Madeline Lynch discusses why and how we must amplify the need for climate justice.
It’s been documented since the seventies. The planet is warming - that we know for sure. We’ve all seen the endless books, articles, and documentaries showing climate degradation across the globe. Greenhouse gases continue to rise, as do sea levels, and we might just be en route to passing the ‘point of no return’ for the Antarctic ice caps. Opposite the sea, Aussie and American skies have turned an apocalyptic shade of scarlet, all thanks to the wildfires exacerbated by global temperature shifts. While the UK has fared well for now, on the horizon lies extreme weather, drought and coastal erosion, which will, in fact, affect certain communities more than others. This prediction is why we must amplify climate justice in the UK.
The term climate justice arose in the turn of the century and has recently become a key word in any discussions regarding climate change. Climate justice acknowledges the social impact of the climate crisis and communicates the disproportionate impacts of climate change, including racial, gendered and socioeconomic disparities. Climate justice also highlights any social impact that may be present within our mitigation strategies. The term ‘just transition, for example, is a notion and framework which exists to communicate the importance of the workers’ rights and livelihoods in the transition to clean energy and a sustainable economy. The British deindustrialisation of the coal mines in the 1980s was devastating for mining communities and the just transition movement exists to avoid this.
Thanks to Attenborough documentaries, Royal involvement, and now big businesses jumping on the bandwagon - you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t care about the climate crisis. Climate justice, however, often slips through the gaps. Despite its importance, its existence remains centered in articles, academia and environmental activism. Climate justice, at the moment, falls at risk of remaining a piece of middle-class jargon found only in academic journals and at Extinction Rebellion marches. In a recent survey undertaken by Platform London, in collaboration with Friends of the Earth Scotland and Greenpeace, 91% of oil and gas workers had not heard of the term ‘just transition’. This lack of transparency is where climate justice and associated terms fail - they do not adequately involve those they exist to protect.
To fix this, we must amplify the term climate justice -- let's make it a term known in every household across the UK. This means being remaining true to climate justice’s fiercely democratic and egalitarian principles but also implementing these principles directly into policymaking. The top-down approach isn’t cutting it anymore, it’s the workers who must be the driving change of the transition and those who lead the way. And the desire is there. Platform’s survey stated that 81% of workers would consider leaving the industry, with more than half open to moving to renewables or offshore wind.
The power at the moment, however, still lies with politicians and policymakers. We must continue to amplify the principles of climate justice, just transition and the Green New Deal, to force the government to enable a truly egalitarian and democratic system that provides a smooth and just transition for workers into renewable energy development. We must make the government exacerbate worker consultation through workshops and policy involvement. But also to offer the financial support needed to move toward green forms of energy production. This means free and accessible education and training for those wanting to switch to renewable energies and the protection and safeguarding of workers’ rights. To start this process, the government must implement a solid climate justice framework into all climate-related policy - a framework that first and foremost acknowledges climate justice, but also upholds democratic and egalitarian processes.
Fighting the climate crisis won’t work without climate justice and climate justice won’t work without fierce democratic involvement. Fierce democratic involvement won’t happen without clear, policymaking frameworks that ensure that democratic processes are included in the transition to a green economy. We must build an egalitarian system that is led by those at the heart of the system and creates a just world, where climate justice is recognised by all, for all.
Madeleine is a recent graduate of MA European Politics & Policy from the University of Manchester. She currently volunteers with Labour for a Green New Deal and her main political passions are environmental, climate and energy policy.
She tweets at @madeleinetl_ .