Climate justice raises the ethical questions of attributing responsibility to the correct stakeholders.
The impacts of climate change are being felt across the planet, with extreme weather events and rising average temperatures becoming commonplace. It is said that over the next few decades, some regions will be more affected than others. There are internal factors that contribute to this such as poor disaster management and external factors such as the failing collective global efforts to curb human induced climate change.
The socio-economic effects of climate change include the potential mass migration of individuals and communities in the future. It is therefore important for the global community to collaborate in this regard to ensure trans-border legal cooperation to attempt to mitigate social climate risks that threaten human rights and impact community structures.
Climate action should therefore not only limit its approach to reducing carbon emissions, but also evaluate the current and future physical effects of climate change and the impact it will have on societal functioning.
It should involve implementing policies that support capacity building in high risk communities around the world prepare for a worst case scenario that involves hundreds of millions of people fleeing their homes as sea levels rise and extreme weather events<1>. Within this context, it is important to consider the topic of environmental justice especially in geographies that will witness higher rates of disaster events.
Climate justice raises the ethical questions of attributing responsibility to the correct stakeholders for their part in the crisis at hand.
It has been a widely debated topic in the global deliberations at the various summits in the last few years. It is well established that the communities that have caused the least contribution to human induced climate change, are the ones that will suffer its most prominent consequences. This puts forth a moral dilemma in front of the global community, especially the more developed nations to take ownership of the problems in the current state of the world.
External factors to India’s climate action plans such as climate migration from other parts of South Asia, necessitate an approach to mitigation that involves increased trans-boundary cooperation and global financial support towards India in managing the victims of climate change in the present and near future. A relevant example in this regard would be to consider the Maldives and Bangladesh and the impacts of their potential future climate migration crises<2>.
The Maldives is officially the lowest lying country in the world with an average elevation of just a meter and a half above the sea level. The low lying coastal communities in Bangladesh have a similar topography, with a much higher population than the Maldives’ half a million individuals. Bangladesh faces an even larger crisis due to the susceptibility of its Indo-Gangetic basin area which sustains tens of millions of people. These examples highlight some of the many climate risks that lie ahead of the South Asian region.
With increasing extreme weather events and rising sea levels, it has been argued that India could face a period of sustained mass migration from these regions within this century. However, as a region that is still struggling with its own development challenges, India requires the support of the international community to deal with the external impacts of climate change on a multitude of different issues including the upheaval of its socio-demographic structure.
The concept of more lenient climate goals for developing nations has long been a point of contention and has been partially put into effect in the form of the common but differentiated responsibilities. Yet, the international community has failed to address the immediate consequences and repercussions of a lacklustre global effort to curb human induced climate change.
Climate migration poses an important question in this regard, highlighting the need for global interventions in supporting particular communities and regions that are faced with mass migration as a result of the global impact on the climate system.
Of the 100 billion dollars pledged by developed nations for climate action projects in developing nations the majority of funding has been focused on reducing emissions through profit making projects such as renewable energy<3>. Funding provided for the predicted climate refugees in the near future seems to be negligible. In order to provide for climate refugees in the future, it is important for the global community to collectively figure out a way to finance this problem or, barring that, collectively evaluate other options. It can be argued that though those disenfranchised by climate change may never be the same again in the wake of such disaster events and sea level rise, the least the global community owes them is to support their successful rehabilitation and relocation.
Since the entire global community is complicit in contributing to climate change, it would be worthwhile for India to develop a case for climate reparations to support the expected influx of migrants due to extreme weather events and sea level rise, on a global platform.
India could also adopt internalized reparations for administrations and organizations within its jurisdiction as a punitive measure.
Climate reparations need not be solely in the form of hard finances. The term can also be used to describe the support from developed countries in the fields of capacity building and disaster risk reduction (DRR), to improve localized climate resilience. Capacity building uses the existing capacities and strengths of groups and communities to create change. In order to promote successful capacity building, there needs to be an increased emphasis on the transfer of technology and international best practices from developed to developing nations. Adopting advanced practices in resilience building may therefore enhance community security from hazards.
A good example of the transfer of technical knowledge and its impact on improving disaster risk reduction can be seen in Bangladesh’s storm warning system. Being located in a region that experiences the unpredictability of several high intensity cyclones, Bangladesh managed to receive assistance in setting up a state of the art storm warning system with the help of the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific assisted by developed nations and the World Bank<4>. The storm warning system has helped avoid excessive damage from several large-scale disaster events by providing enough time for the implementation of newly adopted evacuation and community relocation strategies made possible through technical training by groups from more developed countries.
Furthermore, neighbouring countries such as India and Myanmar also occasionally collaborate to make use of the data from this highly advanced system, indicating the greater regional importance of such collaborations. This example highlights the potential of technology support from organizations and developed countries towards aiding community resilience in hazard prone regions in developing nations.
If developing countries are to improve their DRR strategies and capacity building at a local level, they must look at ‘climate change collaborations’ with other more developed nations, especially those that are experienced in managing disaster events.
These nations should make the case for increased support in climate change capacity building as a means for ensuring justice for their vulnerable communities and preventing further stress on them. With regards to migration, vulnerable developing nations must also look at strategically providing support to its neighboring countries that may be faced with mass emigration in the future. Further, developing nations and their sole focus on renewable energy implementation as an answer to anthropogenic climate change must be balanced out with the implementation of practices that counter the real world threats of the phenomenon itself.
All in all, the future poses a host of challenges for India along with various other communities around the world. If India is to overcome these challenges, it must start by increasing its collaborations with other nations in areas that promote resilience building.
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