What is Climate Justice?
Climate justice is an evolving concept. Organisations around the world have articulated the concept in various ways such as:
“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.” Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative
“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.” Rising Tide North America
A fundamental understanding is that the urgent action needed to prevent climate change must put priority on community-led solutions and the well-being of local communities, Indigenous Peoples and the global poor, as well as biodiversity and intact ecosystems.
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 false solutions to climate change such as agrofuels (that replace food crops and further deforestation) / biofuels (notably tree crops that release isoprene and forms ozone), mega-dams (that flood ecosystems and displace communities), genetic modification (that leads to privatisation and bio disasters), tree plantations (that displace indigenous tribes and destroy natural ecosystems), carbon offset schemes (which actually increase greenhouse gas emissions) and geoengineering (quick fixes with unmanageable side-effects). See details in Climate Justice in Aotearoa Booklet
Instead of market-based schemes that further environmental and social injustices, the sustainable practices of indigenous peoples and communities should be seen as offering the real solutions to climate change.
An article by George Monbiot in the Guardian (3 Dec 2012) articulated the critical points very well, “the struggle against climate change – and all the crises that now beset both human beings and the natural world – cannot be won without a wider political fight: a democratic mobilisation against plutocracy. … We must start to articulate a new politics, one that sees intervention as legitimate, that contains a higher purpose than corporate emancipation disguised as market freedom, that puts the survival of people and the living world above the survival of a few favoured industries. In other words, a politics that belongs to us, not just the super-rich.”
This will not be easy, as explained by Dr Nafeez Ahmed in the Guardian (21 Jan 2014): “From North America to Europe, the twin spectres of “terrorism” and “extremism” are being disingenuously deployed by an ever more centralised nexus of corporate, state and intelligence power, to suppress widening public opposition to that very process of unaccountable centralisation. … Evidently, however, what the nexus of corporate, state and intelligence power fears the most is simply an “excess of democracy”: the unpalatable prospect of citizens rising up and taking power back.”
Indeed, we need SYSTEM CHANGE not CLIMATE CHANGE!
“Climate justice is as relevant to Aotearoa as it is everywhere else. We can look to the global climate justice movement and its guiding principles to help us form strategies and proposed alternatives which will tackle the real causes of climate change, and which will ensure we campaign for fair and effective solutions.” Climate Justice Aotearoa
In New Zealand, we can expect to experience a large increase in extreme weather events caused by climate change. These will result in escalating cost of food, petrol and even water, hitting especially the poorer communities. As we will still be comparatively better off than many other countries, we will likely be faced with the issues of immigration and climate refugees, prompting us to think seriously about social justice and obligations.
Below are links to some climate justice organizations and resources online:
350 Aotearoa (NZ)
Climate Justice Kit (Australia)
Climate Shifts (Australia)