Climate Justice

I would like to recommend a post written by James Boyce from the TripleCrisis blog – “The Climate Justice Imperative”. Though Boyce writes about the US, I think that his recommendations are generalizable for all developed countries. In his text he points out that there are four pillars that make climate justice critical:

  • Action: since climate change will affect the poorest most (first because they are living in highly vulnerable regions, secondly because they mostly have no means to do much against the (consequences of) climate change), we cannot but help them by taking action.
  • Adaptation: adaptation to climate change is critical, since some of its consequences are unavoidable due to system inertia – but the poor are not capable to deal with them, so they need our help.
  • Co-benefits: there are many co-benefits linked to a switch away from burning fossil fuels, especially reductions in air pollution, and since co-pollutants dispropotionately impact poor communities, it is a matter of both climate justice and efficiency to concentrate on their members’ needs in this respect.
  • Dividends: here the matter is about the need for so called “cap-and-dividend” schemes (as an alternative to “cap and trade”) I already have written about (see here and here).

Climate justice should be a very important part of the climate change discussion. Sadly, it has not been viewed important so far. But, as Boyce writes:

The time has come for a bold departure. Climate justice is not only a moral imperative. It is a political necessity.

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16 thoughts on “Climate Justice

  1. Somebody said lon time ago, if any country must describe itself as “democtratic” it surely democratic is not. The same with the word “justice”.
    Helping underdeveloped countries is a noble notion, however, we have not developed a working model of such help. A lot od money has been wasted and very little can be shown for the amounts spent. So there is a mountain to climb.

    Regards,

  2. That’s very strange idea (for me), but I suppose it’s very comfortable as well: We have no model, so we do nothing. No matter, what we should or can do, we need a model first.

  3. @adas

    “We have no model, so we do nothing.”

    What do mean by nothing? Just develop a working model. What is the point of wasteful actions? If we mean efficency it applies to all of our activities. Or are we only doing things for the sake of doing?

    Regards,

  4. Just develop a working model.

    If it were so easy to develop a functioning model, I guess, we had one already. But, as you correctly said, we have none. It seems to be one of the areas where the only way to find out what is “right” (or functioning, or efficient) is to try ideas out.

  5. My point is simple. We have been trying to aid developing countries for decades. The system has not worked, as simple as this. If you take Africa as a test case it has proven to be a disaster. So why do we go the same way – developed countries will pay or developed countries will build something or developed countries will do whatever to feel satisfied. I know it is not easy, in fact a ver complex problem. Before we find a solution we should know the reasons for the past failures. The rest is easy, or is it?

    Regards,

  6. First: read my post one more time. The notion of climate justice is not meant in a development-assistance sense, but as a morale for action in the developed and the developing countries. “Action” and “Dividends” are clearly not meant as a direct help to people living in the poor countries.

    Second: After having read a little on that subject, I still believe that the problem with our help for Africa is not one of the actual idea, but one of design; not that we have tried to help, but how. But this is a question we already discussed more than once (here as well as on Doskonale Szare).

    Third: You recognized a problem (I agree that you are right to some extent). Do you have counterproposals?

  7. ad 1. On a moral level it is fine. Taking into account reality one may say so what?. Just look around.

    ad 2. Once again I may agree with the idea of help, but the details are such that we failed. The word “how” is where the devil sits. In a way it is a story of human failures.

    ad 3. I have not recognised the problem, at least not in the scientific way. On the ground yes, I see it as I live and work in Africa. But there is a growing volume of literature on this subject. Written in many instances by African economists and researchers. The message is clear – the current model of the aid has failed ( Title of one of the books “Dead Aid” or another “Architects of Poverty” ). It is not fault of the aid per se or the idea as such, it is the model. How to change this? Well, if I knew would get the Nobel Prize.

    Regards,

  8. ad 1. I must admit, I don’t understand your point here.

    ad 3. There are alternative proposals. “Fair Trade” by Joseph Stiglitz and Andrew Charlton is one example. Or the texts by Dani Rodrik. If I knew which parts of “why” you think are the reason of failure, I would probably be able to name some remedy proposals.

  9. ad 1. I have no doubt that you and me are good, decent people ( millions around the world). Both of us would like the world to be a better place. It is moral to topple dictators. If this is the case why there are so many of them? Why do we ( meaning the good and moral world) cooperate with them? So when public figures start preaching morality and justice and how tell us how we should help the oppressed and suffering I simply run for cover. I think that through my work I do more good than harm to the societies around me, this is what I hope. But I don’t preach.

    ad 3. We say “free market” we say “fair trade” we say
    ” global village” but what do we mean by this? They mean different things to different people. For you and me and many others they reflect our good intentions, “new brave world” of opportunities but for many these are empty phrases of no meaning in their daily life. Some of them have never heard of such things. It is not easy to erase cultural, social, economical divide by simple means. If you read the books nobody has found a complete and final answer to the problem. G. Mills in his book “Why Africa is Poor” sees the free market as a solution but is against the finacial aid. That could be true but other commentators refer to cultural changes which must happen before any progress is made. There is also an issue of political culture and tradition which has very little to do with what the developed world would like to see. By the way, do you know that in India about 7% of population directly benefits from the current economic boom in that country.

    Regards,

  10. So when public figures start preaching morality and justice and how tell us how we should help the oppressed and suffering I simply run for cover.

    What do you mean by “public figures”? Am I, a Greenpeace activist, a public figure? Are people from research institutes and similar institutions (such as Boyce) public figures? And why should it be bad to call for justice? There is no conflict between trying to do something good (as you say you do) and asking others to do it as well. When politicians do it, it may not be authentic. But, all in all, it is their job. And it is ours, in a democracy, as members of the so called civic society (functioning better or worse), to do it as well.

    If you read the books nobody has found a complete and final answer to the problem.

    Maybe because there is none. I cannot imagine that there is one complete and final answer to the challenges we are talking about. But this does not mean that doing nothing is justified. We commit errors. Sometimes we do more bad than good. But at least we try.

    G. Mills in his book “Why Africa is Poor” sees the free market as a solution but is against the finacial aid.

    I don’t, as you may have seen. Free markets are great, when there are the institutions needed to maintain them. And that is what poor countries lack of.

    There is also an issue of political culture and tradition which has very little to do with what the developed world would like to see.

    One of the main challenges is exactly that: to recognize that there are other ways to the same goal, or that there even may be different goals. The inability to recognize this is one of the reasons why development assistance has failed so often.

    By the way, do you know that in India about 7% of population directly benefits from the current economic boom in that country.

    I didn’t know the exact figure, but the magnitude, so this does not surprise me. I don’t preach the “invisible hand”, i.e. (in this context) that economic booms are helpful generally. Their structure is important.

    Summing up: there is a lot to do, a lot to change. And there must be some starting point. Why not now?

  11. Neither you nor I are public figures.
    By calling for justice Mr. Boyce is stating the “bleeding obvious”.

    “There is no conflict between trying to do something good (as you say you do) and asking others to do it as well. When politicians do it, it may not be authentic. But, all in all, it is their job. And it is ours, in a democracy, as members of the so called civic society (functioning better or worse), to do it as well.”
    There is no conflict, but the problem is with “something good” – I do understand you sentiment but these two words, somehow, show how the developed world is lost at see vis a vis the problems of developing countries.
    And my contention is that the developed world haven’t achieved a lot of good ( subject for another heated discussion I suppose) as far as the developing world are concerned.
    I clearly stated that I hoped my work did more good than harm – not for me to judge and the judgement is still outstanding.
    I have not stated you are a Greenpeace activist or a proponent of free market. Just have given you an example of a book looking at the problem in a specific way. In fact it is a very good book, tells a lot of interesting details about the fuctioning of African economies and politics.

    “The inability to recognize this is one of the reasons why development assistance has failed so often.”

    It is exactly my sentiment too.
    However, I am afraid that the same mistakes will be made again with the disastrous outcome.

    Have a nice day

  12. And my contention is that the developed world haven’t achieved a lot of good ( subject for another heated discussion I suppose) as far as the developing world are concerned.

    Here I would not argue with you, for I think you are right (it’s sad, but true). But I think that there is a lot of “room” for improvement, without the need to abandon the whole model of development assistance. Consider that I am saying what could/need be done. This does not necessarily mean that we ever will be able to help developing countries in any meaningful ways (indeed, I am rather pessimistic – not a reason for me not to try, however).

    In fact it is a very good book, tells a lot of interesting details about the fuctioning of African economies and politics.

    I believe that. Sadly, for the moment I have no time for new books. But I keep it in mind, for this subject is truly a very interesting (and important, for that matter) one.

  13. Just a real life example where the notion of justice is not that clear cut.
    There is a region in my country where people still live in the past – scatttered villages in an unspoilt nature and landscape. One may say a heaven. Well, not in the view of the local population as they are far removed from the XX century ( forget about XXI).
    Some time ago the government decided to build a road which would cut through those areas bringing people closer to civilisation ( for them the road is a true symbol of civilised living and a link to modern times).
    And here the problem started as various bodies have become dead opposed to the idea. Their arguments are clear and have merit: the area is ecologically unique and unspoilt. A busy national road will change all of that. So no road for the fellow citizens. The inhabitants on the other hand see the project as a major change in their daily lives. Yes, they still will not have running water and proper sanitation facilities but at least all other convenient features of the modern live will be much easier to reach. So the problem is here. We will do a just thing not to spoil natural beauty but will harm people. We will do a just thing by building a road but at the time harming nature. Each of the actions in itself is just.

    Regards,

  14. Each of the actions in itself is just.

    I think this is not about justice. Justice is not the right word here. That”s the first point. The second is: there are no perfect solutions. Of any problem. We cannot but choose between alternatives and have to find the most balanced one.

  15. Possibly not about justice ( how do we decide when it is about justice or not?) but about joices we have to make.
    What would you do in such a situation?
    If I may come back to our earlier discussions. Would you deprive a poor community or nation possiblity of advancement in the name of the future (possible) wellbeing? Will you call it justice ?

    Regards,

  16. how do we decide when it is about justice or not?

    In my understanding justice is about distribution between different groups of people: either intra- or intergenerational. I’m not sure whether this applies when one considers your example. But this is more a matter of nomenclature.

    What would you do in such a situation?

    You can be sure I wouldn’t decide on the basis of thus little information as you gave me. I am strongly opposed to any “one-size-fits-all” measures.

    Would you deprive a poor community or nation possiblity of advancement in the name of the future (possible) wellbeing? Will you call it justice ?

    First, see above. Second: I would do all that is possible to find a solution that would compromise these two.

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