Climate justice is a recent term of art that has emerged after the Paris Agreement at CoP 21 in December 2015. The term is still being defined in the context of environmental and climate-change forums, but is generally understood as a condition that involves the fair treatment of all people and freedom from discrimination with the creation of policies and projects that address climate change and the systems that create climate change and perpetuate discrimination. The term “climate justice” refers to advancing climate solutions that link human rights and development in a human-centered approach, placing the needs, voices and leadership of those who are most impacted at the forefront of the policy debate on climate change.
The concept of justice reshapes climate action from merely a technical effort to cut emissions into a socially relevant approach that also upholds human rights and remedies social inequality and the structural lack of the accountability. Climate justice, therefore, focuses attention on the unequal distribution of climate-change impacts on a variety of groups, including typically marginalized and disadvantaged indigenous peoples, people of color (in the global North), ‘lower’ caste communities, women, minorities, rural and informal settlement inhabitants, and persons living with disability.
On the global scale, climate justice frames the contrast between industrialized nations that have been burning large volumes of fossil fuels freely for centuries and the poorer and less-developed regions that are most susceptible to rising global temperature and its environmental effects on living conditions, including displacement. Climate justice, therefore, becomes a global call for remedies through international cooperation and burden sharing to combat, mitigate and adapt to climate change through funding, technology transfer and other practical means that level the field toward a more-egalitarian future.