Author:- Riya, Student at Jindal Global Law School 


 CLIMATE JUSTICE: The repercussions of not all climate change is all the same, and climate justice acknowledges this. Communities who are at risk suffer the most, frequently those that have made the smallest contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. These communities might not have the means to prepare for or recover from climate-related calamities. Particularly at risk are indigenous peoples, low-income neighborhoods, and nations in the Global South.  climate justice comprises of different measures such as: 

Different themes that have been covered by the concept of climate justice are as follows. 

When we talk about corrective justice, then we are refereeing to the mistake we did in past because of our action to the environment, that a person has a duty to correct or repair the harm caused to others due to wrongful conduct. Climate change result from unchecked anthropogenic GHG emissions and most of the GHG emissions has been caused by the developed countries which a handful of resources and industries. Corrective justice assumes that the conduct causing the harm is wrongful. However, some emissions can be justified either its wrongful or not such as human produce Co2 at very large level through exhaling, this can be justified as this is the fundamental of life i.e., to breathe and some GHG emissions can also be justified for the development because that’s also necessary. 

Now coming to the point of Distributive justice, Distributive justice admits that historically, industrialization in rich nations has been the main driver of greenhouse gas emissions. The current quantities of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere are entirely their fault. Therefore, it is important to take this historical background into account when allocating responsibilities for reducing climate change. Distributive justice emphasizes how crucial it is to give developing nations fair access to financial resources and renewable energy technologies in order to make the change over to an economy with low carbon footprints. Inequalities can be made worse by a lack of resources, which also makes it harder for developing countries to combat climate change. Distributive justice questions global justice that relates to the distribution of goods among state or we can say sustainable use of resources is the fundamental basic principle of distributive justice. Reduced air pollution and the creation of jobs are just two of the many economic and social advantages that the transformation to a sustainable, less-carbon economy can offer. To avoid additional inequities, distributive justice demands that these gains be equally dispersed among various economic and social groups. The ethical framework of distributive justice, which emphasizes fairness, equity, and ethical considerations in the allocation of costs, benefits, and obligations, is crucial in the discussion of climate crisis. To address the threat of global climate change , it emphasizes the need for a global strategy that acknowledges past responsibility, helps vulnerable groups, and makes sure that the costs and rewards of climate measures are justly distributed. According to the “common but differentiated responsibilities” premise of the UNFCCC, industrialized nations should take the lead in reducing climate change while also giving developing nations technological and financial support.

The third concept of climate justice is Intergenerational justice, be this term I understand that, not to pursue policies or practices that create benefits for themselves but impose cost on those who will live in the future. Example in UNFCCC, In the preamble to the UNFCCC, it is noted how crucial it is to conserve the climate system for both contemporary and subsequent generations. Since the majority of the burdens of climate change will fall on generations to come, especially those from developing countries who are anticipated to have minimal resources to adapt, it raises issues of intergenerational equality. As Stephen fry rightly said that no one can deny that it is right for us now, urgently, to pass responsibility to our future generation, authority to the young whose destiny is to pick up the pieces and attempt to restore some sanity, sense, and stability to our broken world. Intergenerational justice talks about the aspects of historically driven mistakes which is committed by developed countries. They have a burden to pay back to the mother nature. 

The last concept is Environmental Justice, the frequency and potency of heat waves, droughts, wildfires, torrential rainstorms (cloud buster), winter storms, floods, and hurricanes have increased, and climate crisis is expected to aggravate these trends. However, no single extreme weather event can be directly linked to climate change…. The level of temperature increase deemed safe states has goal to ‘place a limit on temperature increase well below 2 degrees Celsius (contrast to preindustrial level) and as well an effort to limit global warming by 1 degree Celsius (Paris agreement- objective)’. It is necessary to prevent warming exceeding that temperature and rapidly decrease to net-zero by 2050. The choice of an emission pathways does not necessarily depends upon the stringency of the regime’s emissions commitment, but it does depend on the levels of state participation and compliance. 

Utmost weather state can consequence in ‘harm, disease, and even death’. Heavy rains and flooding can contaminate drinking water and increase water contamination, potentially causing gastrointestinal illnesses like diarrhea and harming the liver and kidneys. Changes in precipitation patterns and warming water temperatures hearten the growing of bacteria, viruses, parasites, and toxic algae.

Thus, from the above discussion it is clear that climate justice is a multifaceted approach which seeks to deal with climate justice. Themes including historical accountability, equity, intergenerational equity, participation, finance, loss and harm, and human rights are all included. These principles direct international agreements like the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement in drafting climate policies that seek to fairly and morally balance the obligations, advantages, and burdens related to climate change.

Reducing pollution of 6 greenhouse gases is the main objective of mitigation strategies covered by the UNFCCC. The following gases are governed by the UNFCC: SF6, HFCs, PFCs, CO2, CH4, N2O, and HFCs. To mitigate the negative effects of climate crisis, these activities aim to stabilize or decrease the atmospheric concentration of various gases on earth.

The negotiation for mitigation was dominated by three topics.

  • To establish legally effectual(binding), globally agreed-upon objectives for developed countries’ emissions. 
  • Choosing whether to use a comprehensive strategy that enables nations to deal with all GHG sources and sinks at once. 
  • Whether to allow nations to receive credit for carbon reduction initiatives they carry out or assist in developing nations. 
  1.  The FCCC negotiation’s most contentious topic was targets and timelines. A target and schedule establish a commitment to accomplish a specific outcome (the target) by a specific date (the timetable), but they do not specify a time or a target’s threshold or a time limit. By “recognizing” that a return to earlier levels of emissions by the end of the current decade would affect changes in developed countries’ emissions trends, Article 4.2 establishes a timeline for lowering emissions.

Article 4.2(b), which mandates that (countries) communicate, provides an emissions target.

  1. According to a comprehensive strategy, all GHS sources and sinks should be addressed jointly in order to combat climate change. To compare emissions of multiple gases using a single carbon dioxide (CO2) (CO2e) meter, the entire method estimates global warming potentials (GWPs) for each GHG.

US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the majority of the Nordic nations were supporters of the holistic strategy, and they provided both economic and environmental justifications.

 A significant international treaty created in 1992 to combat climate change calls for the inclusion of mitigation. The mitigation is incorporated through numerous mechanisms and agreements, and it serves as the cornerstone for the world’s efforts to tackle climate change. General commitments in mitigation under the Kyoto Protocol. 

The subject matter of climate change law is, 

Four fundamental issues are the focus of international climate change law: 

  • Limiting or preventing climate change. 
  • Adapting to it to lessen its negative effects. 
  • offering financial and other forms of assistance for adaptation and mitigation. 
  • Establishing international oversight to guarantee execution, adherence, and efficiency.

States’ positions regarding if the climate regime should prioritize adaptation over mitigation or strike a balance between the two have varied during the creation of international climate change law. Although both adaptation and mitigation are mentioned in the FCCC’s objectives, in the first ten years of the UN’s climate regime, mitigation took center stage. From 1995 to 2001, nations were engaged with the discussion and creation of the Kyoto Protocol, that established timeframes and goals for industrialized countries’ GHG mitigation.  

  • Up until that moment, the climate regime hadn’t really started thinking about how to improve collaboration, backing, and adaptation-related activities. Developing nations in particular have concentrated on financial aid and other forms of measures, like technology transfer and capacity building, throughout the regime’s existence. Not to mention, over the years, the UN climate system has put a lot of effort into creating a strong system of monitoring and assessment to encourage openness and, perhaps less regularly, into creating effective systems to identify noncompliance and implement sanctions. 
  • MITIGATION: It covers measures to maintain and enhance sinks as well as ones to lower GHG emissions. Examples of measures to “reduce emissions include energy efficiency standards, ‘renewable energy subsidies’, a carbon tax, an emissions trading system, funding for urban mass transit systems, and technology research and development”. Most sinks policies are concerned with forestry; they involve steps to reduce pollutants caused by deforestation and forest degradation as well as to encourage replanting. LULUCF stands for use of land and Land Use Change. 
  • ADAPTATION: Adjusting the existing or predicted future climate is necessary for adaptation to a changing climate. Reduced risks from adverse consequences of global warming such sea level rise, more severe storms, or shortages of food, are the goal. It also includes making the most of any potential benefits put on by climate change, such as a longer growing season or increased yields in specific regions.

Collective action is necessary; individual states may typically carry out adaptation. States also have a personal motive to act because the advantages of adaption measures typically benefit the state taking action rather than the global community. Due to these factors, international collaboration plays a significantly different role in mitigation than it does in adaptation. States have an incentive in adapting on their own, thus an international climate regime need not enforce commitments. International cooperation’s main goal is to encourage adaptability, not the reverse.

  • FINANCE: Which nations should be eligible for financing? The UN climate system normally provides support to poor nations, but it made no mention of which nations, whether they be small island developing nations or the least developed nations, should receive that assistance. What kinds of damages ought to be compensated are as of yet unknown. Is it for prevention and adaptation, or is it for loss and damage? Developed countries are quite interested in providing financial help for reporting, but they are not at all interested in supporting other types of expenses.
  • OVERSIGHT: It offers functionality to encourage implementation, adherence, and effectiveness. 

These comprises,  

(1) National reporting on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as on mitigation and adaptation strategies. 

(2) Professional assessment of the data offered by the states.

(3) processes for evaluating compliance and implementation.

(4) Effectiveness evaluation

(5) Official conflict resolution.

  • Climate Change Framework Agreement of the United Nations the UNFCCC is the primary international agreement governing climate change actions. It plans yearly conferences, sets carbon reduction targets, and keeps track of how well each country is adhering to its commitments. The Paris pact, an international pact, establishes a framework for pursuing measures to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius and keeping it well below 2 degrees Celsius. A framework for trail and give an account for countries’ development is included in the agreement. The IPCC performs scientific evaluations of the effects of climate crisis and is a crucial source of information and guidance for policy.

The Kyoto Protocol established a compliance agency with the authority to apply sanctions and put states with legally mandated emission limitations under harsher regulation. The Paris Agreement also mandates regular progress reviews, a system for implementation and compliance, and a framework for increased transparency that is applied to all parties. 

We will not “solve” the climate crisis if we facilitate genocide against emerging countries, bring about catastrophe for present generations, or dramatically speed up the rate of mass extinction. The issue we face is poorly represented in public policy, and the accompanying remedies eventually degenerate into ones that are absolutely insufficient. Fundamentally, climate change is frequently presented as a moral conundrum. It raises fundamental concerns about our moral obligation to deal with a catastrophe that is primarily the result of human behavior. The need to avoid harm, uphold justice, and protect the rights of everyone, including future generations, is highlighted by ethical considerations. 

The concept of moral responsibility applies to individuals, businesses, and the entire global community in addition to nations and governments. We are not able to land on the consensus. Agriculture is being one of the most critical targets of climate change. If we talk about the emissions and equity, than developing and small island countries which contributed very less for emission are at suffering position. Common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) kind of addresses this issue that, developed countries do have historic responsibility or burden upon them to address climate change. If we talk about the environmental perspective then, Environmental injustices are made worse by climate change, which is out of proportion to influence in danger people. The necessity to address these injustices and make sure that climate policies are fair and do not stigmatize vulnerable populations is highlighted by ethical perspectives. From an economic perspective, cost-benefit analyses are used to examine climate change. Based on their economic ramifications, policies and actions are assessed with an emphasis on minimizing costs and maximizing gains. Economists also view this as an opportunity for innovation and economic growth because if we move from renewable energy and sustainable energy then it would create more jobs and opportunity.  

There is fairness between the generations. It poses issues of intergenerational equity because most of the burdens of climate change will fall on subsequent generations, especially those from underdeveloped countries who are anticipated to have minimal resources to adapt. Climate justice is further questioned by the reality that those parts of the country greatest vulnerable to damage from climate change, such as small island administrations, have contributed the least to its causes. Countries which are developing are most probable to be substantially affected by climate crisis because many of them are already quite susceptible. It is projected that this will hinder economic growth, making it more challenging to end poverty, further degrade food security, and exacerbate current poverty traps as well as generate new ones.

For the moral perspective there’s responsibility and accountability. The concept of moral responsibility is attached to the idea of post events. There is duty on the present generation to protect vulnerable population. Climate change is effecting disproportionately to the marginalized community. The moral obligation to protect the most vulnerable members of society can be seen as key ethical concern in the climate law. Failing to do so can be seen as an infringement of human rights. There is also moral duty to nature as humans are seen as debtor of mother earth. Failing to act against climate change is a breach of all the debt which we are already burdened with and hold liability to pay back to the mother earth. It is up to us to preserve and protect the planet for our future generation. 

If we see the perspective scientifically, consensus on anthropogenic climate change, the scientific consensus on the proof of climate crisis is clear and unambiguous. Ignoring the scientific consensus can be seen as ethical concern and it will be a failure of our moral duty to address a known global threat. E.g., Mining projects. 

GREENWASHING: scientific measurements and data are critical for legal mechanisms to hold parties accountable for their emissions. Forgering data to make a false or misleading statements about the environmental benefits of a product or practices, is known as greenwashing. Doing so can be seen as a failure of moral duty to nature. E.g., Volkswagen case. 

Climate law usually incorporates the precautionary principle, which suggest that in the situation of scientific failure, it is ethical responsibility to take preventive actions. Even in the case of absolute certainty, it is ethical responsibility to reduce emissions. Not taking preventive measures is a failure of ethical responsibility. E.g., dam accident, Sikkim floods.

If we talk about economic dimensions. 

  • Distributive justice- climate policies cost and benefits are distributed unevenly, which raise economic issues. Question of who bears the financial burden of mitigation and how wealth is redistributed are ethical concerns. E.g., developing countries is growing steadily than developed. 
  • Carbon pricing mechanism- The economic approach to sustainable development in climate law often involves climate pricing mechanism, when unfairly burden the vulnerable countries or start favoring certain economic interest. E.g., Africa development can be impacted. Africa is responsible for only 2 percent of all global emissions. 
  • Green financing and investments- Climate law specifically focuses on encouraging green finance and investments. Ethical concern arises when we start financing unsustainability and environmentally hazardous projects. 

In addition, if we discuss COVID19, which has already claimed the lives of over 1.4 million people worldwide and is currently seeing a new wave of cases and fatalities. New causes for optimism regarding climate change were also introduced in 2020. We first require global collaboration. Although it’s simple to write off “we have to work together” as a cliché, it’s actually true. The globe made incredible progress during COVID19 when governments, pharmaceutical companies, and researchers collaborated, for instance, by creating and testing vaccinations in record time. 

What we should do right now to prevent a climate catastrophe seems to have a clear answer to me. Focusing on innovations, regulations, and ‘market frameworks’ that will put us on the road to eradicating greenhouse gases by-2050 should be our top priority during the coming ten years. It’s difficult to imagine a greater response to a terrible 2020 than devoting the following ten years to this lofty objective. 

So, in my view these are the perspectives in which climate change can be viewed as ethical problem. The best way we can help the poor adapt to climate change is to “make sure they are healthy enough to survive it. And to thrive despite it”.

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