Climate Justice: Lessons from the Global South

Understand how we can balance human needs with caring for the planet with this free online course about climate change.

7,567 enrolled on this course

Photo of Bagasbas Beach in my hometown: Daet, Camarines Norte, Philippines
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

Climate change is a global problem we all must face. This course will deal with some of the key issues related to the ethical dimensions implied by climate change – learning especially from the problems faced as well as the resilience models formulated by the marginalized sectors of society or the so-called “Global South”.

Understand the environmental problems and proposed solutions by the Global South

Although the populations of the Global South have least contributed to the greenhouse gas emissions that have exacerbated the negative effects of climate change, they are also the ones who are most vulnerable to extreme weather conditions such as droughts, floods, typhoons, sea-level rise and desertification. Needless to say, these phenomena have profound social implications that may harm future generations.

This situation raises some major ethical questions:

  • To what extent are human beings entitled to exploit nature for their needs and interests?
  • What kind of shared responsibility is appropriate in addressing climate change?
  • How can we respond to the adverse effects of climate change being experienced by the peoples of the Global South?

The effects of climate change disasters, however, are not only confined to the global south but are also felt by the more affluent sectors of societies or the Global North.

In order to achieve a more sustainable world where nature can continue to support the aspirations for better living conditions for future and disadvantaged generations, a notion of justice that balances the ecological integrity of nature and the human beings’ rights to live and enjoy the fruits of their labor must be formulated.

Learn about climate justice

Following the recommendation of UNESCO’s World Commission for the Ethics of Science and Technology (COMEST) in the promotion of Biological and Cultural Diversity as starting point of Climate Change Ethics, UNESCO is currently pioneering a worldwide reflection on the ‘ethical principles in relation to climate change’. Along the same line, within its philosophy programme, in 2014 UNESCO published the “Manual of Philosophy – A South-South Perspective”. This Manual sheds a new light on the singularity of some major philosophical texts and traditions from the Global South.

This course has been built upon these two major undertakings. It will propose a notion of climate justice that balances the ecological integrity of nature, on the one hand, while supporting the biological and economic needs of human populations, on the other hand. Human needs and ecological integrity, therefore, need not be opposing but more supportive of one another in so far as human beings allow nature to regenerate herself by regulating their excessive consumption of natural resources.

The course proposes groundbreaking reflections on Climate Justice, within the contexts of Biological and Cultural Diversity and the Precautionary Principle, while exploring the Global South’s approaches.

Explore how humans can balance their needs with the needs of the planet

At the end of the course, you’ll learn about the various practices of frugality in the global south and enable you to adapt these practices to your own circumstances in view of contributing to the needs of the most vulnerable populations of society.

You will also be able to imagine different ways of extracting natural resources without compromising the regenerating capacity of nature to sustain herself and thus continuously support the needs of all human beings.

What topics will you cover?

  • Climate change vulnerability
  • Climate justice and ethical principles in relation with climate change
  • Biological and cultural diversity
  • Philosophies from the Global South

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • At the end of the course, learners should be able to assess the vulnerability of an environment and recommend solutions from the perspectives of biodiversity, justice, and the precautionary principle.

Who is the course for?

There are no special requirements for this course, but an interest in climate change and global justice might be useful.

Who will you learn with?

This picture was taken during the COP 21 in Paris when we presented COMEST's "Ethical Principles of Climate Change". I teach Philosophy and Environmental Ethics at Ateneo de Manila University.

Who developed the course?


La UNESCO refuerza los vínculos entre naciones y sociedades para cimentar la paz en base a la solidaridad moral e intelectual de la humanidad.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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