WHAT WE MEAN WHEN WE TALK
SPEAKERS C O R N E R
ABOUT CLIMATE JUSTICE
WORDS Lawyer, PhD candidate and Writer
Harpreet Kaur Paul frontline of impacts. This is not just down to geographic vulnerabilities, it is as much – if not more – a result of the fewer resources available to countries and communities that have had wealth, income, minerals, metals and labour extracted over a process that has lasted for more than 500 years.
to reduce racialised exposure to the health consequences of toxic air. Gender justice, racial justice, Indigenous rights, workers’ rights and anti-poverty movements all align to propose meaningful climate action that is rooted in evidence and equity.
Developed countries continue to propose climate action rooted in protecting and promoting those business enterprises that have led us to this juncture of accelerating climate impacts, whether that is through the promotion of bioenergy, hydrogen and carbon capture and storage, or through their promotion of carbon markets over regulation. At the same time, they refuse to pay equitable climate finance to repair the consequences of their historic emissions, an issue that threatens a breakdown in COP26 (the 26th UN Climate Change Conference) negotiations scheduled to take place in Glasgow this November.
At the same time, those who have done the most to cause our crisis must repair the consequences. Research by Oxfam shows that the world’s richest ten per cent of people cause 52 per cent of emissions. This group also claims more than half of the world’s wealth, and most live in the so-called “developed” world. The world’s poorest 50 per cent of people contribute approximately seven per cent of global emissions and receive about eight per cent of global income. Data from the World Bank show that the average person in the UK emits
In a recent conversation, an acquaintance lamented that climate action was now unfairly required to carry the weight of every injustice. “Let’s address the climate emergency first,” she argued, “the justice issues can come later.” In another space, a prominent funder complained about the ways in which the “woke agenda” had created divisions in communities where straightforward “climate action could reach a broader base”, the implication being that urgent climate action could be achieved with support from across liberals and conservatives, whereas the justice agenda was fragmenting momentum towards minimising emissions and addressing climate-changeimpacts.
In my view, both the acquaintance and the funder misunderstand the root drivers of accelerating greenhouse-gas emissions alongside the impacts that are becoming clearer, whether sealevel rise, droughts, wildfires, floods and storms, soaring temperatures, crop failure and glacier melt. Fossil-fuel companies predicted, as early as the 70s and 80s, that we would be seeing these kinds of impacts if they continued in the ways that they planned. They did not change paths and regulation was not brought in to stop them.
It was also known that the countries that have done least to contribute to greenhouse-gas emissions, in the Global South, would be on the
Climate justice, on the other hand, is committed to using already-existing technology and solutions to create good green jobs, support low-carbon care work, improve our collective wellbeing, limit unmanageable future impacts and ensure communities facing current climate hazards have the resources and agency that they need to respond with dignity. It is committed to repairing the social and cultural inequities that have led to poor and racialised communities, alongside Indigenous peoples and women, being on the frontline of toxic chemicals and increasingclimateharms.
We have the solutions. Women in the Global South have defended and promoted sustainable agroecology, which limits greenhouse-gas emissions, even in the face of displacement, as the industrial agriculture industry has driven unsustainable, unhealthy and dangerous food systems. Indigenous communities, representing five per cent of the global population, have resiliently protected 80 per cent of global biodiversity. The UK’s Trades Union Congress (TUC) is advocating for green homes and green jobs that can reduce emissions and limit fuel poverty – increasing wellbeing – over hydrogen reliance, which locks in fossil fuels. Students in London are calling for measures
“Climate justice is having the courage to imagine equity and fight forit.”
65 times more carbon compared to someone in Malawi. US, Canadian and Australian citizens emit more than 150 times more. These (already unbelievably disproportionate numbers) do not account for the carbon emissions built into making and shipping the technology we’re using, the food that we’re eating, or clothes we’re wearing. At the same time, Mozambique, one of the poorest countries in the world, shoulders the burden of more than $3.2 billion in loss and damage following two unprecedented cyclones in 2019. According to Civil Society Review, the global bill for damage related to climate change is likely to hit $300-$700 billion by 2030. This requires macreconomic structural reform to allow countries to invest in education, healthcare and social protection as well as new and additional public climate financing.
Climate justice is about having the courage to imagine equity and fight for it. Another way of living and being is not only possible but necessary and so much more joyful.
TAKING BACK CONTROL