That the global poor generate minimal greenhouse gas emissions but are disproportionately impacted by climate change impacts – while being least resourced to respond – requires a global response that is fair and just.
Such a response should be based on a fair shares approach to climate change action. Using the UK as an example, a fair allocation of climate action would see it responsible for reducing greenhouse emissions by a total of 200% below 1990 levels by 2030, this is physically impossible within its own borders. So, a fair share of responsibility for countries like the UK - early industrialisers with historic responsibility for our current crisis - necessitates both domestic and international action. Within and between countries, this action must acknowledge that the wealthy have the highest degrees of resilience to climate change shocks, but also the greatest responsibility for emissions.
Our collective task is to quickly write a new path away from business as usual, which will see us heading towards a future that is “incompatible with an organized global community.” We must avoid this unmanageable future, which will involve drastically mitigating greenhouse gas emissions now. Lifestyles of carbon intensive luxury in a context of global energy poverty cannot continue, and decarbonisation efforts must recognise this. This will require equity in transitioning to sustainable renewable energy, reducing carbon emissions, while protecting our remaining ocean and biodiversity and reforesting.
At the same time, we must manage inevitable climatic changes already baked-in as a result of historic greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to these changes. Examples of adaptation measures include using scarce water resources more efficiently, reimagining access to housing, requiring any new constructions to meet building codes that are not only generating more energy than they use, but also able to withstand new climate conditions and extreme weather events, building flood defences, and setting aside land corridors to help species migrate.
Critically, we must repair the unavoidable impacts, as well as those poorly managed or entirely unmanaged impacts associated with climate change (referred to in policy circles as loss and damage). This means exploring mechanisms for innovatively and urgently raising funds for those already experiencing the negative impacts associated with climate change harms in a way that protects, respects and promotes human flourishing within our planetary boundaries. In part, this will require considerable changes to the unequal aid, development, trade and investment practices that straitjacket countries’ abilities to protect people and planet. Just climate responses must also repair the social, cultural and political marginalisation that increases exposure to climate-related hazards. Poverty, gender, age, living with a disability, geography, indigenous or minority status, national or social origin, birth or other similar status, all increase the likelihood of experiencing climate change harms. Yet those on the frontline of impacts are largely precluded from decision making, and nature has no voice whatsoever. Reparative climate justice could involve moving from competition to cooperation within workplaces, communities, schools and hospitals, as well as the vision and movement towards living in a way that recognises our interdependence with one another and our environment.
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This is not an attempt at defining reparative climate justice, but in identifying some of the potential structural and social systems to overhaul in helping us on our way towards a future built on care and cooperation in a changed climate. Anna Lau, thank you for helping me deepen connections between the various chapters of this report. Zahra Dalilah, thank you for your constant belief and kind reflective comments. Alexandra Wanjiku Kelbert, thank you for your detailed feedback which enriched the final chapter. Daniel Macmillen Voskoboynik and John Daniel Farrugia, thank you for compiling a literature review of current climate change impacts. Being part of, or witness to, conversations with and between friends and siblings at Black Lives Matter UK, Community Centred Knowledge, Decolonising Economics, Demand Climate Justice, Healing Justice London, Labour for a Green New Deal, Land in our Names, People & Planet, Platform London, The Leap, War on Want, and Wretched of the Earth have heavily informed the content. Thank you. Errors, gaps and omissions are mine alone.