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The Justice in Climate Action: Is It Really There?

by Ivan Anthony A. Adaro | November 5, 2022

The first few days of November mark a time for Filipinos to gather, commemorate, and pay homage to their departed family members and loved ones. Whether there is a typhoon or a global health crisis, people look forward to the first few days of November for similar reasons—to visit the graves of their dearly departed and show them respect. However, an unwanted guest has also come to visit. Typhoon Paeng (internationally called Nalgae) hit the Philippines last October 29, 2022, swamping the northern areas of the country with heavy rains and strong winds. 

With flash floods and landslides triggered across the islands of Luzon and Mindanao, Typhoon Paeng left ₱1.33 billion in agricultural losses, displaced 927,822 families, and took the lives of 110 individuals. This is the cost of climate change—lives lost, properties damaged, human rights, among others. And quite frankly, this cost has become the perennial outcome of climate change that the world has become acquainted with. Even if a nation were to recover from a natural calamity, the lives of those lost can never be recovered.

Our planet is in a state of climate emergency. Every day, the impacts of the climate crisis such as rising sea levels, temperatures, ocean acidification, and weather fluctuations continue to take its toll in the lives of people. If this continues to go on without proper solutions being drawn and proper actions being taken, the World Health Organization (WHO) claims that the effects of climate change can be irreversible by the year 2030—and it is only a few years away. What then, are the actions being made to eradicate these problems before the world reaches the climate deadline? And what does climate justice have to do with the worsening climate catastrophe the world is facing?  

The Paris Agreement—a legally binding international treaty that covers climate change issues, mitigation, and adaptation—constantly states in their confederation that equity is a crucial component in eradicating the climate change crisis as it reflects the complexity of the situation and makes an effort to solve the inherent hypocrisy of the issue. Every day, speeches about protecting the most vulnerable from the negative effects of global warming are given, talks about ensuring distributive justice and sustainability between present and future generations are shared, and promises for a better and safer environment from similar confederations are made. However, the lack of representation and action from these confederations, especially from countries who are at high risk, weakens the impact of their call to action and dwindles the hopes of many.  Have these flabbergasting speeches about climate action and saving the environment become the ray of hope of many in mitigating the crisis of climate change, or have they just become a shield to mask the inaction and incompetence of its nation’s leaders?

Although there is no way to avoid the climate crisis, the battle is far from being fought on an equal footing. Democracy and action are two essential components needed to achieve climate justice that is fair and just to all. How can a good and safe environment be attained if environmental activists are being discriminated against and persecuted when they speak their minds? How can we push for a better world when farmers, workers, indigenous people, and the like are being displaced in the process? How can the world aim to meet United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals if only words are spoken, but no action is undertaken? This is the sad and jarring reality that continues to spread and intensify. It is the suffering of countless people, especially those who are vulnerable, that pays for the luxuries of the elite few. 

Climate change is a reflection of how people exploit and abuse Earth’s natural resources, as well as how people respond and adapt to these changes. While all of us may be sailing in the same murky waters, each one of us are steering in different boats. With the advancement of solar panels to reduce the activity of burning of fossil fuels, farming lands and farmers are being displaced; with the development of economic status and infrastructures, nature and indigenous lands are being excavated and exploited; with the atrocious mapping of landfills in minority areas, low-income and vulnerable communities are being compromised—all the while the capitalist mindset of the elite few continues to poison lives and come through with barely a scratch. 

There can be no room for justice in climate action if lives–in an attempt to resolve the exacerbating effects of climate change–are being displaced and exploited. Speeches may uplift the spirit, but empty promises leave people stumbling in the dark with blind hope. Action fuels the innovation of human imagination, and one way to go about eradicating the climate crisis is through “just transition”—a concept that accentuates the transition towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy that maximizes the benefits of climate action while minimizing hardships for workers and their communities.

In a world where climate change and natural disasters are inevitable, it is important to provide real solutions with actual positive impacts that benefit everyone—solutions that embrace social justice, equality, and integrity. It is easier said than done, as is evidenced by this article, but one way for us to achieve climate justice is by being advocates for social and environmental rights, as well as empowering the voice that urges those in power to provide a just transition in climate action.

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