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Approach:

  1. Define Climate justice.
  2. Examine the climate injustice underpinning the global climate law.
  3. Conclusion.

Climate justice is the concept that addresses the just division, fair sharing and equitable distribution of benefits and burdens of climate change & responsibilities to deal with it. It is both a moral issue as well as a climate imperative. Climate justice is essential to climate adaptation, without which we cannot have truly effective climate agreements.

Climate injustice: a profound injustice underpins the quest for climate law – the countries least responsible for climate change are its greatest victims. Although the Paris Climate Agreement 2015 is the most important international agreement on climate change, yet, its implementation depends on the whims of the country’s laws. The Paris deal requires each country to pledge its GHG emission reduction targets. Almost every country did, but it was not enough to limit global temperature rise to below 20C. As there is no binding legal provision to this, the GHG emission reductions are not enforceable.

Again, there is no real legal provision to ensure transfer of climate funds and technology from rich countries to developing ones. Today, the existence of several small island nations in the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean is threatened by sea-level rise. But, there aren’t any explicit laws to protect them.

There is an ongoing effort to get certain developed countries’ rights & obligations before the International Court of Justice. The world needs to build an infrastructure of climate justice swiftly, which is more a matter of politics than law. We are also witnessing ‘the children’s crusade’ or lawsuits brought by young people seeking their governments to take stronger action on climate change. Some have succeeded in Germany, Netherlands, France and Columbia.

While legal situation seems discouraging, there are causes for optimism. It is hoped that burgeoning scientific evidence of negative effects of climate change can spur greater action from the more developed economies. A very powerful climate justice case Urgenda (2019), wherein the Dutch supreme court ruled that as a matter of international human rights, the Dutch government is obligated to significantly reduce GHG emissions. So, Climate justice must now be classed with Human Rights and increasingly, many courts are recognizing that.

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