Climate change may well be humanity’s greatest challenge. It is a crisis that must be rapidly addressed if catastrophe is to be averted. Already the impacts are being felt by millions in the world’s most vulnerable and marginalized communities. Climate Change is at once a social and environmental justice issue, an ecological issue, and an issue of economic and political domination. As such, it must be addressed through broad and visionary alliances.
To successfully address the climate crisis, we must identify and address the deep root connections that link it to the myriad other crises we face, as well as the intertwined crises of food, water and biodiversity loss. These crises are unified by their common roots in an economic system that encourages banks and corporations to ignore ethical and moral considerations and gamble with the Earth, peoples’ lives, and our collective futures in the service of higher profits.
Successfully addressing climate change will require a fundamental restructuring of our society that, if thoughtfully done, can lay a new foundation that will simultaneously help us achieve both global justice and ecological balance.
What is Climate Justice?
The heart of climate justice is the understanding that the urgent action needed to prevent climate change must be based on community-led solutions and the well-being of local communities, Indigenous Peoples and the global poor, as well as biodiversity and intact ecosystems.
Climate justice is the understanding that we will not be able to stop climate change if we don’t change the neo-liberal, corporate-based economy which stops us from achieving sustainable societies. It is the understanding that corporate globalization must be stopped.
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.
Instead of market-based climate mitigation schemes, the sustainable practices of these peoples and communities should be seen as offering the real solutions to climate change.
Climate justice will never come from corporations or from schemes based on the market, because the market is what got us into this crisis in the first place.