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COP26: No climate justice without social justice

With world leaders, civil society and campaigners congregating in Glasgow this week for the global climate conference COP26, climate justice is high on the agenda. Activists are calling on negotiators to move beyond ‘blah blah blah’ and for politicians to take action that will make a real difference to halting climate change.

Climate justice isn’t just about tackling the climate crisis for everyone. It is also about social justice, and recognising that the poorest in the world are worst affected by the planet warming up despite contributing least to it.

For this month’s post, we asked three attendees of COP26 to offer their views on why climate justice and social justice are so inextricably linked, and their priorities for achieving both.

Anita Soina is an environmental activist from Kenya and author of ‘The Green War’. She calls herself an Environmental Warrior, and calls on other young people to join the fight against climate change. She held a powerful TedxTalk with a passionate plea to take action by 2030 before it is too late.

On climate justice and social justice, Anita told us:

To me climate justice is not just a nature and environmental issue but also a social issue. It is a social issue because we’ve seen how climate change effects are worsening poverty levels and having people who contribute less to it pay much of the price.”

Anita Soina

Yolande Wright is the Global Director Child Poverty, Climate and Urban at Save the Children International. She is a strong advocate for the need to link the fight against child poverty with managing climate risk and fighting climate change.

Yolande called for:

“There can be no climate justice without social justice.  For children – particularly those experiencing inequality and discrimination – it’s incredibly clear that they are least responsible for this crisis, but will suffer the worst consequences if we fail to act. In fact, many children across the world are suffering right now.

Inclusive and climate smart social protection, such as Universal Child Benefits, could reduce the impacts of extreme events and support children to reach their full potential. Building children’s capacities is a crucial part of building a safe and sustainable future for us all, and tackling climate change.”

Yolande Wright

Jaideep Gupte is a colleague researcher at the Institute of Development Studies and lead on Cities and Sustainable Infrastructure portfolio of the UK Global Challenges Research Fund. He is at COP26 to consider climate change and social justice concerns in urban areas.  

Jaideep told us:

“We are amid a dramatic urban transition: scalar urbanisation stretching to metro-regions, and the expansion of industrial urbanisation into the hinterland. Multi-disciplinary research is paramount in understanding this transition. But making evidence-based policy recommendations relevant will require tailoring them to the specific sectoral responsibilities of different actors within urban areas, and at the appropriate scales.

It is vital that research and knowledge exchange activity is organised to speak across multiple scales, from a molecular scale to understand materials or health/wellbeing impacts, right through to sub-municipal, city-, regional- national and transnational scales to answer the most macro infrastructural or ecosystem questions. This also means recognising the significance of justice and equity issues, considering the levels of risk that will be created for future generations, as well as translating evidence from the global south to other southern and northern contexts. Achieving sustainable infrastructure and equitability in cities is part of a global challenge – cities in the UK and other high-income countries have as much to learn from innovations in cities of the global south, as they do in supporting capacity strengthening and transferring knowledge.”

Jaideep Gupte

In short, there is no climate justice without also addressing socioeconomic inequalities everywhere. With the brunt of climate change falling on the shoulders of future generations, investing in children’s and young people’s capabilities will be especially important. And with climate change being a global challenge, there is need to learn and act across the ‘North’ and ‘South’ divides.

Global action is necessary, NOW.

Photo credit: Markus Spiske at

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