Climate Justice Dialogue 2 Jake Wilson
Transcript Climate Justice Dialogue 2 Jake Wilson
Jake Wilson M.Sc., M.A.(Hons)
Ph.D Researcher, GCU
The Human Rights synthesis is a summary of 25 peer-reviewed papers on
human rights, published between 2006 and 2012.
Climate Justice ‘Movement’:
This is a summary of 8 peer-reviewed papers on
the climate justice ‘movement’, published between 2009 and 2011.
This is a summary of 6 peer-reviewed papers on procedural
justice, published between 2007 and 2011.
The main findings are:
Since 2010 human rights have become an essential part of climate
The rights of future generations must be taken into account.
Rights to development need to be included in order to achieve political
consensus on climate change.
A rights-based approach confers many benefits; rights implication of
actions to mitigate / adapt should be considered.
‘Climate rights’ could be extrapolated from existing human rights law.
Human security can be considered as part of the rights discussion.
Human Rights as part of climate discourse
Judicial authorities fail to recognise environmental rights as human rights, although
post-Cancun, human rights have become an essential part of climate change
More research and negotiation is needed to clarify the exact relationship between
human rights law and climate change law2.
The OHCHR report in 2009 insisted that states have a duty to cooperate to realize
human rights, especially vis-à-vis climate change3,4.
Human Rights: Potentialities and pitfalls
The rights of a 21st century person have the same moral standing as those of a
23rd century person. A detailed examination of discounting is important.
Human rights perspectives tend to have a historical focus and to be ‘vertically
Decisions by the UN human rights bodies are ‘recommendations’ which
do not have the binding force of Court decisions.
A rights-based approach could establish a per capita allocation on the equal rights
and responsibilities of individuals6.
Human Rights: Rights to development
Without preservation of the right to development, a climate regime won’t gain
political acceptance and becomes unfeasible.7
‘Ecological space’ describes a fundamental right under climate justice8.
If a rights-based regime such as Greenhouse Development Rights were to be adopted,
institutions and mechanisms would need to be expanded to accumulate and
There is a caveat over a ‘right to development’ and similar individual rights which
might be enshrined in an international treaty10.
Human Rights: benefits
There are many benefits from a rights-based approach:
Promoting a shift in emphasis from the physical sciences12
Drawing attention to vulnerable and marginalized social groups;12
Enhancing equity in international decision-making12
Encouraging more effective, fairer, and more sustainable policy12
Emphasizing international cooperation, enabling interpretation of
Responding to gaps in the existing climate change policy architecture12.
Human Rights: Operationalizing into climate change
Extrapolating from human rights law, it is logical to apply a similar set of obligations
with regard to ‘climate rights’. There are issues of proof, however13.
Actionable human rights traditionally require a rights-holder and a duty-bearer14.
Human rights could be related to climate protection by :
• Including climate within existing human rights relating to the environment15.
• Applying a human rights ‘optic’ to climate change16.
All environmental refugees should be included in a new law which is not specific to
Human Rights and human security
The UNDP’s 1994 Human Development Report shifted the concept of human security
to a more human-centred approach18.
A human security approach could include the concept of remedies for injured
parties within the UNFCCC framework, as envisaged for the Loss and Damage
mechanism introduced in 201319.
Adaptation and mitigation policy responses for the agricultural sector, particularly in
sub-Saharan Africa, could increase human security by reducing poverty, enhancing
human capital and consolidating natural assets of land and water20.
Climate Justice ‘Movement’
Climate Justice ‘Movement’
The main findings are:
• Climate Justice activism addresses the triple inequality of mitigation,
responsibility and vulnerability, and argues strongly for resource sovereignty.
• The Climate Justice ‘Movement’ needs to be more unified and purposeful.
• The global poor are using rights discourses to demand climate justice,
identifying key players and demanding action.
• Demands made at the Bali COP should be honoured.
• There needs to be a shift away from the focus on growth.
Climate Justice ‘Movement’ - activism
Climate justice addresses the ‘triple inequality’ of mitigation, responsibility and
Since 2002, climate justice activism has argued against, for instance,
carbon emissions trading and carbon offsetting, stressing issues including peoples’
resource sovereignty and climate debt22.
The climate justice activist movement’s roots are located in the
anti-globalisation protests and the formation in 2004 of the Durban Group
for Climate Justice23.
Climate Justice ‘Movement’- conceptual strands
The demands of the ‘Climate Justice Now!’ Network at Bali 2007 represent
conceptual strands worked upon by disparate parts of the movement:
Bring about North-South financial transfers to address historical responsibility /
Invest in renewables while disinvesting in fossil generation
Set up rights-based resource conservation promoting indigenous sovereignty
over natural resources
Establish food sovereignty and agricultural sustainability.
Climate Justice ‘Movement’ - needs
The Climate Justice ‘Movement’ needs to project greater unity of purpose and vision24.
Some commentators question whether climate justice can even be termed a social
Strategic bridges must be built between the climate justice and development
The climate justice movement rejects technocentric & market solutions in favour of
reorganising society along more human-centred lines27.
Climate Justice ‘Movement’: challenges
The global poor are demanding climate justice for impacts being experienced,
using rights discourses to identify those actors and forces responsible29.
One key challenge is the strengthening of capacity to engage with policy processes
rather than being a countervailing voice of protest30.
Another challenge is to form institutions which can stand against neoliberalism31.
Climate Justice ‘Movement’: ways forward
There is a need to overcome the deeply ingrained focus upon growth within capitalism,
through new means of democratising social relations32.
The movement's demands need to be strategized instead of ‘preaching to the
Climate investment funds could have more globally representative structures34.
The main findings are:
Gender issues are currently being neglected and need to be integrated into
international negotiations on climate.
Stakeholders can exert little influence on development policies.
Developing country scientists are under-represented in the IPCC.
An understanding of the ways in which inequity functions at the highest levels will help
to address the problem.
In relation to REDD, for indigenous people acknowledgement of legal rights and better
governance can do more than compensation money alone.
Procedural Justice: gender
Gender issues are being side-lined within climate negotiations35.
Proceeding in a way which integrates gender and women’s participation is the only
way to hold governments accountable36.
Gender and climate change experts need to assist in formulating policies which
are either gender-neutral or help to advance gender equity37.
Women should be established as a distinct constituency within the United Nations’
Framework Convention on Climate Change38.
Procedural Justice & development
Little can be done by stakeholders to change big decisions on development
policies that underpin public and private development39.
In relation to proposed developments, frequently only specific issues are up for
More research is needed into social participation in decision-making over
Possible solution: Create carbon-neutral committees, responsible for coordinating
climate change mitigation measures within development proposals42.
Procedural Justice at global level
It is valuable to understand how at the highest level of climate negotiation inequity
is operating and along what lines it does so in order to address and remedy the
The under-representation of developing country scientists needs to be addressed
by the IPCC43.
Participation in the IPCC from countries where English was the primary language was
2 ½ times greater than from those in which it wasn't44.
Procedural Justice and indigenous people
• With respect to REDD, the call from the indigenous community was not for money
but for enhancement of their legal rights within their territories, and strengthened
self-government45. Redistributive justice is a means of addressing these issues.
• The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should be functioning
protectively to preclude destruction of indigenous resources46.
Human Rights: Conclusions
Furtherance of linkages between environmental protection and human rights
will benefit the climate justice agenda.
A ‘right to environment’ in international law, as part of reconfiguring human
rights into generalist and specialist rights, could be proposed.47
A human security perspective based on human values and needs will change
the direction of climate policymaking away from narrow national interests48.
While there are many potential benefits to the rights-based approach, measures to
mitigate and adapt may also have human rights implications.
Climate Justice ‘Movement’: Conclusions
The movement needs to build bridges in terms of making connections
with the development community.
It needs to take a more strategic approach, including engaging with
It needs to build capacity and propose new institutions if it is to oppose
neoliberal approaches to climate change
It needs to start to modify power dynamics via such institutions - to
reform and democratise global climate finance, for example.
Procedural Justice: Conclusions
Education, self-organization and knowledge of civil rights are crucial
for an effective social participation process49.
There needs to be a level playing field in the IPCC and UNFCCC both
in relation to gender and to the representation of developing country
The legal rights of indigenous peoples should be protected; research
should investigate how indigenous groups could form connections
with other groups concerned with equity and human rights51.