Understanding Climate Justice

Broadly speaking, the concept of climate justice expands the treatment of climate change as a scientific, financial, and/or technical topic to include considerations of morality and justice. Climate justice is an intentional “human-centered approach” to understanding climate impacts and solutions, and aims to enhance equity and justice while reducing marginalization, exploitation, and oppressions (Mary Robinson Foundation, 2022; Sultana, 2022). To the climate action practitioner within the sector, climate justice demands that we not only seek solutions that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but do so in a way that promotes advancing equitable social, health, and/or economic outcomes for everyone.

Climate justice is closely related to, but distinct from, environmental justice. While environmental justice typically addresses local or regional issues of air pollution, toxic waste sites, and water & soil contamination, climate justice is concerned with larger scale issues such as the global carbon budget, atmospheric temperatures, and sea-level rise (Parker, 2022). Each term also references its own grassroots social movement. The environmental justice movement draws its origins around organizing efforts in Black communities in the 1970s and 1980s (US EPA, 2015). The climate justice movement is commonly viewed as an outgrowth of the environmental justice movement and finds its explicit origins in 1992 with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (Climate Justice Alliance; Adams & Luchsinger, 2009).

Chaz Briscoe, Chantal Madray, and Rachel Valetta. (2022). “Higher Education’s Role in Advancing Climate Justice,” Second Nature: Cambridge, MA.

Environmental Justice vs. Climate Justice

Climate Justice Alliance: Just Transition

Resources and framework for a just transition, “transition is inevitable, justice is not.” The CJA’s work is based on pre-existing Principles of Environmental Justice and Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing.They include indigenous principles of just transition. This document outlines just transition and its principles.

College of the Environment, University of Washington

Environmental justice serves as a lens through which social justice principles can be incorporated into the realm of fair sustainability. On the other hand, climate justice promotes an urgent action needed to prevent climate change must be based on community-led solutions around the world.

Critical Climate Justice

Dr. Farhana Sultana’s article offers interventions into climate justice by forwarding an intersectional feminist analysis of accountability and power relations that expand the frame of climate justice studies.

From environmental to climate justice: climate change and the discourse of environmental justice

This journal article provides an overview of the influence of movements and concepts of environmental justice on the development of the discourse of climate justice.

Global Change

Global Change offers a climate change glossary that defines environmental justice as the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Leading With Justice – Net Zero Investing & Conversations on Climate Justice

Provides background and working definition of climate justice (Pages 1-3). Argues for importance of climate justice framework in approaching net zero (Pages 3-8). highlights research suggesting that taking climate justice considerations into investment diligence may serve as a financial risk mitigant. Provides practical methods to implement climate justice, informed by a series of conversations with asset owners, investors, and activist practitioners (Pages 8-17).

UCLA’s EDI-J page

UCLA’s EDI-J page on its Sustainability website. It was built off of the public statement that was drafted in collaboration with the UC Sustainability Officers two years ago. 

US Department of Energy EJ Resources

The US Department of Energy provides a series of environmental justice resources including including:
What is Environmental Justice, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad (Executive Order 14008), Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government (Executive Order 13895), Environmental Justice History, and Definition and Policy.

We Act for Environmental Justice

WEACT, New York City is an organization working to implement justice and resilience into community planning as inequality in NYC grows and is projected to see many more heat-related deaths in the near future. They worked to create the Northern Manhattan Climate Action Plan (NMCA), a CAP that focused primarily on incorporating resilience and listening to local communities.

Why you need to know about environmental and climate justice, Charitable Impact Blog

Environmental justice (EJ): Embraces the principle that all people and communities have a right to equal protection and equal enforcement of environmental laws and regulations. This definition is a direct quotation from Dr. Robert J. Bullard’s webpage. Dr. Bullard is often cited as “the father of environmental justice.”

Climate justice (CJ): Insists on a shift from a discourse on greenhouse gases and melting ice caps into a civil rights movement with the people and communities most vulnerable to climate impacts at its heart. This definition is a direct quotation from Mary Robinson. Robinson served as the 7th President of Ireland and is the founder of Mary Robinson Foundation: Climate Justice. 

There Is No Climate Justice Without Racial Justice

Climate Justice is Racial Justice, Racial Justice is Climate Justice

In this op-ed, Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. of Hip Hop Caucus explores and explains why the destruction of our planet means greater harm to Black and marginalized communities.

Climate Reality Project— Climate and Environmental Justice

The Climate Reality Project provides a quantitative demonstration of the extreme inequities of climate justice, with great resources explaining climate justice 101, including: environmental justice 101, climate migrants, environmental racism, frontline/fenceline communities, climate migrants and sacrifice zones 101.

Racial and Environmental Justice Resources

College of Saint Benedict, St. John’s University: A list of their many resources involving climate justice, including important definitions, racism/environmental racism, food deserts, industrial production and resources specific to justice in Minnesota.

The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Racial Equity, Social Justice, and Sustainability Discussion Archive

AASHE coordinated a series of webinars applying a racial equity and social justice lens to sustainability efforts. Panelists discussed how Sustainability and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion managers need to work together, as well as the need to address how sustainability managers can elevate their status and have a seat at the table. Discussions also highlighted the need for personal work towards becoming anti-racist.

The Justice40 Accelerator

An overview of the Justice40 Accelerator, a program that helps facilitate the executive order that 40% of federal funds towards climate action will be going to disadvantaged communities. The Justice40 Accelerator is a partnership between The Solutions Center, Elevate, Groundwell, Partnership for Southern Equity and the Hummingbird firm, helping frontline communities with informational sessions, technical expertise and anything they need to generate the adequate compensation they deserve.

Tracing the Roots of the Climate Crisis

This podcast explores some of the root causes of the climate crisis. But, maybe surprisingly, it doesn‘t spend very much time talking about the climate crisis itself. Instead, it examines the ways that climate change grows from the same root as other crises we face, including racial and gender injustice and economic exploitation and precarity. Each of the four chapters of this podcast will explore the roots of the climate crisis from different angles – ranging from a discussion of the consequences of the capitalist economic system, to an examination of the cultural stories that justify colonialism, genocide and slavery. And throughout, it will try to keep sight of our own agency to resist systems of power and to co-create alternatives to the way things currently are.


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