Climate change is one of the most complex political, social, and environmental issues of this century, and climate change adaptation has become an increasingly large focus of global efforts. The international community’s attention on adaptation has been primarily focused on developing countries’ needs, with consensus that the world’s most vulnerable communities—the urban and rural poor, low-lying island nations, and indigenous peoples—require additional protection. It was in response to this need for equity that “climate justice” emerged.
Climate justice can be defined generally as addressing the disproportionate burden of climate change impacts on poor and marginalized communities. It seeks to promote more equitable allocation of the burdens of these impacts at the local, national, and global levels through proactive regulatory initiatives and reactive judicial remedies that draw on international human rights and domestic environmental justice theories. Yet, efforts to define climate justice as a field of inquiry can be elusive and underinclusive because the concept is so vast in scope.