Climate justice “insists on a shift from a discourse on greenhouse gases and melting ice caps into a civil rights movement with the people and communities most vulnerable to climate impacts at its heart,” - Mary Robinson

What is climate injustice?

Before we talk about climate justice we must outline what climate injustice is. Climate injustice is when countries and people who are doing the least to cause climate change are facing the worst of the effects and consequences as "the world’s richest 10% are responsible for 50% of GHG emissions and the poorest 50% are only responsible for 10% despite population and energy consumption increasing." It is when already existing inequalities rooted deep in our society are exacerbated by the effects of climate change. Indigenous people, people of colour, people with disabilities, low income households and women are examples of people facing these inequalities. Climate injustice is people and animals dying and struggling with rising temperatures, weather changes and consequences of climate change because of the oppression and pollution caused from society and industrialisation. Below are only some examples of climate injustice in our world.

People of colour,

lower income households and minorities are at a higher risk of being exposed to higher levels of air pollution, and islands like the Island of Kiribati with their people and cultures are disappearing with rising sea levels caused by the burning of fossil fuels by wealthy countries for production of goods.

The (WTO)

"World Trade Organization has far more legally binding power over countries than the United Nations Framework Climate ChangeConvention (UNFCCC), as they affect and potentially often prevent the right of countries to pursue low carbon development, through their trade agreements." - 'What Climate Justice Means and Why We Should Care' book by Elizabeth Cripps

Major injustices

can be seen when people try to take action and create change as a study done by Global Witness reveals that "227 land and environmental activists were murdered in 2020 for defending their land and the planet. That constitutes the highest number ever recorded for a second consecutive year." The highest number of activists murdered were from Colombia, Mexico and the Philippines

How is climate injustice caused?

Climate injustice is caused by many things, only some causes including :

  • Capitalism
  • Colonisation
  • Societal acceptance of discrimination and stereotypes
  • Systematic disregard for basic human rights


“the action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area.

the action of appropriating a place or domain for one's own use. " - Oxford Languages

Many people, countries and states have colonised other countries and areas throughout history. Christopher Columbus is an example of someone who travelled the seas is the 1400s and colonized places like North and South America. Through colonisation diseases were spread, slaves were stolen, and lands were exploited creating inequalities in our world.

Capitalism and the Industrial Revolution

“Capitalism is an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state. - Oxford languages

The Industrial Revolution took place in the 1700s and was a transition from our agrarian farming society to a more industrial and manufacturing one.

The increased demand for fossil fuels to produce goods and profit from cheap production led to countries extracting goods from colonised countries for expansion. The climate crisis is the result of a system which prioritizes profit over sustainability.

What is climate justice?

Climate justice is a constantly changing movement that is growing and expanding. According to Unicef climate justice means “linking human rights with development and climate action.”

We cannot continue with life as normal while making technologies to remove greenhouse gases from our atmosphere because that is ignoring the bigger picture of why the climate crisis has happened in the first place.

Global South nations, Black, Indigenous, and other people of the global majority and women—who have been historically excluded from decision making—have led the push for climate justice, arguing that climate change endangers their health and livelihoods.

Climate justice means
  • having a people-centered approach to climate action.

  • understanding that not everyone has contributed to climate change in the same way.

  • combatting social injustice, gender

    injustice, economic injustice, intergenerational injustice and environmental injustice, multispecies justice

  • needs to be global, collective, systematic, institutionalised
  • Respecting basic human rights
  • Questioning societally accepted stereotypes and acts of discrimination

How to achieve climate justice?

There are many different ways and ideas of how to achieve climate justice. There are many different actions and goals to be reached that have been proposed to tackle the climate crisis but they are not in line with climate justice. For example, a carbon tax that makes it expensive to emit greenhouse gases is important but we must ensure that these taxes barely affect the rich and then make it harder for lower-income households who are already struggling to pay for their heating and basic energy needs.

Redistributing wealth

The vulnerable should not have to pay in anyway. Those who got rich from fossil fuels and who have the money must pay for reparations and supports.

Provide supports

Empowering everyone and providing immediate supports like education, infrastructure, food, warning technology and cyclone shelters to ensure that the affects of the climate crisis are felt less.

Providing supports to the people in our country and other countries

The climate crisis is a global crisis so we all must work together and help each other in our country and other countries.

Follow the UN human rights charter and the SDG’s

By following the guides provided by the UN human rights charter and the Sustainable Development Goals we can ensure a just society for all is achieved.

Listening to the people facing inequalities 

The people facing these inequalities and facing the worst of the climate crisis now must be at the front of decision making.

Just Transition

Ensuring that job opportunities and retraining is provided for people who have lost their jobs through the transition to a more sustainbale society is important.

Challenge social norms

Questioning stereotypes and the 'normal' ways of doing things in our society is important. We must question if they are morally right and work to change them if they are not.

Creating a society that is possible to transition to

By providing grants for green energies, vegan foods, concrete climate laws, for example, it makes it easier for the rest of society to follow through with the transition.

Transparent planning where everyone is involved

Transparent planning leads to accountability so actions are taken. Everyone will be affected by the climate crisis - some more than others - so we all must be involved in the decisions on how to transition to a more sustainable society.

Protecting and helping nature Including nature and animals in laws and acts like the nature restoration law is key. Granting nature the rights of humans like New Zealand giving legal personhood to the Whanganui River ensures nature cannot be exploited and left behind in our more sustainable society.

Graphics created using

Climate Justice Resources for Further Research


  • Constance Okolet
  • Autumn Peltier
  • Mitzi Jonelle Tan
  • Ayisha Siddiqa
  • Mikaela Laoch
  • Christiana Figueres
  • Mary Robinson
  • Kimberle Creshaw
  • Kyle Powys Whyte
  • Radoslav Dimitrov
  • Mary Annaise Heglar
  • Barbara Ward
  • George Monbiot
  • Naoimi Klein
  • Alexandria Ocasio Cortez
  • Anjali Raman Middleton
  • Chiara Cordelli


  • Climate Action Tracker
  • Coastal Women for Change
  • Climate Accountability Institute
  • Living Planet Index
  • International Energy Agency
  • Climate Watch World Resource Institute
  • Mary Robinson Foundation
  • The B Team
  • Earth Guardians
  • Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature
  • Climate Justice Alliance
  • Thinktank Carbon Tracker Initiative
  • Black Millennials 4 Flint
  • The Centre on Race, Poverty and the Environment


  • What Climate Justice Means And Why We Should Care - Elizabeth Cripps
  • This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate - by Naomi Klein
  • All We Can Save: Truth, Courage, and Solutions for the Climate Crisis - by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson
  • Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future - by Mary Robinson
  • We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade
  • Climate Change Is Racist: Race Privilege and the Struggle for Climate Justice by Jeremey Williams
  • Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace - by Vandana Shiva