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What is Climate Justice for you?

Invitation for an international discussion

What is climate justice? There are national as well as international perspectives on the question how to bring justice into the way we are dealing with climate change. Further, and maybe even more important, the issues about climate justice differ between those people who ask how to prevent a climate change stronger than 2°C (prevention) and those people who say that we won’t manage to prevent a drastically change of our climate anyway and ask how to gain justice facing increasing long-term natural hazards, changes in natural resources, etc.  (coping).

Let’s approach the question what’s climate justice by speaking out what’s exactly the prevailing climate injustice we are facing right now. On the international level it is definitely a matter of injustice that 1) almost all CO2 so far had been emitted by the industrialization of northern countries while 2) the effects of climate change are most significant in southern countries and 3) the most vulnerable are  indigenous peoples, pastoral and farming societies that hardly emit any CO2; 4) this industrialization gave a lot of wealth and power to the northern countries, which 5) is now used to prevent southern countries from using the same method to gain wealth – 6) in the name of preventing further CO2 emissions, northern countries try instead to sell southern countries their advanced non-CO2-technologies which would mean further profits on behalf of climate change. These issues contravene Article 10a of the Earth Charter (“Promote the equitable distribution of wealth within nations and among nations.”)

The measures which are discussed to enable a just distribution of costs, risks and benefits related to climate change strongly differ between the prevention approach and the coping approach. We need to consider both. Unfortunately the urge for self-preservation seems not to apply to the issue of climate change. All international meetings on this issue did not bring effective results. One last chance for a system of climate justice on the international level to prevent a climate collapse could be the well-known emissions-trading. It basically says that those countries having more CO2-emissions pay money to those countries with fewer emissions. It’s still unclear if this system is able to have a positive effect on climate change as well as on international justice.

Since it is far from sure if human beings are able to stop global warming, many people started thinking about how to cope with the results. The results would be mainly a global reallocation of water and temperatures, leading to increasing droughts, floods, storms, distinction of many types of organisms which will be followed by huge reallocations of human beings, mass emigration and violent conflicts on resources, mainly on water. Claus Leggewie, a leading researcher on the social impacts of climate change, states that in this scenario all pillars of modern societies will be challenged: global markets, material wealth, forms and norms of social life, rights for freedom and participation, sovereignty of state and folk and others. How will your concept of justice and how you act on it change in this context? How would you approach the challenge to “guarantee the right to potable water, clean air, food security, uncontaminated soil, shelter, and safe sanitation, allocating the national and international resources required.” (Earth Charter, Article 9a), which we don’t manage to deal with even now? Will climate change make people and states more egoistic or will it be an integrating common challenge that brings the world community closer together? Is there another chance to stop global warming? What is your country doing about that? What encourages you how to cope with and mitigate emissions? What would climate justice mean from your perspective?

By: Fabian Bethge


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