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The Ramifications of Climate Injustice

In the international sphere, there is particular attention paid to the impacts of climate change and how this impacts different areas and communities which may lead to discrepancies in the form of inequality arising within different nations. An unfortunate reality of today is that climate injustice is a cruel facet of climate change. The cohort of climate change outcomes will not be distributed fairly amongst the world.

Climate injustice describes the unequal distribution of the negative consequences of climate change. Climate justice has a spearhead focus on human rights and global progress alongside “sharing the benefits and burdens associated with climate stabilisation, as well as concerns about the impacts of climate change”.

The Mary Robinson Foundation outlines a need for the protection of human rights, support for development,  and the even distribution of benefits and negatives amongst other items of concern. The consideration of human rights alongside climate change enables the ability to pose adequate morally justified responses to climate change.

Role of Human Rights

Climate justice demands a more compassionate consideration of human rights. The purpose of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, when it was brought into fruition in 1948, was to uphold the fundamental basics of what it means to be a human being. Items such as freedom, equality and justice are central and linked directly to climate justice.

The UDHR and other human rights legislation require actions from states to protect individuals from the ramifications of climate change. Such areas of concern include severe meteorological conditions and droughts. The United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) stresses that states need to be held to account for their role in climate change through their “failure to adequately regulate the emissions of businesses under their jurisdiction regardless of where such emissions or their harms actually occur.”

Climate Finance

People living in third-world countries tend to be unfairly placed in the firing line of the negatives of climate change, regardless of their input towards the causes. This climate injustice is not something felt entirely equally within countries fortunate to bear wealth, wealth largely gained through exploiting the environment. Countries that are blessed with riches should be held accountable and encouraged to play a role in helping people in disadvantaged countries. Such help comes in the form of Climate finance.

This term can be understood as “local, national or transnational financing…seeks to support mitigation and adaptation actions that will address climate change.” and is part of an effort at achieving a pathway to dramatically reducing emissions whilst also adapting to the harmful results of climate change. In theory, this approach would facilitate poorer countries in dealing with climate change, thus reducing climate injustice, and enabling them to mitigate the damages caused by climate change.

Climate finance is a valid method of acquiring climate justice and ensuring that a human rights-based approach is placed at the centre. A figure of $100 billion per year by 2020 was cemented and agreed upon in 2015 through the Paris Agreement to help facilitate developing countries in adaption and mitigation, which to the outsider would mark a clear acceptance of accountability from these wealthy states as they are taking action to compensate the vulnerable countries.

Climate finance is a tremendous tool for helping offset climate injustice, though it has been the source of disagreement and outrage as a result of its failings. States agree that the funds for climate finance are a necessity, but who will pay? How will the funds be distributed? These questions are peripheral to the fact that the target of $100 billion by 2020 has been missed. This marks a failure from the wealthy nations in their promise to ease the burden felt by developing countries.

One of the issues with this approach however that there is no clear accounting policy. It is the duty of developed countries to achieve the agreed-upon stipulations of the Paris Agreement, but it has largely been an undercooked mess, with evidence of corruption and confusion with little respect paid to human rights.

There cannot be a successful representation of climate justice if there is no particular attention paid to human rights. The Anthropocene has seen many key human rights become engulfed in danger. The World Health Organisation has warned that the “Direct damage costs to health…is estimated to be between USD 2-4 billion/year by 2030”. Climate change has been described as the most significant danger posed to humans, with WHO also predicting 250,000 additional deaths per year as a result of malnutrition and diarrhoea, to name a few, all between 2030 and 2050.

So, the question that remains is what exactly can be done? As mentioned above, climate finance is one method of tackling the issue, though it would be applicable to look at other methods of change to better assess the dangers of climate change and help those most vulnerable. Environment and human rights concerns must sit at the forefront of the conversation.


Edited By 
Kavya Vengkateshwaran

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