When will climate justice be delivered?

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Climate justice refers to the idea that there are differences between those who have enjoyed the benefits of carbon emissions and those affected by climate change. He also notes that those who have suffered the most from the manifestations of climate change have created disproportionately fewer emissions.

Some of the groups considered in this context are illustrated in a clause in the preamble of the Bali Principles for Climate Justice, which states: The impacts of climate change are “disproportionately felt by small island states, women, youth, coastal peoples, local communities, indigenous peoples, fishermen, the poor and the elderly”.

In the context of COP26, the most obvious example is the disjunction between the more developed and wealthier countries of the North which have historically benefited from the combustion of fossil fuels since the start of the industrial revolution, and the less developed countries. developed and poorer regions of the South who have benefited much less from the combustion of fossil fuels. Those in the South, due to the vagaries of geography and climate, are much more vulnerable to manifestations of climate change, such as rising temperatures, droughts, floods, more extreme storms, increasing diseases, crop failures, climate migration and increasing climate. social conflict linked to change. Climate justice is a rights-based approach to solving this problem.

A brief history

The concept of climate justice emerged at COP6 in 2000, at which some groups voiced concerns about issues of equity between North and South. In August 2002, a group of NGOs formulated some principles of climate justice in a document known as the Bali Principles for Climate Justice.

The concept of climate justice has its origins in the earlier concept of environmental justice – the idea that different groups in society are disproportionately exposed to environmental damage, and that this situation needs to be corrected. Environmental justice recognizes that there are disparities between different groups in the quality of the environments in which they live and work. Research has shown that the degree of pollution in environments tends to be correlated with race and ethnicity, with minority groups such as African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics being much more likely to live nearby. toxic sites and face other environmental risks.

Here at home

In Canada, one of the most striking aspects of climate justice is the disparity between Indigenous peoples and settler society. Indigenous communities are more likely to be located in remote, rural and less urban areas than the rest of the population. These communities are often more vulnerable in terms of climate change risks, such as forest fires and floods, and tend to have much less infrastructure and resources to deal with climate-related emergencies.

One of the places most affected by climate change is the Arctic, where average temperatures have risen more than anywhere else on the planet. This had serious consequences for the Inuit communities. Melting permafrost is disrupting northern infrastructure, negatively affecting wildlife, and climate change has dramatically affected traditional lifestyles, such as hunting and fishing practices. (Additionally, melting ice and melting permafrost has led to a feedback loop that increases global warming as methane is released into the atmosphere, and loss of ice results in greater absorption of solar radiation. by Earth.)

Historically, indigenous peoples have been disproportionately excluded from the benefits of the exploitation of natural resources (such as oil and gas production and timber harvesting) on ​​their traditional territories and the economy in general. In Canada, they also suffered from the residential school system and other facets of colonialism.

Opinion: In Canada, one of the most striking aspects of climate justice is the disparity between indigenous peoples and settler society, writes @dbtindall. # COP26 # COP26xCNO

Some challenges for COP 26

Coming back to COP26, a number of climate justice issues have been discussed and negotiated at COPs over the years.

More developed countries have pledged to provide financial assistance to less developed countries to facilitate their transition. In 2009, this commitment amounted to US $ 100 billion in financial assistance per year to developing countries. Although some assistance has been provided, this commitment has not yet been fulfilled.

A “particularly thorny problem” is what is called “loss and damage”. The countries of the South claim that they are more likely to suffer from climate change, and given that they have contributed very little to greenhouse gas emissions, argue that they should be financially compensated. This issue has been discussed at several COP meetings, but the main countries of the Global North opposed this proposal. In fact, at the COP meeting in Paris, Canada joined the United States in opposing compensation to be a central feature of the Paris Agreement.

At COP 26 on Thursday, a representative of the European Union said the EU was opposed to including liability and compensation in any Glasgow agreement. But he noted that the EU is committed to supporting developing countries in several other ways, including early warning technologies, insurance for smallholder farmers and disaster recovery assistance.

Presence, participation and remuneration

Another aspect of climate justice emerged at COP26 around issues of participation and COVID. Ahead of the conference, some NGOs called for the conference to be canceled altogether due to global inequalities in access to vaccines. Vaccine availability and vaccination rates are much lower in many developing countries than in countries in the North. Travelers arriving in the UK unvaccinated are required to take additional COVID tests (compared to those who are fully vaccinated) and must also self-quarantine for 10 days. This results in considerable additional costs for people coming from developing countries.

Several other complications were recently discussed at a Climate Action Network press conference. COVID protocols have limited the number of participants at the COP26 venue and in some rooms. Priority is given to the parties involved in the negotiations. Therefore, there are very few places available for NGO observers. After securing funds for travel and accommodation, clearing barriers to vaccines and testing, and traveling the other side of the world, NGO observers in developing countries can still find themselves unable to ‘enter the negotiating room.

Some political issues

To some extent, supporting climate justice depends on one’s political and moral philosophy. However, whatever one’s political perspective, there is a practical element to these questions. Many countries in the Global South are unlikely to agree to freeze development at current levels and are unwilling or able to take bold climate action without financial assistance. So even for world leaders who are less sensitive to the moral aspects of this issue, addressing climate justice issues is a practical reality if a deal is to be reached.

On the other hand, while the winds of populism still circulate in some northern countries, selling populations on large financial transfers to help reach a climate deal is a difficult task. These are some of the things that make solving anthropogenic climate change a ‘bad deal’.


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