14 Mar 2024, 13:43
Benjamin Wehrmann

Climate justice must be made central element of mitigation efforts – German Ethics Council

Clean Energy Wire

The costs and other burdens of climate action must be spread in a fair and balanced way across society to ensure social cohesion and avoid individual hardship, the German Ethics Council has said in a statement. “We all need to work together – political parties, civil society, the media and science,” said council head Alena Buyx. The task involves “developing new perspectives for a good life in a sustainable and climate-neutral society without further growth in consumption and resource use,” Buyx argued. The council presented a concept of “climate justice” in which the fate of those “who bear the heaviest burdens of climate change should be prioritized”. Individual contributions to climate change, and the suffering of its consequences, varies greatly among society, council spokeswoman Kerstin Schlögl-Flierl said. This is true both at national and international level as well as on a generational level, as young people and future generations are likely to suffer disproportionately from global warming. “Burdens and responsibilities must be shared fairly in all three dimensions: within society, internationally and intergenerationally,” she argued.

It is wrong to focus on individual behaviour to tackle climate change, the council declared, arguing for a concept of multi-actor responsibility instead. “This includes clear attributions of responsibility towards the state, private organisations such as companies, and individuals,” the council said, adding that policymakers bear the responsibility to setting the right framework for making personal or entrepreneurial decisions that help to lower emissions. “It is essential to face this enormous challenge in a constructive and solution-oriented way,” Buyx said, adding that - besides politics - the media also played a crucial role in this process. The council released a set of recommendations to improve climate justice and called for a public debate on climate change focused on climate justice and responsibility.

The distribution of the costs of the energy transition, avoiding greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to a heating global climate have started moving into the centre of the debate in Germany and other countries, as political pledges for climate action are being put into practice. The concept of a "just transition" has been debated in particular in the context of industrial transformation, for example in the coal mining or automotive sector, but also gained in relevance with respect to the financial contributions of all citizens to curb emissions and increase energy efficiency.

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