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The multiple meanings of justice in the context of the transition to a low carbon economy

2016

This paper reviews the meanings of justice. It begins by summarising major moral interpretations of justice, and then turns to consider the main theoretical elements of justice: equitable distribution, recognition (eg of others’ needs and rights), equal participation and equal capabilities.

Various practical applications of these dimensions are then canvassed. Finally, the piece turns to the challenges that interactions between society and the environment present for environmental justice across time and at multiple spatial scales.

Transitions to low carbon are likely to alter the way environmental costs and benefits are distributed and recognised within societies. The justice implications of those changes may need to be assessed at every step, and in a manner that is well adjusted to societal conditions and the environmental complexity of the issues. Who participates in deciding what that transition looks like, how it might be made ‘just’, and how it could be managed across time and space, will affect possibilities and outcomes. An inclusive and transparent strategy of deliberation across public, private and civil society sectors, with the assistance of leading thinkers, is likely to be a difficult but crucial way forward.