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What is Climate Justice? And What is Scotland Doing About It?

On 27 April, 2018, UNHS is hosting ‘Scotland’s Path to Climate Justice’. Bringing together representatives from academia, government, activism and private sector, our goal is to get Scotland talking about what climate justice looks like in our communities, and how we’re going to get there.

Unless you keep up closely with climate issues and climate policy, you might not have heard of climate justice before, or you might not be sure what it means. The image of climate justice varies from country to country, or even state to state. Described by the UNDP, climate justice acknowledges that “that because the world’s richest countries have contributed most to the problem, they have a greater obligation to take action and to do so more quickly”, and calls for these countries to do so.

Most importantly, the concept of climate justice calls on the perpetrators of climate change to be held accountable for the damage they’ve inflicted, which disproportionately affects already marginalised or minority groups. The mission of climate justice, then, is achieving equity, securing the human right to a livable planet regardless of race, class, religion, or any other socio-economic identifiers.

Climate Justice On A Global Level

Yes– this means that people can be victims of climate change, inflicted by the biggest contributors to things like carbon and water pollution, plastics consumption, and dwindling food sources. For example, the Asia-Pacific region is thought to be one of the region’s most affected by climate change. In coastal countries like Vietnam or the Philippines, there are dire consequences of climate change. The rise in sea level causes people to have to leave their homes as they face flooding, or water pollution contaminating drinking water and the predominant local food source, fish, are just a couple ways in which climate change detriments these countries. Not to mention, climate change has economic consequences in these economies, where wages are already low on a global scale, and modern slavery is often used to increase profit margins. The UNDP estimates that Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam could lose nearly 7% of their GDP by 2100, more than twice the global average, if corrective action is not taken.

Climate Justice on a Local Level

But what does climate justice look like here in Scotland? We’re heralded for our innovative approaches and commitment to being a greener country, but that doesn’t mean we’ve got a clean slate. The United Kingdom contributes more to global warming per capita than any other country, and as a result of such, and its commitment to human welfare worldwide, has contributed millions of pounds in climate change aid in countries like Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Rwanda. Furthermore, within the UK, the wealthiest 10% of people are responsible for 3 times as many carbon emissions as the poorest 10%. In Scotland, the effects of climate change pose real threats to sea levels, especially for the islands and to the fishing industry, and has already caused a sharp increase in yearly precipitation.

Like any other country, Scotland has communities that are at greater risk to be displaced, disenfranchised, and disregarded when it comes to climate change and climate justice. Racial minorities, the poor, and women and children all are at threatened by effects climate change. By bringing together various sectors, parties, and thought leaders together on 27 April, UNHS hopes to facilitate dialogue that will protect those at risk, and provide a platform for a just and sustainable future for Scotland.

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