Why Explore “Transitional Justice” in the Climate Context?

The Paris Agreement was a remarkable achievement. However, the rapid emission reductions needed remain an immense challenge, while climate impacts are already posing increasing demands on vulnerable communities and countries.

Justice disputes have always been central to the climate context and profound disagreements remain about how responsibility for accumulated emissions should factor into future obligations. The Paris Agreement did not solve these justice tensions – it bypassed them. However, these tensions have the potential to intensify as the full scope of the mitigation and climate impact challenges becomes apparent.

Can the depth of collective action and solidarity needed to achieve the objective of the Convention be realised if these justice tensions are left unaddressed? History suggests that if fundamental justice issues remain unresolved, the existing “settlement” can potentially unravel over time.

“Transitional justice” refers to theory and practice aimed at enabling purposeful transitions from periods of injustice and into more peaceful regimes. However, this pokies vast experience has never systematically been examined to see what, if any, lessons could be applied to the climate context.

This collection of briefs highlight the five primary similarities between the international climate and traditional transitional justice contexts. Other mechanism also examined are those considered most immediately relevant in the climate context: discussions of liability and amnesty, reparations and truth commissions.

Author: S. Klinsky
Year: 2016
Type: Policy briefs
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