Glossary Term

Climate justice

The principle that the benefits reaped from activities that cause climate change and the burdens of climate change impacts should be distributed fairly. Climate justice means that countries that became wealthy through unrestricted carbon emissions have the greatest responsibility to not only stop warming the planet but also to help other countries adapt to climate change and develop economically with non-polluting technologies.

Climate justice also calls for fairness in environmental decision-making. The principle supports centering populations that are least responsible for, and most vulnerable to, the climate crisis as decision-makers in global and regional plans to address the crisis. It also means acknowledging that climate change threatens basic human rights principles, which hold that all people are born with equal dignity and rights, including to food, water, and other resources needed to support health. Calling for climate justice, rather than climate action, has implications for policy making, diplomacy, academic study, and activism by bringing attention to how different responses to climate change distribute harms and benefits and who gets a role in forming those responses.