is justified, by whom it may be undertaken, what means resistors may use, and who should bear the burden of any such resistance (Part III).

I am currently working on the right of necessity; resisting injustice in radically unjust societies; intergenerational justice; human rights; global environmental degradation; and, political morality and international law.

Authority Human rights Democratic theory Environment and Climate Change Equality Freedom and Choice International ethics and global justice Liberalism Representation Revolution Rights and justice Sovereignty States Violence security and conflict

I teach the following:


graduate courses

'Justice and Future Generations';

'International Normative Theory'

 (and have taught 'Reasoning in Political Philosophy' and 'Rights, Revolution and Resistance: Political Philosophy and Social Change' (currently rested).)


undergraduate courses

'Introduction to Politics: The Theory and Practice of Democracy';

'Theory of Politics';

'Political Thought: Plato to Rousseau';

'Political Thought: Bentham to Weber';

'Marx and Marxism';

'Advanced Paper on Theories of Justice'.


Number of DPhil supervisions completed: 7



Erik Magnusson

Sabrina Martin

Ela Naegele

Tony Taylor

Ege Tufan


A: Book

Justice Beyond Borders: A Global Political Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).


B: Co-Edited Books

Climate Ethics: Essential Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010) co-edited by Stephen Gardiner, Simon Caney, Dale Jamieson and Henry Shue.


C: Papers


¤ ‘The Struggle for Climate Justice in a Nonideal World’, Midwest Studies in Philosophy: Volume XL “Ethics and Global Climate Change” (2016 – in press).

¤ ‘Political Institutions for the Future: A Fivefold Package’ in Institutions for Future Generations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, in press) edited by A. Gosseries and I. González Ricoy.



¤ 'Responding to Global Injustice: on the Right of Resistance', Social Philosophy and Policy vol.32 no.1 (2015).

¤ ‘Coercion, Justification and Inequality: Defending Global Egalitarianism’, Ethics & International Affairs vol.29 no.3 (2015), 277-288.

¤ ‘Governance Traps in Climate Change Politics: Re-framing the Debate in terms of Responsibilities and Rights', WIRES: Climate Change, vol.6 no.6 (2015), co-authored by P. Newell, H. Bulkeley, K. Turner, C. Shaw, S. Caney, E. Shove, N. Pidgeon, 535-540. 



¤ 'Climate Change, Intergenerational Equity, and the Social Discount Rate', Politics, Philosophy & Economics vol.13. no.4 (2014), pp.320-342.  Reprinted in The Ethical Underpinnings of Climate Economics (London: Routledge, 2017) edited by A. Walsh, S. Hormio & D. Purves

¤ 'Two Kinds of Climate Justice', Journal of Political Philosophy vol.22 no.3 (2014), pp.125-149.  Reprinted in (a) Political Theory Without Borders (Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2016) edited by R. Goodin and J. Fishkin, 18-45; and, (b) Ethics, Environmental Justice and Climate Change (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2016) edited by P. Harris, 125-149.

¤ 'Climate Change' in The Routledge Handbook of Global Ethics (London: Routledge, 2014) edited by Darrel Moellendorf and Heather Widdows, pp.372-386.

¤ ‘Justice and the Basic Right to Justification’ in Justice, Democracy and the Right to Justification: Rainer Forst in Dialogue (London: Bloomsbury, 2014) edited by David Owen.

¤ a response to Robert Pollin's 'Build the Green Economy', Boston Review July/August (2014), pp.26-27.



¤ ‘Onora O’Neill on the Agents of Global Justice’ in Reading O’Neill (London: Routledge, 2013) edited by David Archard, Monique Deveaux, Neil Manson and Daniel Weinstock, pp.133-156.



¤ 'Just Emissions', Philosophy & Public Affairs vol.40 no.4 (2012), pp.255-300.

¤ 'Addressing Poverty and Climate Change: The Varieties of Social Engagement', Ethics & International Affairs vol.26 no.2 (Summer) (2012), pp.191-216.



¤ 'Humanity, Associations and Global Justice: A Defence of Humanity-Centred Cosmopolitan Egalitarianism', The Monist vol.94 no.4 (2011), pp.506-534.

¤ ‘Emissions Trading: Unethical, Ineffective and Unjust?’ (with Cameron Hepburn) in Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement vol.69 (2011), pp.201-234. This will also be reprinted in a Cambridge University Press book edited by Anthony O’Hear.

¤ ‘Justice and the Duties of the Advantaged: A Defence’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy vol.14 no.4 (2011), pp.439-448.

¤ 'Gerechtigkeit, faire Verfahren und Globales Regieren’ in Die Herausbildung Normativer Ordnungen (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2011) edited by Rainer Forst and Klaus Günther.

¤ 'Climate Change, Energy Rights and Equality' in The Ethics of Global Climate Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011) edited by Denis Arnold, pp.77-103.

¤ 'Markets, Morality and Climate Change: What, if anything, is Wrong with Emissions Trading?', New Political Economy vol.15 no.2 (2010), pp.197-224.

¤ 'Climate Change and the Duties of the Advantaged', Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy vol.13 no.1 (2010), pp.203-228.

¤‘Cosmopolitanism’ in Ethics and World Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) edited by Duncan Bell, pp.146-163.

¤ 'Climate Change and the Future: Time, Wealth and Risk', Journal of Social Philosophy vol.40 no.2 (2009), pp.163-186. This is available at:

¤ 'Justice and the Distribution of Greenhouse Gas Emissions', Journal of Global Ethics vol.5 no.2 (2009), pp.125-146.

¤ 'Justice, Morality and Carbon Trading’, Ragion Pratica vol.32 June (2009), pp.203-227.

¤ 'Climate Change, Human Rights and Moral Thresholds' in Human Rights and Climate Change (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), edited by Stephen Humphreys, pp.69-90.

¤ ‘The Responsibilities and Legitimacy of Economic International Institutions’ in Justice, Legitimacy and Public International Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), edited by Lukas Meyer, pp.92-122.

¤ 'Cosmopolitanism and Justice' in Contemporary Debates in Political Philosophy (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009) edited by Thomas Christiano and John Christman, pp.387-407.

¤ 'Human Rights, Responsibilities and Climate Change' in Global Basic Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) edited by Charles Beitz and Robert Goodin, pp.227-247.

¤ ‘Cosmopolitanism, Culture and Well-Being’ in Nationalism and Multiculturalism in a World of Immigration (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) edited by Nils Holtug, Sune Laegaard and Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, pp.21-52.


¤ ‘Global Distributive Justice and the State’, Political Studies vol.56 no.3 (2008), pp.487-518.

¤ ‘Climate Change, Human Rights and Discounting’, Environmental Politics vol.17 no.4 July (2008), pp.536-555. [A revised version is being published in Climate Change, Ethics, and Human Security (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009) edited by Karen O'Brien and Asunción Lera St. Clair.]


¤ 'Justice, Borders and the Cosmopolitan Ideal - A Reply to Two Critics', Journal of Global Ethics,vol.3 no.2, pp.269-276.

¤ 'Egalitarian Liberalism and Universalism' in Multiculturalism and Political Theory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), edited by Anthony Laden and David Owen, pp.151-172.

¤ ‘Global Poverty and Human Rights: the Case for Positive Duties’ in Freedom from Poverty as a Human Right: Who Owes What to the Very Poor? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), edited by Thomas Pogge, pp.275-302.


¤ ‘Cosmopolitanism, Democracy and Distributive Justice’, The Canadian Journal of Philosophy, supplementary volume 31 (2006), pp.29-63.

¤ ‘Environmental Degradation, Reparations and the Moral Significance of History’, Journal of Social Philosophy, vol.73 no.3 (2006), pp.464-482.

¤ ‘Cosmopolitan Justice and Institutional Design: An Egalitarian Liberal Conception of Global Governance’, Social Theory and Practice, vol.32 no.4 (2006), pp.725-756.

¤ ‘Global Justice: From Theory to Practice’, Globalizations, vol.3 no.2 (2006), pp.121-137. [This is reprinted in Globalization and the Global Politics of Justice (London: Routledge, 2008) edited by Barry Gills.]

¤ ‘Global Justice, Rights and Climate Change’, Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence vol.XIX no.2 (2006), pp.255-278.


¤ ‘Cosmopolitan Justice, Responsibility and Global Climate Change’, Leiden Journal of International Law vol.18 no.4 (2005), pp.747-775. [This is reprinted in The Global Justice Reader (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007) edited by Thom Brooks.] This can be accessed at:

¤ ‘Global Interdependence and Distributive Justice’, Review of International Studies, vol.31 no.2 (2005), pp.389-399.



D: Reports

¤ 2016: 'Climate Change, Equity and Stranded Assets' for Oxfam USA.

¤ 2015: 'Applying the Principle of Intergenerational Equity to the 2015 Multilateral Processes' for the Mary Robinson Foundation Climate Justice.

¤ 2011: Nuffield Council on Bioethics Biofuels: Ethical Issues (London: Nuffield Council on Bioethics, 2011) I was a member of the Working Party that produced this report. The report is available here:

¤ 2010: 'Climate Technology Transfer: A Derivation of Rights- and Duty- Bearers from Fundamental Human Rights', a Report for the International Council on Human Rights Policy. The report (Beyond Technology Transfer: Human Rights in a Climate Constrained World (Geneva: ICHRP, 2011)) is available here:

¤ 2009: 'Ethics and Climate Change', a Report for the World Bank.



Ethics and Climate Change

Global Justice (global poverty and inequalities and the responsibilities of the affluent; fair trade; human rights).

Human Rights

Intergenerational Justice (environmental sustainability;demographic change; institutional mechanisms for encouraging political actors to give due weight to the long-term).