Tuesday 4 July 2017

Contextualizing Climate Justice in Uganda

Participants during the Climate Justice Dialogue

Climate change has been documented to be induced by human activities such as agriculture, industrialization and construction with impacts directly deterring economic growth. In Uganda climate change impacts are evident with increasing food prices due to supply side shocks to agriculture caused by drought, declining water levels and increasing disasters (floods, landslides and drought) which in turn have exacerbated poverty levels in Uganda. Furthermore, climate change has continued to distort livelihood sources and made access to the basic needs i.e. water, food and shelter extremely difficult.

Looking at the societal class most affected, it is the vulnerable people (poor, disempowered and marginalized) severely affected by the impacts of climate change due to limited alternatives to adapt to climate change and already existing economic, physical and social challenges like disability, poverty, education a few to mention. Such exerted external influence to already vulnerable class of society is collectively qualified to result in injustices to such vulnerable groups.
According to the Mary Robinson Foundation, climate justice refers to sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its resolution equitably and fairly. Elsewhere, civil society organizations have contextualized Climate justice as a mechanism that can help to strike a balance between shared climate change burdens and benefits at all levels of the country e.g. when governments/public sectors fail to promote inclusive and equitable responsive actions to combat climate change impacts, climate injustice is inevitable.

Different scholars have highlighted the relationship between Climate justice, human rights and development with the Mary Robinson Foundation qualifying the achievement of human centred approaches. Climate Injustices can be manifested in forms of; information gaps on climate change response actions, decision making gap and limited transparency and accountability in implementing climate actions.

The Foundation has moved a step forward to guide on how to ensure climate justice by developing 7 fundamentals i.e. 1) Respect and protection of Human Rights, 2) Support the right to development, 3) Share burdens and benefits equitably, 4) Ensure that decisions on climate change are participatory, transparent and accountable, 5) Highlight gender equality and equity,  6) Harness the transformative power of education for climate stewardship and 7)Use effective partnership to ensure climate justice.

Despite the close relationship of climate Justice between human rights and development, to many, Climate justice is considered as a new term. Noting that different stakeholders understand and address things differently, building national consensus on what entail climate justice is one such way to enable stakeholders’ dialogue and raise awareness.

In line with the Rio Principle 10 that sets out the 3 fundamental rights: access to information, access to public participation and access to justice, Climate Justice begins with closing the information gap on climate change, its impacts and existing opportunities. For example youth have a role to play in advancing climate justice though such a role is greatly dependent on the levels of awareness and understanding of climate change, youth involvement in decision making and actual implementation of climate actions. 

If Uganda is to advance climate justice this should be through; communicating a common clear message, improving transparency and accountability to citizens, promoting partnerships with private and public intuitions and raising awareness on the burdens and benefits from climate change. Therefore, while contextualizing climate justice in Uganda, it is necessary to undertake an audit on how practices for climate action respond to the 7 principles established by the Mary Robison Foundation.

Composed by:

Christine Mbatuusa

Fellow at EMLI