Why does climate justice matter?

In this week’s episode of the Be Loud: Climate podcast, Rux and Keran discuss the question: Why does climate justice matter? You will hear another snippet from our interview with Alex Ray, as well as the answers to this question by activist Caitlin Rangecroft and ActionAid NL policy advisor, Nils Mollema. As expected, the question sends Rux and Keran down a rabbit hole of difficult questions to which there are no easy answers. The Be Loud: Climate podcast now has a whatsapp number so send us your feedback directly on +447859 547642 or on our website Tweet us @KeranBoyd @RuxCalin with #beloudclimate.

On last week’s podcast Rux asked us: why does climate justice matter? The mind reels.

In that episode, we covered the basic pillars of climate justice as told to us by youth activist Kelo Uchendu, but a question that still lingered in our minds: what does it mean?

Rux and I got to researching - this podcast is as much about our own journey into climate literacy as it is for our listeners - and this is the incredible gift of this journey.

Climate justice is an extension of the principles of social justice which is pervasive across all fields. It’s the acknowledgement that climate change impacts certain communities and individuals more than others and - as I found in my research - climate policy also impacts certain communities and individuals more than others.

In doing this research, I came across Bjørn Lomborg who seems to be the marmite of the climate action community with some calling him a straight-up climate skeptic and others applauding his frank thinking on the projected impact of climate change and current climate policies - I’ll summarise for you: he is very critical of current climate policies. Whilst you can take or leave his opinions on the development of our world, the thing that stood out to me is his opinions on the impact of our current international climate policies in the context of climate justice and specifically the impact on the world's poor.

One issue that he speaks extensively about is the energy transition and what he describes as the unreliability of renewable energy and the extraordinary cost thereof to consumers and governments. It’s a well documented fact that pulling oneself out of poverty is likely not going to happen without an abundance of energy and further that energy poverty is a very real issue for individuals in developed countries, and for entire populations in developing countries.

How then does the energy transition factor into poverty alleviation when renewables will almost certainly cost more in the short term before we have addressed issues of poverty? For the energy transition is happening right now at a time where an estimated 9.2% of the world are still in poverty.

I don’t say this to disregard the energy transition, because I do believe the issue to be far more complicated than it’s presented by either side, but this is a very real example of how climate policy could further entrench inequality and make the world’s vulnerable even more worse off. Well... it will further entrench inequality if we are demanding the world’s vulnerable transition at the same pace and not given support to ensure that they are not left behind. On this topic there are always caveats on caveats for it is endlessly complex.

The biggest eye opener in answering this question is that climate policy is as much of a threat in terms of climate justice as climate change itself.

The question is then: what do we do with this information? How can you ensure that people are not left behind? Whose responsibility is it to ensure that people who are affected by the predicted heat waves or extreme cold weather systems are kept safe? Who will make sure that the countries who will be hit hardest by global warming survive? Specifically when their agricultural systems collapse killing both local populations from starvation and entire economies because of the larger contribution that agriculture makes to GDP?

I don’t have an answer to any of these questions, but this is why climate justice matters. We can’t ignore these very real consequences and we have to ensure that those of us with privilege are not leaving behind those without.

I think moving forward we can all be mindful of imposing our climate actions onto others with the expectation that they are in the position to do the same thing. We need to be critical of policies and ensure that we are supporting those with the biggest impact overall, but which also may affect vulnerable individuals, communities and populations negatively. We need to be smarter about the policies we do support and not think that there is one way to address this issue.

Operate within your circle of influence always.

The mind reels.

*One further note on Bjorn Lomborg for he is a controversial figure in this debate. Neither Rux nor myself endorse or agree with the conclusions contained in his work, however taking it for what it is: a counterpoint of information to be considered. We believe that climate change is a time sensitive issue so we need to be critical of the policies that are meant to help us for we shouldn’t be wasting time - this applies equally to enforcing misguided policies as it does to not doing anything at all. We don’t necessarily know whether or believe that current policies are misguided or efficient, but as climate leaders we believe it is important to consider all information. As his book specifically addresses the impact of climate policy on the world’s poor, we thought it was an interesting resource for the purposes of the podcast. The points raised in his book are interesting and outside of mainstream news outlets. We are thinkers and our references to his work are more about thinking out loud than any endorsement or agreement. I will also include a critical response to Lomborg’s work written by the Guardian in the resources section mentioned below.*

Resources mentioned in this week’s podcast:

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