Climate Justice Declaration

November 6, 2014

Poor nations, people of color, Indigenous Peoples, and low-income communities in all nations are the first to experience negative climate change impacts such as sea level rise, flooding, drought, heat-death and illness, respiratory illness, infectious disease, and economic and cultural displacement. 

The first conference convened in the United States on "Just Climate? Pursuing Environmental Justice in the Face of Global Climate Change" was held at the University of Michigan in March, 2004. The following 14 principles, developed as the Climate Justice Declaration at the 2nd People of Color Environmental Justice Leadership Summit, surfaced in a workshop at the Michigan conference. The Climate Justice Declaration is endorsed by a variety of individuals and institutions.

To protect the most vulnerable communities, climate policy must follow these principles: 

1. Stop Cooking the Planet
Global climate change will accelerate unless we can slow the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.   Communities have the right to be free from climate change, its related impacts and other forms of ecological destruction.

2. Protect and Empower Vulnerable Individuals and Communities
Poor nations, low-income workers, people of color, and Indigenous Peoples will suffer the most from climate change's impacts.   We need to ensure the opportunity to adapt and thrive in a changing world.

3. Ensure Just Transition for Workers and Communities
No group should have to shoulder alone the burdens caused by the transition from a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable energy-based economy. A just transition would create opportunities for displaced workers and communities to participate in the new economic order through compensation for job loss, loss of tax base, and other negative effects.

4. Require Community Participation
At all levels and in all realms, people must have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. Communities, particularly affected communities, must play a leading role in national and international processes to address climate change.   Indigenous Peoples must have the right to self-determination to control their lands and resources.   Nations must recognize their government-to-government relationships with tribes.

5. Global Problems Need Global Solutions
The causes and effects of climate change occur around the world.   Individuals, communities, and nations must work together cooperatively to stop global climate change. 

6. The U.S. Must Lead
According to the principle of common but differentiated responsibility agreed to by 165 nations as part of the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, countries that contribute the most to global warming should take the lead in solving the problem.   The U.S. is four percent of the world's population but emits over twenty percent of the world's greenhouse gases.   All people should have equal rights to the atmosphere.

7. Phase Out Exploration for Fossil Fuels
Presently known fossil fuel reserves will last far into the future.   However fossil fuel exploration destroys unique cultures and valuable ecosystems, so exploration should be phased out as it is no longer worth the social and environmental costs.   We should instead invest in clean, renewable, locally controlled and low-impact energy sources.

8. Monitor Domestic and International Carbon Markets
Any market-based or technological solution to climate change, such as carbon-trading and carbon sequestration, should be subject to principles of democratic accountability, ecological sustainability and social justice.

9. Caution in the Face of Uncertainty
No amount of action later can make up for lack of action today.   Just as we buy insurance to protect against uncertain danger, we must take precautionary measures to minimize harm to the global climate before it occurs.

10. Protect Future Generations
The greatest impacts of climate change will come in the future.   We should take into account the impacts on future generations in deciding policy today.   Our children should have the opportunity for success through the sustainable use of resources.

11. Ecological Debt Must be Repaid
Fossil fuel and extractive industries must be held strictly liable for past and current life-cycle impacts relating to the production of greenhouse gases and associated local pollutants.   Industrialized country governments and transnational corporations owe the victims of climate change and victims of associated injustices full compensation, restoration, and reparation for the loss of land, livelihood, and other damages.

12. Hold Financial Institutions and Corporations Accountable
Stop the role of financial institutions and transnational corporations in shaping unsustainable production and consumption patterns and lifestyles that lead to global warming.   Stop their role in unduly influencing national and international decision-making on policies that affect the climate.

13. Create Culturally-Appropriate Climate Education
Educate present and future generations about climate, energy, social and environmental issues based on real-life experiences and an appreciation of diverse cultural perspectives.

14. Foster Individual and Community Responsibility to Mother Earth
Individuals and communities must make personal choices to minimize consumption of Mother Earth's resources, reduce our need for fossil energy, make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles, and re-think our ethics with relation to the environment and Mother Earth.

We acknowledge and endorse the Bali Principles of Climate Justice, the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative's "10 Principles for Just Climate Policies in the U.S.", and the Principles of Environmental Justice adopted at the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit of 1991, from which these principles were drawn.

Conference steering committee: Dr. Bunyan Bryant, Diana Copeland, Emily Maxwell, Terry Ogawa