Skip to 0 minutes and 15 seconds So when I think about inequalities or inequity in the climate change space, I think of three different ways that inequalities manifest. One principal one is who caused the problem. And so we have this long couple of hundred years of burning of fossil fuels in industrialised countries who have brought us to the point that we’re at right now where we have very little ability. I mean there’s just so few fossil fuels that we can continue to burn. And it’s because our atmospheric space has been taken up by developed countries. Another way that inequality manifests is currently who’s benefiting from burning fossil fuels.
Skip to 1 minute and 0 seconds So we’re continuing to consume fossil fuels, developed countries continuing to benefit, elites of the developing world continuing to benefit. And then the flip side of that is who’s facing the impacts of climate change, and those are principally the poor in the developing world, the poor in the developed world. So you have a differential benefit and impact from the current activities of fossil fuel emissions.
Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds Climate change comes from, results from the consumption of fossil fuels. It results from the destruction of forests. It results from industrial agriculture practises. And one thing that’s really clear is that poor in the developing world are not the ones that are responsible. And in fact, the poor in the developing world, it’s really important to recognise that over a billion people still don’t have access to basic energy.
Skip to 2 minutes and 3 seconds And so solving the climate change problem is not just about reducing emissions, the dealing with inequity in that climate change and energy space is also about making sure that people have basic access to electricity, basic access to electricity, to energy to cook with, to energy to light their homes with, to energy to study by at night. And so the distribution of inequalities on the poor with respect to energy access, really important. Distribution of impacts on the poor, also really, really important in terms of impacts on food production, impacts from destruction of homes from extreme weather events.
Skip to 2 minutes and 51 seconds If you’ve got a really nicely built home, your home, it’s going to withstand a really strong storm in a much better way than if you got a really badly constructed home. And so the impacts on the poor of climate change impacts from weather and also from just the erosion of natural resources. People in developing countries rely on soil, rely on weather, rely on pasture for their animals, rely on the health of coral reefs and ocean ecosystems, coastal ecosystems much more than the wealthy. And as climate change erodes those natural resources, it erodes the ability of people to provide for themselves, to provide for their families and for their communities. So those are generally the impacts of climate change.
Skip to 3 minutes and 48 seconds Those are generally the inequalities that we see in the climate change base.
Skip to 3 minutes and 59 seconds So then thinking about those inequalities, climate justice, then that’s the question. How do you address the inequalities of climate change? I mean, that to me is the flip side of well, justice requires then addressing inequality. So it means delivering energy access to those who don’t have it. It means reducing our emissions over the next couple of decades to zero. It’s clear that we have to do in order to stay below 1 and 1/2 or two degrees C of warming. But it means also reducing those emissions in just ways. It means thinking about not only who gets to emit but who profits from those emissions.
Skip to 4 minutes and 44 seconds We have, if we’re reducing emissions between now and 2050, we can reduce those emissions by burning all of the oil in the United States or burning the oil of Venezuela, and I think that this is a key justice issue which is yet to be really grappled with at the international level. We can’t burn very many fossil fuels. Who gets to burn them and who gets a profit from the sale of those fossil fuels?
Skip to 5 minutes and 17 seconds In the way that question manifests in the United States. So I said you can burn the oil in the United States or you could burn the natural gas in the United States, and one of the key fights that we’re fighting the people across the US are fighting right now is a fight against fracking. You know, natural gas is less costly gas and less polluting in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. So there’s been quite a lot of focus on natural gas in the United States.
Skip to 5 minutes and 48 seconds But the environmental impacts associated with natural gas production are huge, and one could ask the question, well why is the United States at all trying to exploit those resources when if we look at the fossil fuels globally that we should be harvesting, that we should be extracting and those that we shouldn’t, I think it’s pretty easy to come down on the side of we shouldn’t be fracking for natural gas in the United States. Climate justice also, and this is a really important element, it means mobilising finance to help developing countries.
Skip to 6 minutes and 27 seconds It means mobilising finance principally from the developed world to the developing world for transformation of energy infrastructure for addressing the impacts of climate change and for dealing with impacts of climate change that right now are unavoidable. So dealing with impacts of ocean acidification, of sea level rise, of temperature rise, of desertification of salinisation of aquifers. All of those impacts are inexorably increasing. Those are what we call slow onset events that will erode very seriously, significantly and even though the name is slow onset probably pretty quickly the food production abilities of many poor people across the developing world. Those impacts are why climate finance needs to be scaled up significantly in a very short time.
Skip to 7 minutes and 34 seconds And finally, I think climate justice matters because we’re all in this together. We as citizens of the developed world, we have a pretty significant responsibility for the problem because of our historical emissions. We have a responsibility to clean up our mess, and we have a responsibility to take care of our neighbours, because it’s ultimately a very small planet that we inhabit together. And one final thing that I would say about that is addressing climate change with a transfer of resources from the developed world to the developing world in terms of helping folks with energy access, in terms of helping people address, adapt to, and address the impacts of climate change is a great way.
Skip to 8 minutes and 26 seconds It’s a great means of finally tackling the question of global poverty.
Skip to 8 minutes and 35 seconds I think the main lines of conflict between different countries is that developed countries really are not quite ready to admit that they’re the main problem. They’re not quite ready to admit that they’re the main problem. They’re not quite ready to do what it will take in order to reduce their own emissions. I think that there has been little to no political will on the part of leaders of developed countries to show leadership, to take action, to talk to their populations and explain to them exactly what that means in terms of their global responsibility.
Skip to 9 minutes and 18 seconds Both their global responsibility for bringing us to this point and then also the global responsibility of leading and getting emissions to zero in a very short time.
Climate justice and the inequalities of climate change
First off, Doreen Stabinsky talks about the inequalities of climate change asking three questions:
- Who caused the problem?
- Who is benefitting form burning fossil fuels?
- Who is facing the impacts of climate change?
She argues that the developed countries have historically taken up most of the atmospheric space and that there are not many fossil fuels left that we can burn if we want to combat climate change. This burning of fossil fuels has primarily benefitted the elites in the developed countries.
However, the ones most affected by climate change, the result of burning fossil fuels, are the poor in the developing and the developed world. So there is a differential benefit and impact from the current activities of fossil fuels emissions. She says:
The problem is not just about reducing emissions, dealing with inequity in that climate change and energy space is also about making sure that people have basic access to electricity.
Climate justice then, she continues, is about how to these inequalities can be addressed. This entails:
- deliver energy access to those who don’t have it
- reducing our emissions over the next couple of decades to zero, and doing so in just ways
- mobilising finance from the developed world to help developing countries
Climate justice matters, because we are all in this together. (…) It’s ultimately a very small planet that we inhabit together.
Exercise - climate and environmental justice
At the Environmental Justice Atlas, people from all over the world have gathered stories about environmental conflicts . In this exercise, visit the atlas and answer the following questions.
- What are the causes of conflicts that have been reported in the area where you are situated? Can you see any patterns?
- By using the filters, can you discern the main drivers behind environmental conflicts in the world today? What are they?
- What would you say is the most important thing that a climate change leader should learn from this atlas?
© Doreen Stabinsky, CEMUS and Uppsala University