Deep injustice is at the root of climate change; communities of colour, women and indigenous peoples are most at risk
None of us can escape the climate crisis. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, it will have an impact on every one of us. The effects of climate change, however, are not all equal. The brutal reality is that those who bear the brunt of the repercussions have minor culpability. Nevertheless, how did this injustice occur? How do we deal with it, then? So that we can all have a chance of weathering the storm as climate change worsens. A pandemic that has the entire world reeling, rising socioeconomic inequality, political polarization and the ever-present thorn in our side of climate change has made the world right now feel pretty daunting. Global reports of extreme weather, increasing sea levels and dwindling biodiversity have left the world in a climate emergency.
Several countries need to play fairly in the game of economic advancement. A small elite has virtually rigged the system by employing strategies that included the construction of megacities, businesses, airports, shopping malls and their penthouses. Deep injustice is at the root of climate change; communities of colour, women and indigenous peoples are left behind and most at risk. The most susceptible nations to climate change are the ones that have contributed the least to global carbon emissions. The global south has primarily suffered as a result of the global north’s success. In essence, they have uncovered resources and exploited communities to build themselves kingdoms, contributing to climate change while leaving the global south to fend for themselves without giving them recourse to save their communities.
One might wonder how the world ended up here. If we look at the past, the climate crisis occurred due to the industrial revolution. You cannot get the industrial revolution without oil and gas; you can’t get oil without colonialism and slavery. Colonialism provided countries access to other countries where oil and gas were present; slavery helped finance the industrial revolution which in turn contributed to developing the climate crisis in the present. Sadly we can’t just consign this justice to the dustbin of history because they are still being played out today. In representation, you can see that where the oil and gas structure is sighted is usually in black and brown communities and indigenous communities.
Systemic injustices were rampant in the past, and the present isn’t any better. What about the future, though? The idea that climate change would lead all of us to experience the same repercussions is simply untrue since if something destabilising like climate change is introduced into the equation, those who are already living on the edges will be the first to perish. In actuality, those countries in the global south along the earth’s equatorial zone are already experiencing severe effects. In the years to come, they will significantly deteriorate. Most of the harsh and devastating effects are concentrated in the nations that have contributed least to the problem’s creation and are least equipped to handle it.
The climate crisis has triggered what may be the largest migration of humans in our planet’s history, and a new term has been added to our dictionaries “climate refugees”; and the UN projects that by 2050, there will be roughly one billion migrants. It’s no accident that when prosperous nations closed their doors and fortified their borders, a surge of nationalism swept the world. We all see how dramatically climate change is escalating and how countries with the resources to assist worldwide are turning away from the needs of people living elsewhere and focusing on the needs of their citizens in a nationalistic narrow-minded way. Climate justice is a human-centred strategy for combating climate change while addressing the numerous overlapping socioeconomic concerns that gave rise to it. If we are to confront this injustice, we must do so and must acknowledge this unpleasant history, make reparations and commit to creating a fairer future for both people and the earth.
Climate justice acknowledges that capitalism, resource extraction, labour exploitation, nature’s commodification, colonialism and other interconnected systems are to blame for and have contributed to climate change and that those who have been the hardest hit are the least responsible. Workable alternatives exist to achieve climate justice, and our environmental policies must consider gender inequity, racial justice and human rights. To ensure that no one is left behind, we must encourage creative ideas and develop policies with the help of the most marginalised groups.
Pakistan rallied support for establishing the Fund at the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh by first getting it included in the agenda of the Conference and then working for a consensus agreement. Pakistan served as the Chair of the Group of 77 and China. Pakistan has fought hard for this problem to be taken seriously and for loss and damage to be included on the agenda. According to Inger Anderson, Executive Director of the UN Environmental Program, “the G20 economies are responsible for 75% of the emissions, so domestic action in the G20 countries will be critical, but climate justice; loss and damage are on the agenda, and these are the issues together with financing that we need to tackle.”
At the UN’s COP27, negotiators have reached a preliminary agreement on a climate compensation fund. According to the latest draft proposal, governments would agree to establish a fund to assist the weaker countries in taking the burden of climate change. Calls for such a fund dominated the COP27 negotiations. However, the plan still has to go before delegates for a vote, delaying the crucial decision of which nations would contribute to the new fund until the COP28 UN climate conference.
The ‘Fund for Loss and Damage’ will focus on losses and damages in developing nations like Pakistan, which are especially susceptible to the adverse effects of climate change. Pakistan was incapable or reluctant, like many developing nations, to invest in improving infrastructure, safeguarding farmland, diversifying energy sources and reducing dependency on fossil fuels. Any compensation would likely need to be used to repair the damage rather than prevent more damage, given Pakistan’s decade of unrest and lack of planning. By now, it should be evident that the consequences of our venture with fossil fuels are laterally and frequently challenging to accept; indeed, the past and present are rife with injustices, but the future doesn’t have to be. Climate justice aims to ensure that everyone has access to a habitable environment in either the global north or south. It is a fundamental human right.