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Climate justice is a movement which sees climate change and its solutions as an issue which should focus on human rights, development and equity. It also has a strong focus on the historical responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions.

The Mary Robinson Foundation explains climate justice as follows:

Climate justice links human rights and development to achieve a human-centred approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable people and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its impacts equitably and fairly. Climate justice is informed by science, responds to science and acknowledges the need for equitable stewardship of the world’s resources.[1]

In September 2013 the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) published a briefing Climate justice and international development: policy and programming which summarised the term as follows:

Climate justice recognises the development paradox that those who contributed least to greenhouse gas emissions will be most affected by climate change.

Governments need a sound and workable theory of climate justice that draws on the political theory of justice, on antecedents in environmental and social justice, and on how climate justice links to ideas of developmental justice.

Environmental justice has three components: equitably distributed environmental risk; recognition for people’s diverse needs and experiences; and participation in the political processes that create and manage environmental policy.[2]

There are a number of international organisations and groups campaigning on climate justice. For example, Friends of the Earth Europe campaigns for climate justice and Greenpeace International campaigns for climate justice. Each of these organisations may have a slightly different interpretation or definition of what “climate justice” means.

Within the UK, a climate justice fund was launched by the Scottish Government in 2012 and ran until 2017. More recently, there has been discussion on ensuring a “just transition” to a low carbon / net zero future and the Welsh Government has set up a “Climate Just Advisory Group” to focus on this issue;[3] while the UK Government has announced that HM Treasury will lead a review into the costs of decarbonisation to look how such costs are distributed in the longer term. More information on this is available in the Library Briefing Paper on Net Zero in the UK (16 December 2019).

[1]    Mary Robinson Foundation, Principles of Climate Justice [accessed 3 February 2020]

[2]    IIED Briefing, Climate justice and international development: policy and programming, September 2013

[3]    Welsh Government, Written Statement: Committee on Climate Change advice on long-term emissions target, 2 May 2019

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