Global warming, climate change, climate crisis, climate emergency – while the phrasing may have changed over time, all these terms refer to global, long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns that are having an adverse effect on our planet. While some of these shifts have been natural, human activity has been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas.
Greenhouse gas emission essentially act like a blanket wrapped around the Earth, trapping the sun’s heat and causing temperatures to rise. Examples of emissions that cause a change in climate change include carbon dioxide and methane. These come from using petrol to drive a car or coal to heat a building; clearing land and deforestation can also release carbon dioxide; landfills for waste are a significant source of methane emissions.
What is a ‘just transition’?
The transition towards net zero will affect everyone, especially those in sectors, cities, and regions which economies are heavily reliant on carbon-intensive industries.
A ‘just transition’ is the action of moving to a more sustainable economy in a way that’s fair and which recognises that many people’s livelihoods are tied to high emission industries.
Supporting and engaging our workforce in a changing economy
The right information and opportunities need to be made available to people whose jobs will change or disappear as we move away from fossil fuels. Ensuring that our workforce is supported benefits our community by limiting poverty and the knock on effects it can have on health and wellbeing.
A key feature of delivering a just transition is that of ‘social inclusion’ in decision making, which means involving the people who will be affected in developing solutions.
Understanding existing inequalities will help us to create solutions, which will help to address them and ensure that the burdens and benefits of change are equitably distributed.
Delivering a truly green economy
Supporting low-carbon investment and infrastructure helps to ensure that our economy is sustainable right to its core, and that the work it creates are all low-emissions jobs.
Care must be taken to ensure that new, green opportunities create decent, fair, and high-value work in a way that does not negatively affect the current workforce and the Island’s economy.
In short, a ‘just transition’ should protect livelihoods, promote economic opportunities, and help to address inequality and poverty.
What is climate justice?
Climate justice is the principle of reducing global emissions and adapting to the effects of climate change in ways that support the people who are most affected by climate change but who have done the least to cause it and are the least equipped to adapt to its effects.
Climate justice begins with recognising that key groups are differently affected by climate change
From the United Nations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), many organisations are connecting the dots between civil rights and climate change. As a UN blog describes it: “The impacts of climate change will not be borne equally or fairly, between rich and poor, women and men, and older and younger generations.”
“Climate change is happening now and to all of us. No country or community is immune,” says UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “And, as is always the case, the poor and vulnerable are the first to suffer and the worst hit.”
Generally, many victims of climate change also have disproportionately low responsibility for causing the emissions responsible for climate change in the first place. Younger generations and people of any age living in developing countries produce far fewer emissions per capita than is the case in the major polluting countries.
Climate impacts can exacerbate inequitable social conditions
The effects of climate change disproportionately affect people of colour, women, indigenous people, LBGTQI+ people, disabled people, working class and poor people.
This is primarily because groups that already experiencing inequalities tend to live in areas which are worst affected by, and least well prepared for the impacts, of climate change, such as raging storms and floods, increased wildfires, severe heat, poor air quality, access to food and water, and receding shorelines. Those impacts exacerbate existing struggles and inequalities, thus widening the gap.
Momentum is building for climate justice solutions
Advocates for climate justice strive to address these inequities head-on through long-term mitigation and adaptation strategies by working directly with affected groups and seeking ‘justice based’ solutions which acknowledge and address existing inequalities. Friends of the Earth describe climate justice as “finding solutions to the climate crisis that not only reduce emissions or protect the natural world, but that do so in a way which creates a fairer, more just and more equal world in the process.”
Organisations such as the Climate Justice Alliance are working to bring race, gender, and class considerations to the centre of the climate action discussion. The NAACP also advocates for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and advance clean energy while promoting food justice, transportation equity, and civil rights in emergency planning, and the UN and IPCC continue to place greater emphasis on these issues.
Why do we need a just transition and climate justice?
We need to deliver a just transition and climate justice because it’s the right thing for our community, our planet and future generations. It is also the best way of getting where we need to go.
The social, economic and environmental transformation needed to tackle climate change provide the opportunity to fix many of the broader injustices and inequalities that already exist.
If we approach this transition carelessly and without regard for the vulnerable, it’s likely to cause significant economic and social disruption, the costs of which are likely to be far higher, and less easy to predict, than delivering change carefully and fairly.