Interpreting Justice – Journal – DAWN.COM
Now it is universally recognized that the global climate regime is changing and will have a disproportionate impact on people based on where they live and other factors that contribute to vulnerability such as age, sex and income.
Perspectives and policies evolve over time and serve a better purpose if they are aligned with the realities on the ground. Environmental justice cannot be discussed in isolation without considering the historical experiences of nations and the impact of past events on current vulnerabilities.
Until now, we have lived in a world of plenty with enough resources to meet the needs of the population and a carbon budget capable of absorbing greenhouse gas emissions without seriously damaging the ecology and changing the weather situation. But now we live in a world of dwindling resources and a burgeoning population that pits interest groups against each other for the grab of essential resources. Add to the puzzle demographic shifts, pandemics like Covid and new geopolitical fault lines, with economies in recession and rising inflation, and the picture of a bleak future is complete.
In this context, the interpretation of justice is of great importance. Whenever the word justice is invoked, it suggests that a wrong has been done and needs to be repaired. Global warming has sparked a new debate about development policies and goals, as seen by countries that have come to see luxury as a necessity and countries that struggle to meet basic needs.
Environmental and racial justice are closely linked.
South Asia’s past history has also taken on new meaning in light of climate change, forcing countries in the region to link past injustices to current misfortunes. The colonization and exploitation of the subcontinent thwarted its development trajectory. The embezzlement of its wealth, the social marginalization of the local population, the violation of human rights and a systematic policy of discrimination that stripped people of their dignity, are seen as contributing factors responsible for the retardation of social development and of economic growth.
Some in the Global South believe that the racial prejudices of the 19th century have turned into environmental injustices in the current century that will continue to challenge the concept of justice and its universal application. The climate talks have been the longest negotiations in history without a conclusive result. Meanwhile, the planet is in turmoil, but despite the looming existential threat, the global North is not reducing emissions fast enough and providing adequate support for mitigation and adaptation or offsetting losses.
Some blame the Global South for its vulnerabilities. The list of culprits includes lack of investment in human capital, gender discrimination, unsustainable population growth rate and poor governance. However, that ignores the impact of a rapidly warming planet as a game changer.
If 2030 had not been flagged as a critical timeframe for reducing emissions and 2050 had not been set as the deadline for achieving net zero emissions, and if the North had not disproportionately consumed the global carbon budget , the South would have had another four decades to achieve development goals and better prepare to deal with crises and fragility. A just transition therefore requires developed economies to accelerate emissions reductions and provide financial and technical support to developing countries. At the same time, countries in the South must practice climate justice at home and ensure better governance. This will strengthen his moral standing to demand climate justice.
Racial prejudices and conflicts between civilizations are part of the history of mankind. It turns out that all people living in the Global South are colored, but that doesn’t make them children of an inferior God. Their future will be affected by global warming. This makes climate change a rights-based issue and a moral responsibility.
Philosopher David Hume believed that reason is influenced by feeling. Perhaps that is why our response to tragedy is different. Every death, every violation of rights, every injustice does not evoke the same emotional reaction. The level of empathy changes with race and location. Along with solutions like lifestyle changes and a faster transition to renewable energy, we need a moral mandate to address climate challenges. Environmental justice is not only about the difference in wealth between rich and poor countries. There is an emotional disconnect between North and South and this gap needs to be quickly bridged.
Justice will remain an elusive goal, but we must never give up trying to achieve it. It is a symbol of progress and the first principle of humanity. When every death diminishes us and we realize that no man or woman is an island unto themselves and that one day the bell will ring for everyone, finding fair solutions will become easier.
The author is Executive Director of the Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change.
Posted in Dawn, August 15, 2022