Integrating Climate Justice in Advocacy for Gender and Youth

When climate change is understood as an issue that both reflects and perpetuates injustices, it can illuminate the power asymmetries between those who suffer most from the impacts of climate change, and those who have contributed the most – through their carbon emissions – to the problem. As a result, climate change is not only an environmental problem but should be seen as a social and ethical issue. This is where climate justice emerges, as a way to address the social inequalities that perpetuate climate change, and as a way to draw attention to the enduring patriarchal, extractivist and neo-colonial economic and political systems that underpin climate change. Climate injustice exists at many scales, not only at the global scale between countries, but is evident within countries and in local contexts.

In 2021, Oxfam conducted an analysis of Climate Justice within their Country Operational Plans (COPs), exploring examples from across MENA, LAC, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. They found that climate justice was a key feature of Oxfam’s work, particularly within building resilience and adaptation to climate change. Climate justice also emerged in relation to equal rights and civic space, where it was mobilised through references to gender, youth and indigeneity. Finally, climate justice was mentioned in relation to alternative agricultural models like agroforestry, as well as being related to climate mitigation and the just transition to low carbon economies. In Oxfam’s analysis, climate justice was referenced most explicitly in connection to adaptation rather than mitigation efforts.

As part of Oxfam’s Global Strategic Framework for 2020-2030, Oxfam has positioned climate justice as central to programming, alongside interconnecting ideas like gender justice, economic justice and inclusive governance. As a result of this, PlanAdapt has been working on a project with Oxfam Quebec to develop a Climate Justice Guide. The guide combines theoretical understandings of climate justice with practical applications for Oxfam and its partners, highlighting relevant case studies where lessons can be learned and shared.

In defining a common understanding of climate justice, the guide was informed by a typology proposed by Ruth Mayne (Oxfam GB) and Arantxa Guereña (for LAC). This typology worked in two ways by: (a) recognising the categories of injustice as distributive, procedural, corrective and recognition and (b) determining areas where action for climate justice should be grounded. These areas include:

  • Distribution of responsibilities for reducing emissions
  • Fair investments in local adaptive capacities
  • Just transition to low-carbon economies
  • Inclusive climate and natural resource governance
  • Investment in capacities commensurate with impacts

The guide centres around how gender justice and youth active citizenship can support the (3) just transition to low-carbon economies and (4) inclusive governance. Just transition and inclusive governance were chosen because they were identified as knowledge gaps. Oxfam’s systematised learning has supported the development of transformative resilience capacities (5) and previous campaigns had focused on carbon inequalities (1) and fair climate finance (2). For a just transition to low-carbon economies, governance structures must be transformed to become more inclusive and just, and the inclusion of women and young people is central to this.

Whilst there has been widespread adoption of ‘gender mainstreaming’, gender justice goes further. It concerns the situation where benefits of planned actions are shared more equally, inequality between genders is not perpetuated and women are involved in shaping action. Youth active citizenship engages young people as ‘agents of change’ and leaders in their communities rather than just as participants. By doing so, these actions begin to address the intergenerational and gendered inequalities that climate change reflects and perpetuates.

After theoretical explorations of gender justice and youth active citizenship, the Climate Justice Guide presents a practical approach to embedding climate justice. This involves a ‘diagnosis’ of the current state of gender justice and youth active citizenship within Oxfam’s work, before providing thematic entry points for Oxfam and partners to engage with and embed climate justice. This section is illustrated by regional case studies which encourage readers to reflect in particular on how women and young people can be included in governance decisions.

The work that PlanAdapt and its partners have been doing to develop Oxfam Quebec’s Climate Justice Guide highlight the significant opportunities for mainstreaming climate justice. Consideration must be paid to how governance of climate actions can be made more inclusive and consequently more just.