What does climate justice mean?

Every person on Earth has the same right to make use of its atmosphere which, after all, is a public good. To prevent the planet’s climate from warming to more than 2 degrees over pre-industrial levels, it is necessary to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050 (compared with reference year 1990), and by as much as 85-90% in Western industrial nations. The aim must be to keep pro capita emissions to a sustainable level.

Climate justice means that, in accordance with the “polluter pays” principle, countries that were instrumental in causing global warming are to be mainly responsible for dealing with the global consequences and damage of climate change. Climate change primarily affects countries in the Global South that contributed little to the problem and that do not have the financial means to meet the cost of the protective and adaptive measures that are required.

Climate justice also means respecting the environment and the rights of generations to come – rather than leaving future generations with equal or better environmental conditions, today’s CO2-intensive lifestyle means that future generations will have to deal with the largely unpredictable effects of climate change and with an environment that is no longer intact. From a Christian perspective, the dramatic loss of animal and plant biodiversity means that the human race has failed in its joint responsibility for preserving creation as a whole.