Climate Justice is a normative concept that considers man-made climate change as an ethical and social problem. It consists of two main aspects: justice in terms of responsibility for climate change and justice in terms of the impacts of climate change. Populations in poor countries are disproportionately affected by climate impacts. At the same time, the populations in these countries contribute least to greenhouse gas emissions. Massive emissions of greenhouse gases that heat the Earth’s atmosphere are a specific feature of an economic model that has been dominant for the past 100 to 150 years and is closely linked to fossil fuel use. Global warming and related climate risks are thus largely attributable to the fossil fuel economic system and corresponding consumption patterns – especially in industrialized countries.
In addition to geographic disparities, there are connections to other inequalities, such as socioeconomic disadvantage, lack of access to resources, and persisting colonial power structures. Even within a country or region, people with less privilege in society – whether due to their ethnic background, gender, or other factors – are affected to varying degrees. Thus, climate change acts as an amplifier of social injustice.
The concept of climate justice was politically anchored in Article 3 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1992. Currently, the concept is distinguished by four pillars:
- Distributive justice, which highlights how the costs and benefits of climate change and mitigation efforts are distributed
- Procedural justice, which relates to participation in decision-making processes regarding climate change impacts and countermeasures, including access to information
- Recognition justice, i.e., the recognition of differences among social groups, especially ones that are marginalized and discriminated against, also in relation to the first two pillars
- Intergenerational justice