Climate Justice

While the climate crisis affects us all, marginalised communities feel its effects the most. And while we know that the struggles for climate justice and racial, social, and economic justice are inherently interconnected, the vast majority of climate work in Europe has yet to take an intersectional perspective.

For example, the climate emergency most adversely affects those lacking access to resilient or secure housing, and extreme temperatures can disproportionately affect people with a disability. Communities placed in polluted or toxic environments will experience illnesses that could have been avoided, and bear increased health costs as a direct consequence. Tragic cases like that of Ella Kissi-Debrah, a nine-year-old girl from London who died after repeated asthma attacks due to living close to a polluting highway, and who is the first person to have air pollution as the cause of death on her death certificate, foreshadow what awaits us all unless we take urgent action.

The current field of European climate activists is white and middle-class-dominated, and priorities in campaigns, policy efforts, and litigation reflect this. While there are great successes in climate litigation, current work does not take an explicitly intersectional approach that foregrounds the disproportionate impact the climate emergency has on marginalised communities. The combination of the absence of this work, the urgency of the crisis, and the explicit call for action expressed in the community consultation underline the need to build work in this area as soon as possible.

Our Europe-wide Roundtable series between April and July 2022 brought together community activists from across the region, and our climate justice roundtable deliberately moved away from the white, middle-class climate space. The reflections shared say it all. Key opportunities for action—that will help shape our future litigation projects—came out from those discussions, including how accountability must form part of our solutions to climate injustice. That includes redistributive reparations that address intergenerational harms, and directing resources to communities most affected by climate change. Other opportunities for action focused on collective evidence and raising awareness of disproportionate health and well-being impacts of the air, water, and soil pollution for marginalised groups. You can read more about this here.

We are currently in the process of building cases with communities and connecting the dots between organisations, movements, and collectives so that together, we can co-create litigation projects that truly benefit those who need it most. Keep an eye on our Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, to hear about updates on this and more.

Across Europe, governments are excluding certain groups, including migrants and asylum seekers, members of the LGBTQI+ community, Roma people, sex workers, members of religious groups, and others, from being able to access essential services, establishing barriers to health care services, and making it impossible for them to access the labour markets they need to thrive. There is a clear pattern of excluding specific groups, based on who is deemed “undeserving” or does not “meet the criteria” for accessing government assistance and support.

By providing fewer services while simultaneously increasing the barriers to accessing them, much of the burden to address essential needs for marginalised and racialised people end up with (civil) society. This dangerous shift is harmful, with a political disdain for the dignity of the most marginalised and vulnerable across our societies. It also opens the door to further discrimination, criminalisation, and exclusion.

Governments tend to deny their accountability towards welfare by focusing on individual cases, rather than looking for patterns or context. Structural efforts to challenge this approach and refocus the public debate are currently virtually absent; to help change this, we need to build litigation projects together with community partners to pursue transparency and accountability.

During our Europe-wide Roundtable series between April and July 2022, activists and community organisers shared their experiences to help shape priorities for our future work. These conversations made clear the extent to which a policy of exclusion was felt by many marginalised communities, regardless of which country they were based in.

In particular, it was noted that survivors of gender-based violence, Roma communities, LGBTQI+ communities, Muslim communities, and migrant communities broadly face the violence of unequal social protection—in many cases experiencing homelessness, poverty, and institutional discrimination. These discussions brought to light several opportunities for action, like securing equal access to healthcare and welfare for people navigating the asylum system, and challenging exclusionary and ableist support services. You can read more here.

Social protection is one of the areas in which we are building joint litigation projects, and we are currently connecting with communities across Europe. Keep an eye on our Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to hear about updates on this and more.

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