What is Climate Justice?

The climate movement is perhaps of the youngest mass movements today. Some claim it was born in September 2006, while having a long history and deep roots in the struggle for environmental justice. Those in the climate movement are working to stop the most devastating impacts of climate change and re-balance the world in an ecologically sustainable way. Climate justice provides a framework that many in the climate movement have embraced as the best ways to organize and build a mass movement–one that considers both the social and environmental impacts of our work. As opposed to crafting my own definition of climate justice, I am going to borrow from a compilation of definitions beautifully woven together by Hilary Moore and Joshua Kahn Russell in Organizing Cools the Planet.

Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative

Roots in Environmental Justice: “Climate Justice is a vision to dissolve and alleviate the unequal burdens created by climate change. As a form of environmental justice, climate justice is the fair treatment of all people and freedom from discrimination with the creation of policies and projects that address climate change and the systems that create climate change and perpetuate discrimination.

Demanding Climate Justice section of Hoodwinked in the Hothouse (published by Rising Tide North America)

Climate Justice as Evaluative Model: “Climate Justice is a struggle over land, forest, water, culture, food sovereignty, collective and social rights; it is a struggle that considers “justice” at the basis of any solution; a struggle that supports climate solutions found in the practices and knowledge of those already fighting to protect and defend their livelihoods and the environment; a struggle that insists on a genuine systematic transformation in order to tackle the real causes of climate change… Climate Justice addresses four key themes: root causes, rights, reparations and participatory democracy.”

Global Justice Ecology Project

Climate Justice as Global Justice: “The historical responsibility for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions lies with the industrialized countries of the Global North. Even though the primary responsibility of the North to reduce emissions has been recognized in the UN Climate Convention, the production and consumption habits of industrialized countries like the United States continue to threaten the survival of humanity and biodiversity globally. It is imperative that the North urgently shifts to a low carbon economy. At the same time, in order to avoid the damaging carbon intensive model of industrialization, countries of the Global South are entitled to resources and technology to make a transition to a low-carbon economy that does not continue to subject them to crushing poverty. Indigenous Peoples, peasant communities, fisherfolk, and especially women in these communities, have been able to live harmoniously and sustainably with the Earth for millennia. They are now not only the most affected by climate change, but also the most affected by its false solutions, such as agrofuels, mega-dams, genetic modification, tree plantations and carbon offset schemes.

Indigenous Environmental Network

Four Principles for Climate Justice: “Industrialized society must redefine its relationship with the sacredness of Mother Earth

  1. Leave Fossil Fuels in the Ground
  2. Demand Real and Effective Solutions
  3. Industrialized – Developed Countries Take Responsibility
  4. Living in a Good Way on Mother Earth
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