Climate Justice


Climate justice: Toward an egalitarian and equitable environmental movement

The effects of climate change are being felt around the globe, and Canada is no exception. However, not everyone is affected by climate change in the same way. Indigenous peoples are among those most affected by climate change, women are one of the most vulnerable groups, and future generations will experience the greatest impacts. The concept of “climate justice,” a term that emerged in 1999, acknowledges these disparities and promotes a more egalitarian and equitable approach to the environmental movement.

In many parts of the world, climate change is exacerbating existing inequalities. The most disadvantaged countries and communities, as well as those who have contributed the least to the climate crisis, are often the most affected.

The impacts of climate change are not evenly distributed. Indeed, whether in terms of extreme weather events or rising sea levels, climate change often has “disproportionate effects on historically marginalized or underserved communities” (Simmons, 2020).

The climate crisis therefore represents one of the greatest challenges tied to human rights, including the right to life, to food, to water, to security, etc. The term “climate justice” highlights this reality.

What do we mean by “climate justice”?

Climate justice looks at the climate crisis through a human rights lens (United Nations, 2019) and acknowledges that climate change can have differing impacts (whether social, economic, etc.) on certain populations (Simmons, 2020).

For example, rising sea levels are displacing the poorest communities. According to the Observatoire des déplacés climatiques, which monitors climate-related displacement, there will be 250 million climate refugees by 2050. Moreover, every year, 20 million people are forced to leave their homes because of climate disasters in their own countries, such as cyclones, floods or droughts.

Climate justice therefore signifies the notion that we are not all equal with regard to the climate crisis. We are not all equally well equipped to cope with its impact, whether in terms of financial or social resources, mobility, etc.

Some examples of the differing impacts of climate change:

  • Elderly people and those with chronic diseases are at greater risk during heat waves.
  • Disadvantaged people are more likely to live in floodplains or to live in poorly insulated housing. They may also find it more difficult to obtain air conditioning to cope with heat waves.
  • Racialized communities are often the most likely to live near toxic waste sites.
  • Youth will face greater impacts from climate change. For ENvironnement JEUnesse, which focuses on youth and the environment, climate change raises the issue of intergenerational equity, because the future of coming generations is being compromised by the actions of current generations and governments. Since half of the world’s population is under 30, the issue of climate justice necessarily requires intergenerational dialogue.
  • Climate change increases the burden on women, because of their specific responsibilities, especially in developing countries, in providing for their households (food security, water supply).
  • In addition, there is often a notable increase in violence against women following extreme weather events. Hurricane Katrina demonstrated how natural disasters diversely affect different population groups, including women, when sexual assault and domestic violence quadrupled in the aftermath of the hurricane that struck New Orleans. (Anastario et al., 2009)

The perspectives opened by climate justice

Climate change is a social, economic and political issue, not a strictly scientific one.

The “climate justice” movement highlights the fact that the fight against climate change must be carried out with the principles of equity and equality in mind.

A study of 141 countries demonstrated that natural disasters tend to lower women’s life expectancy, although this trend is less pronounced in countries where governments have established measures that promote equality (Rochette, 2016). Thus, in order to build a more sustainable future for all, it is crucial to address inequalities so that climate crisis mitigation and adaptation strategies can be truly effective.

Climate change is about everyone. It’s a question of human rights and justice. Everyone has a role to play (government, industry, etc.) in minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. According to Oxfam, demanding climate justice means demanding that governments and companies alike honour their international agreements and take action to ensure that the burden of this crisis does not fall on the poorest people. 

By Le Regroupement québécois de la danse


Amnesty International. Climate change.

Anastario, M., Shehab, N. & Lawry, L. (2009). Increased gender-based violence among women internally displaced in Mississippi 2 years post-Hurricane Katrina. Disaster Med Public Health Prep, 3(1), 18-26.

ENvironnement JEUnesse. (2018). La justice climatique en trois temps.

Earth Day. (2021). Observatoire des déplacés climatiques – La résilience humaine face aux enjeux climatiques.

United Nations. (2019). Climate Justice.

Simmons, D. (2020). What is ‘climate justice’? Yale Climate Connections.

Widick, R. (2021). The Climate Justice Movement. The International Institute of Climate Action and Theory.


Sign Up for our mailing list to receive regular updates.