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Climate Justice

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Climate Justice
Into the Third Decade of the 21st Century

Climate justice is a term used to frame global warming as an ethical and political issue, rather than one that is purely environmental or physical in nature. This is done by relating the causes and effects of climate change to concepts of justice, particularly environmental justice and social justice. Climate justice examines concepts such as equality, human rights, collective rights, and the historical responsibilities for climate change. Climate justice actions can include the growing global body of legal action on climate change issues. In 2017, a report of the United Nations Environment Programme identified 894 ongoing legal actions worldwide.

Historically marginalized communities, such as women, indigenous communities and communities of color often face the worst consequences of climate change: in effect the least responsible for climate change suffer its gravest consequences. They might also be further disadvantaged by responses to climate change which might reproduce or exacerbate existing inequalities, which has been labeled the 'triple injustices' of climate change.

Use and popularity of climate justice language has increased dramatically in recent years (2010-2020), yet climate justice is understood in many ways, and the different meanings are sometimes contested. At its simplest, conceptions of climate justice can be grouped along the lines of procedural justice, which emphasizes fair, transparent and inclusive decision making, and distributive justice, which places the emphasis on who bears the costs of both climate change and the actions taken to address it.

"In wealthy countries, the looming climate crisis is a matter of concern, as it will affect the wellbeing of the economy. But in Africa, which is hardly contributing to climate change in the first place, it will be a matter of life and death."

Environmental Justice

Some climate justice approaches promote transformative justice where advocates focus on how vulnerability to climate change reflects various structural injustices in society, such as the exclusion of marginalized groups from decision-making and from climate resilient livelihoods, and that climate action must explicitly address these structural power imbalances. For these advocates, climate change provide an opportunity to reinforce democratic governance at all scales, and drive the achievement of gender equality and social inclusion. At a minimum, priority is placed on ensuring that responses to climate change do not repeat or reinforce existing injustices, which has both distributive justice and procedural justice dimensions. Other conceptions frame climate justice in terms of the need to curb climate change within certain limits, like the Paris Climate Agreement targets of 1.5C, otherwise the impacts of climate change on natural ecosystems will be so severe as to preclude the possibility of justice for many populations...


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