It’s inequality that kills
Interview: Naomi Klein on the future of climate justice
Madeleine de Trenqualye
Canadian author and professor of climate justice cautiously hails loss and damage agreements at Cop27
Naomi Klein published her first book on the climate crisis, This Changes Everything, almost a decade ago. She was one of the organisers and authors of Canada’s Leap manifesto, a blueprint for a rapid and justice-based transition off fossil fuels. In 2021, she joined the University of British Columbia as professor of climate justice in the Department of Geography and co-director of Canada’s first Centre for Climate Justice.
What is climate justice?
I always think about climate justice as multitasking. We live in a time of multiple overlapping crises: we have a health emergency; we have a housing emergency; we have an inequality emergency; we have a racial injustice emergency; and we have a climate emergency, so we’re not going to get anywhere if we try to address them one at a time. We need responses that are truly intersectional. So how about as we decarbonise and create a less polluted world, we also build a much fairer society on multiple fronts?
Many environmentalists hear that and think: “Well, that sounds a lot harder than just implementing a carbon tax or switching to green energy.” And the argument we make in the climate justice movement is that what we’re trying to do is to build a power base that is invested in climate action. Because if you’re only talking about carbon, then anybody who has a more daily emergency – whether it’s police violence, gender violence or housing precarity – is going to think: “That’s a rich person problem. I’m focused on the daily emergency of staying alive.” But if you can connect the issues and show how climate action can create better jobs and redress gaping inequalities, and lower stress levels, then you start getting people’s attention and you build a broader constituency that is invested in getting climate policies passed.
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