Leaders call for greater ambition on climate justice

30th Oct 2014

The Scottish Government, experts and academics urged participants at the third Glasgow Caledonian University ‘dialogue’ on climate justice to raise their game in influencing political and civic leaders.

The Scottish Government, experts and academics urged participants at the third Glasgow Caledonian University ‘dialogue’ on climate justice to raise their game in influencing political and civic leaders. Julian Dobson reports.

Britain’s former top climate diplomat has condemned the Coalition Government's growth model, describing it as based on ‘plunder’. He called for a step change in ambition to build a low carbon economy that is fair for all.

John Ashton served as the envoy of successive foreign secretaries between 2006 and 2012, and is now an independent speaker on current affairs. He said the UK was part of a global economy that ‘plundered’ from other nations, from its own ecological foundation, and from future generations.

He called on climate activists to get involved in domestic politics in order to put justice at the heart of the response to climate change. In Britain and in many other societies, justice was in retreat as a core political value, he argued.

Speaking at the last of three ‘dialogues’ on climate justice, he asked: ‘How can we strengthen the forces of high ambition rather than business as usual?’ He praised Glasgow University for announcing that it would be the first university in Europe to pull its institutional investments out of fossil fuel companies.

Climate activist Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, said the ‘climate movement’ had never been stronger, with even the Rockefeller Brothers recently agreeing to withdraw their investments from fossil fuel companies. But the fossil fuel industry still had more money than any industry in history, he noted – hence the need to keep up the pressure for divestment.

The dialogue, the last of three seminars hosted by Glasgow Caledonian University’s Centre for Climate Justice and JRF, working with the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, heard a series of commitments to the cause of ‘high ambition’.

Paul Wheelhouse, Environment and Climate Change Minister for the Scottish Government, announced nearly £3 million of funding for six projects designed to improve food security and access to clean water in sub-Saharan Africa.

The money will be shared between charities working in Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia. The funds are from the Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Fund, which aims to ensure action to tackle climate change improves the lives of the world’s poorest people.

Ambition in Scottish politics was matched by Scottish academia, with the announcement by Glasgow Caledonian University that it would offer the world’s first Masters degree in climate justice, with the first students beginning their courses in January 2015.

Professor Tahseen Jafry, Director of the University’s Centre for Climate Justice, made it clear that this would be an opportunity to produce cutting-edge research in climate justice to influence global leaders.

In presentations and workshops throughout the day, participants got to grips with the issues of climate justice as they affected national governments, businesses, academia and civil society. While the discussions focused on practical action to achieve change, there was a strong theme throughout the day of climate justice as an ethical issue.

Neil Adger, Professor of Human Geography at the University of Exeter, said climate justice was ‘about the vital core of human life and dignity and what people care about’.