Let’s start with the obvious question; what does ‘Climate Justice’ mean?
To answer this, first we must understand something fundamental to sustainability which is overlooked time and time again. Sustainability is not an environmental issue, it is a human one. As many of you will have heard me say:
People are the cause of the climate crisis…people are the solution.
This is a reality which I rarely see reflected in corporate sustainability strategies, reports, risk registers, business plans, or job roles on the market. Nor am I seeing it as part of how teams and businesses are growing and re-organising to respond to sustainability.
Net Zero Carbon is the current buzzword. While it is an extremely important workstream that we must all get on board with in the attempt to avert the worst of the Climate Crisis, as a buzzword it does not strike at the root of the problem and is no silver bullet. Net Zero, like environmental sustainability historically, takes action out of the hands of the people and puts it in the sole domain of the specialists. While we must undertake Net Zero, and it is imperative environmental specialists and engineers are core problem solvers and ‘doers’ at corporate-level, it has been to our detriment that we have excluded everyone else from this journey by making it a dark art that only these ‘others’ can take care of and solve for us.
We need to democratise the climate crisis.
“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.” – Marshall McLuhan
As business gets to grips with Net Zero, JustOne believes that people must be at the heart of this movement.
So… what does Climate Justice mean?
We know that when things go wrong, negative impacts are disproportionate. We have seen this most recently and starkly with COVID-19 highlighting existing issues in race, gender, and socio-economic backgrounds. We are already seeing these disproportionate impacts as part of climate change, and they will only get worse as conditions deteriorate and businesses move quickly to adapt, leaving many people behind.
These disproportionate impacts can therefore take the form of direct climate change impacts such as a reduction of green space for those who already have limited access, worsened flooding and air pollution in less affluent communities who are less able to access the resources to deal with, escape, or bounce-back from being effected.
Disproportionate impacts can also be created by businesses taking action on climate change: factories being closed down without adequate exit strategies, employees losing jobs without the skills or resources to find new ones, or high-risk land and assets being sold quickly to the unscrupulous who will not invest in adequate defences and therefore put the people who live and work there at risk.
The importance of Climate Justice…
Climate Justice is the term that puts people back at the centre of the issue and can spark real positive change. In understanding the ramifications of climate change in human terms, we can begin to communicate and plan in a way which is more democratic and can create human change. Everyone can understand how they can take action in both their professional and personal lives.
When we consider the future we are creating, people are inevitably at the centre of these aspirations: people who understand and steward the environment, make sustainable decisions, and live sustainable lives. Let us work together to bring everyone along on even the most environmentally focused journeys. We see a huge opportunity for all businesses, whatever their geographic or stakeholder influence, to take action on climate change through Climate Justice. By involving everyone, by putting the power back in the hands of the people, we can create the long-term sustainable change that we all need to see.
For further reading you may be interested in the below:
- This recent thought piece by Chris Large at Global Action Plan
- Focussing on the Built Environment, our friends over at the UKGBC have begun a Climate Justice working group, releasing a graphic to showcase their exploration of themes
- The Joseph Rowntree Foundation have been working on this since 2014, with ‘Climate Just’ being the culmination of their work and collaborations on the agenda. They were ahead of their time in terms of business interest; perhaps they will revive the work soon
- The Climate Justice Alliance is a community and organisation membership network taking action across the globe
- Demand Climate Justice have found that ‘Net Zero’ is being used by many as greenwash
- Hurricane Katrina was one of the bigger ‘moments of realisation’ in this agenda for the world.
- While the WHO states 7 million people every year die from air pollution, and research has shown that air pollution is worse in less affluent and disadvantaged areas (true across the world), the UK has recently formalised the first case of air pollution as an official cause of death in the case of nine year old Ella Adoo-Kissi-Deborah
Matt is Associate Director at JustOne.
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably interested to know what you can do to spark positive change… and the world needs more people like you. Send me a little message to put your hand up and let’s see what we can do together!