By Claudia S. de Windt and Prof.Tahseen Jafry
With global carbon dioxide emissions at an all-time high, there is an urgent need to cut global emissions in half by 2030. Increasing awareness of climate impacts is driving a rush to tackle climate change from different angles. That said it is impossible to do so without recognizing the asymmetries. The disproportionate impacts suffered by countries and people in the developing world with the least responsibility for the immense challenge humanity is facing.
COP 26 in Glasgow provides an important opportunity for dialogue at the policy level, but action needs to happen on the ground, individually and collectively. A key question that emerges in this regard is what needs to change and who needs to drive that change to reduce emissions and climate injustice in tandem.
First let us begin with what needs to change. In the context of climate action, words like transformation, catalytic etc. are common topics, but what is really a just transition?
The fundamental idea behind a just transition is that it seeks to ensure that the way we mitigate climate change is done in a manner that is fair and equitable. That means putting a spotlight on those activities that are causing the greatest burdens in terms of carbon emissions but also putting the same spotlight on providing opportunities, investment, and support to enable those who are unable to tackle climate change so that there is a more equitable platform. This has major implications on who can drive change. Driving change to tackle the climate emergency is for everyone to part of; ensuring that no-one is left behind.
However, climate change has turned so political. Simply saying that everyone is responsible, usually turns into diluting action and simply no-one assuming the political cost that is necessary to drive action. At the heart of a just transition lies political will followed closely by leadership at corporate level. In particular, those industries that contribute mostly to high carbon emissions and this involve issues on supply chain. So, what needs to change to achieve a climate just transition to a low carbon economy?
Embedding climate justice principles into corporate management and operational mandates. This involves critically evaluating, considering, and consolidating the impacts of existing modes of operation with a view to streamlining just transition principles into the heart of corporate policy and practice. At the same time this involves harnessing the power and knowledge of local communities and finding common interest on the journey to a low carbon future.
A conversation on how these efforts can happen in a coherent and coordinated fashion needs to be brokered now to build confidence at different levels. Governments and decision makers need to prepare for the upcoming climate talks with a view of creating the enabling conditions to place incentives adequately for the transition to address all dimensions of sustainability and to really be fair and equitable in the context of the rule of law.
About the authors:
Claudia S. de Windt – International Environmental Lawyer, Expert in Political Sciences and Adjunct Associate Professor of Law. Chief Executive of the Inter-American Institute on Justice and Sustainability (IIJS: www.ii-js.org).
Prof. Tahseen Jafry – Engineer and a social scientist. Professor and Director of The Centre for Climate Justice · Glasgow Caledonian University