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  • Writer's pictureKrista Kurth, Ph.D.

Add Climate Justice to Your Scope of Action

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

Seven Principles to Guide Your Climate Steps

Image by Markus Spiske, Unsplash

I recently received a note from a friend in South Africa in response to one of my blogs. In it he urged me to expand the scope of this blog; from being U.S. centric to having a more global perspective.

Image by Bennet Tobias, Unsplash

He attached the picture, similar to the one here, of an upscale township near Cape Town and told me to imagine the living conditions of citizens in the poorer 54 other countries on the continent. Then, he cautioned me about suggesting that everyone, including the people living in townships like this, should stop using all types of fossil fuel energy.

These people and many others in the developing world suffer from energy, and many other forms of, poverty. They shouldn’t have to sacrifice access to cheap fuel, like natural gas, while the rest of us sit in northern hemisphere comfort after a century of consuming whatever we wanted.

I agree with him wholeheartedly. It is people like this who have contributed least to our current global emission level and often unfairly bear the brunt of the impact from global warming.

This is why those of us living in comfort and relative wealth need to change what we do and how we power our lives. We need to support our global and domestic neighbors who have fewer choices and less access to resources until we’ve found a way to power the whole world with 100% affordable renewable energy.

We need to remember that the climate crisis is more than just an environmental issue. It is also fundamentally an ethical and political one—a matter of Climate Justice. As former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said, "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948 as 'the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.' This was a bold and clear commitment that power would no longer serve as a cover to oppress or injure,..."

What is Climate Justice?

Climate Justice involves including equality, human rights, and responsibility when considering the effects of, and response to, global warming. It recognizes that those who are least responsible for GHG emissions often suffer the most consequences.

It seeks to safeguard the rights of the most vulnerable people and share the benefits and burdens of our current global situation equitably and fairly.

Climate Justice insists that those who emit the bulk of the GHG emissions, causing the climate crisis, shoulder the greatest responsibility for the costs of drastically reducing global emissions.

It also requires that the benefits of shifting to a low-carbon economy be shared equitably, including with those who have fewer resources and have not contributed as much to global warming.

The Mary Robinson Foundation (a center for thought leadership, education and advocacy on the struggle to secure global justice for those people vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – the poor, the disempowered and the marginalized across the world) has outlined seven principles to put justice and equity at the heart of responses to the crisis. We can use these to inform our climate action.

Seven Climate Justice Principles with Suggested Action Steps

Image by Christian Lue, Unsplash

1. Respect and Protect Human Rights.

2. Support the Right to Development

  • Learn more about the resource gaps between countries in the North and South, and within your own country.

  • Urge companies and your government representatives to scale up green technologies in the most vulnerable areas and support low carbon climate resilient strategies for the poorest so that they become part of the combined effort in mitigation and adaptation.

Image by Michiele Henderson, Unsplash

3. Share Benefits and Burdens Equitably

  • Recognize how you have benefited from the use of fossil fuels in your life. Then make a commitment to lower your carbon footprint.

  • Check out how much carbon the country you live in typically emits here. If you live in one of the countries that is responsible for a large volume of emissions, lobby your government and large companies to drastically cut their GHG emissions.

  • Support the transfer of green technologies and other methods for adapting to the impacts of climate change to developing countries.

4. Ensure that Decisions on Climate Change are Participatory, Transparent and Accountable

  • Work to empower poor and vulnerable communities to speak directly about the negative impact of climate change on their ways of life, about its potential for conflict, and about what ought to be done by way of a response, in terms of fairness and justice

  • Insist on transparency in decision-making, and accountability for decisions that are made by global and national organizations and governments responding to the climate crisis.

  • Ask your legislators to include an understanding of the climate justice needs of low-income communities and countries in their policy development and implementation.

5. Highlight Gender Equality and Equity

Image by Bill Wegener, Unsplash

6. Harness the Transformative Power of Education for Climate Stewardship

  • Support environmental education at home and abroad. Make donations to organizations with programs that focus on teaching the skills and knowledge people need to stabilize the climate and thrive in a warmer world.

  • Make donations to organizations providing education to girls and women in developing countries. You can find a long list at Educating Girls Matters.

7. Use Effective Partnerships to secure Climate Justice

  • Join climate groups that collaborate with other organizations working on climate justice and solutions.

  • Lobby your government to participate in coalitions (local, statewide, national, and international) to develop a coherent approach to climate change that involves those most affected and least able to deal with it.

How will you incorporate climate justice into your climate action this week? Which of the seven principles will you draw on to guide you?

I am focusing on principles #3 and # 6 this month. I want to learn more about how climate impacts are different for women and think about how I have benefited from using fossil fuels and what I can do to take more responsibility for cutting emissions.


I’d love to know what’s grabbing your attention or what questions are running through your mind. Let me know in the comments section. I’ll respond in one of my blog posts.

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All the best,

Krista / Eco-Omi

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