Reframing climate and environmental justice: Online first articles

Published on 26 October 2021

These four articles below are taken from the forthcoming IDS Bulletin which calls for a reframing of climate – and broader environmental – justice debates.

The full issue will be published in early 2022, but these ‘online first articles’ argue that achieving meaningful action on the climate crisis requires moving beyond existing political approaches requires radical change to transform thinking about the drivers, nature and distribution of ostensibly ‘global’ challenges and the relationships that exist among science, technology, society and nature across multiple scales.

Policing Environmental Injustice

By Andrea Brock and Nathan Stephens-Griffin

Environmental justice (EJ) activists have long worked with abolitionists in their communities, critiquing the ways policing, prisons, and pollution are entangled and racially constituted (Braz and Gilmore 2006). Yet, much EJ scholarship reflects a liberal Western focus on a more equal distribution of harms, rather than challenging the underlying systems of exploitation these harms rest upon (Álvarez and Coolsaet 2020). This article argues that policing facilitates environmentally unjust developments that are inherently harmful to nature and society. Policing helps enforce a social order rooted in the ‘securing’ of property, hierarchy, and human-nature exploitation. Examining the colonial continuities of policing, we argue that EJ must challenge the assumed necessity of policing, overcome the mythology of the state as ‘arbiter of justice’, and work to create social conditions in which policing is unnecessary. This will help open space to question other related harmful hegemonic principles. Policing drives environmental injustice, so EJ must embrace abolition.

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Cutting the Supply of Climate Injustice

By Peter Newell and Mohamed Adow

This article considers the role of activism and politics to restrict the supply of fossil fuels as a key means to prevent further climate injustices. We firstly explore the historical production of climate injustice through extractive economies of colonial control, the accumulation of climate debts, and ongoing patterns of uneven exchange. We develop an account which highlights the relationship between the production, exchange, and consumption of fossil fuels and historical and contemporary inequalities around race, class, and gender which need to be addressed if a meaningful account of climate justice is to take root. We then explore the role of resistance to the expansion of fossil-fuel frontiers and campaigns to leave fossil fuels in the ground with which we are involved. We reflect on their potential role in enabling the power shifts necessary to rebalance energy economies and disrupt incumbent actors as a prerequisite to the achievement of climate justice.

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Livestock and Climate Justice: Challenging Mainstream Policy Narratives

By Fernando García-Dory, Ella Houzer and Ian Scoones

In discussions around food systems and the climate, livestock is often painted as the villain. While some livestock production in some places contributes significantly to climate change, this is not universally the case. This article focuses on pastoral production systems – extensive, often mobile systems using marginal rangelands across around half of the world’s surface, involving many millions of people. By examining the assumptions behind standard calculations of greenhouse gas
emissions, a systematic bias against pastoralism is revealed. Many policy and campaign stances fail to discriminate between different material conditions of production, lumping all livestock systems together. Injustices arise through the framing of debates and policy knowledge; through procedures that exclude certain people and perspectives; and through the distributional consequences of policies. In all cases, extensive livestock keepers lose out. In reflecting on the implications for European pastoralism, an alternative approach is explored where pastoralists’ knowledge, practices and organisations take centre‑stage.

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Recognising Recognition in Climate Justice

By Tor A. Benjaminsen, Hanne Svarstad and Iselin Shaw of Tordarroch

We argue that in order to achieve climate justice, recognition needs to be given more attention in climate research, discourse, and policies. Through the analysis of three examples, we identify formal and discursive recognition as central types of recognition in climate issues, and we show how powerful actors exercise their power in ways that cause climate injustice through formal and discursive misrecognition of poor and vulnerable groups. The three examples discussed are climate mitigation through forest conservation (REDD), the Great Green Wall project in Sahel, and the narrative about climate change as a contributing factor to the Syrian war.

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Key contacts

Amber Huff

Resource Politics and Environmental Change Cluster Lead


01273 915805

Lars Otto Naess

Resource Politics and Environmental Change Cluster Lead


+44 (0)1273 915849


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