The costs of climate change are clearly mounting for most of the world’s population. Yet not all climate impacts are created equal. From an increase in extreme weather events to rising sea levels, the impacts of climate change disproportionately affect marginalised people and communities, particularly women and children in low-income countries.
Why are we calling for climate justice?
Those on the frontline of the climate crisis, who are hardest hit by its impacts, are those who are least responsible for causing it. Women, in particular, often have limited access to the resources needed to respond to, or mitigate against, the devastation climate disasters cause in their communities.
Women are often responsible for their family’s food, water and energy needs, which means that increasing droughts, floods and rising sea levels can have devasting impacts on women’s ability to access essential natural resources. Furthermore, climate change exacerbates existing gender inequalities meaning women face greater challenges adapting to its impacts.
Despite this, women’s collective action and leadership is enabling flexible, cohesive responses to the climate crisis in communities across the world. But those most affected by climate change need wealthy countries, who are most responsible for the climate crisis, to take responsibility and support local-led climate action.
Wealthy countries like Australia, who bear much of the responsibility for the climate crisis due to historical greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel usage, have an obligation to support those who will be most affected.
Climate justice is about supporting the world’s most vulnerable countries and communities to survive and respond to the climate crisis. We need to reshape climate action, so it addresses more than just emissions reduction and becomes centred around human rights, social equity and historical responsibility.
What does climate justice mean to young women climate activists in the Pacific?
In the Pacific, ActionAid Australia works in collaboration with the Shifting the Power Coalition in seven Pacific Island countries to support women to lead climate action in their communities.
Carolyn Kitione, Regional Young Women’s Focal Point for the Shifting the Power Coalition says that women’s human rights need to be at the forefront of our response to the climate crisis.
“Climate justice is about people and communities. It’s about making it very clear that different groups of people are affected by climate change in different ways and that there are existing structures that have contributed to that vulnerability and inequality. So, when we talk about climate justice, it is about looking at the intersecting crises that affect our resilience to climate change,” she says.
Lucille Chute, Young Women Focal Point in Fiji from the Shifting the Power Coalition adds that “climate justice means that no one is left behind, no one is worse affected by the impacts of climate change. For us as young women in small island countries, climate justice means an end to all activities that contribute to the damaging effects of climate change.”
As the world grapples with the climate crisis and politicians wrestle with how to deliver on climate promises, the expertise of women leaders from the communities that are most impacted by climate change must be recognised and prioritised.
“If you want to know what Pacific young women are saying, then speak to us directly. Work with young women to transform the climate crisis into climate justice,” Carolyn adds.