Young activists are reviving the long-running discussion about climate justice. The discourse frames global warming as an ethical rather than strictly environmental concern.

Greta Thunberg
(Photo : REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

Reminding World Leaders

(Photo : Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

As world leaders took to the (virtual) stage at President Biden's climate summit, Xiye Bastida, a 19-year-old climate protester, gave them a friendly reprimand.


"Solutions must take into account the fact that climate justice is social justice," she said, repeating Greta Thunberg's sentiments.

The Mexican-born teenager is part of a new wave of climate campaigners who are calling attention to environmental and social injustices that they argue are wreaking havoc on people's lives worldwide.

Her comments break through the clutter in a video that has been watched over a quarter million times.

Related Article: Environmental Justice Goes Mainstream with Governmental Support 

Younger Generations Getting Involved

Team of Young Adolescents
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Harriet Lamb of the climate solutions charity, Ashden, says people have been talking about climate injustice for decades, but young activists are giving it new momentum.

"It has undoubtedly changed the agenda," she says.

For her, climate justice is about making sure we address historic injustices over emissions, including the carbon footprint of the wealthy, whose lifestyles have contributed most to global warming.

Around the same time, climate change disproportionately affects people who have contributed the least to greenhouse emissions and who have the fewest opportunities to address it because they are poor.

The world's most glaring inequality can be seen in the world's poorest nations, where residents who leave just a small carbon footprint are on the front lines of global chaos, from flooding to destroyed crops. However, there are warnings about carbon disparity even in affluent countries like the United Kingdom.

Call for Environmental Justice

Deadliest Year for Environmental Defenders; 212  Death Toll  in 2019
(Photo : Pixabay)

According to Amy Norman, a researcher at The Social Market Foundation, policymakers must be honest with voters about what the change to net-zero would entail for our way of life.

She believes there is a risk of a cultural and political uproar over questions of unfairness, which may jeopardize confidence and, potentially, the move to net-zero (removing as many emissions as we produce).

"We need to make a complete economic and cultural change and transformation," she says.

"Politicians need to get the electorate on board to get them along - if you strike lower-income people where it hurts financially, you're going to lose support easily, particularly if it's seen as unjust."

There are a few issues that policymakers must grapple with as they figure out how to follow up with their pledges to reduce pollution.

Social Inequalities

Greta Thunberg
(Photo : Getty Images)

According to Norman, a program of assistance for low-income families to help cover the costs of electric cars and incentives for local governments to build public charging stations is required.

When looking at pollution from a national perspective, issues of climate justice become even more apparent.

According to studies, the cumulative pollution of the world's richest 1% account for more than half of the world's bad.

Rising temperatures would have the greatest economic effects in the global south, with lower wages becoming more vulnerable to flooding, drought, and extreme weather.

Best Possible Solution

Social Justice Demo
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

According researcher Dr. Bjoern Soergel of Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Studies, the move to net-zero could result in higher food and energy costs, which would disproportionately affect the poor.

However, he claims that there is a "win-win" scenario in which the environment can be protected while global poverty is reduced. Carbon taxation - basically a carbon tax on polluting fossil fuels - will be implemented, with states redistributing part of the gains per capita.

Richer nations will then have to donate a percentage of their wealth to countries of severe poverty.

According to Harriet Lamb, policies aimed at encouraging healthier, greener living risk exacerbate current socioeconomic divides and derail a net-zero planet's transition.

Although climate injustice has been discussed for decades, it is now being given new life by younger activists.

Also Read: Creating Socially Just Population Policies Advances Global Equity AND Mitigates Climate Change

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