Climate change can't be stopped without social justice


It is difficult to imagine a stronger indictment of the recent Paris Climate agreement then the fact that the first country to adopt it is ruled by a military junta found guilty by the International Labour Organization of human and workers’ rights violation.

The fact that this country also exports logs sourced from unsustainable managed forests (even though some of these logs carry an FSC certification logo), is reprehensible.

It is easy to understand why Fiji has adopted the Paris Agreement — even a small rise of the sea level will mean a catastrophe for its people and thousands will be forced to become climate refugees. However, the fact that the military junta can get away with imprisoning workers’ representatives, unilaterally abrogate collective agreements, and make profits from unsustainable forest practices highlights the failure of the COP 21 agreement.

Environmental degradation is the result of social degradation. It is impossible to have environmental justice without social justice. As long as workers are exploited, extreme poverty continues, women’s work is undervalued, and global inequality grows the environment can not be protected. The Paris agreement not only failed to deliver sufficient environmental change to keep temperature increases below 2 degrees it completely ignores any commitment to a just transition in the body of the document.

It is long past time for both governments and environmental organizations to recognize what all major religions have proclaimed and as Pope Francis noted so eloquently, “Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor."