Published 2021-10-14

This post is also available in Swedish

“Climate justice – a major climate issue from the very beginning”

Climate financing, the breadth of the delegation and the opportunity for every nation and voices at all levels of society to make themselves heard - there are many important aspects of climate justice and trust to be discussed ahead of the upcoming climate conference in Glasgow. Mistra and Formas held a joint webinar called “Klimaträttvisa inför COP26 – vad säger forskningen?” (Climate justice prior to COP26 – what does research say?) on 8 October.

Glasgow is hosting this year’s global summit on the climate, COP26, which starts on 31 October. In August, the UN’s climate panel, the IPCC, released its latest report. This had a clear message – the rate of climate change is increasing and this is due to humanity’s actions. The report puts pressure on the upcoming negotiations, so expectations are high that the nations of the world will raise their level of ambition and make important commitments in line with the Paris Agreement. One important issue, both for the negotiations and for a rapid climate transition, is that of climate justice. On 8 October, Mistra and Formas held a joint webinar, called “Klimaträttvisa inför COP26 – vad säger forskningen?” (Climate justice prior to COP26 – what does research say?).

Peter Ruskin, Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Stockholm, states that the primary focus of COP26 is to keep the Paris Agreement’s objective of 1.5 degrees of warming within reach, even though we are not currently on track for this. He believes that the emphasis on climate change in public debate and the media has contributed to high expectations and increased pressure on this year’s negotiations, and he thinks it is important to admit that there is disappointment and frustration over not having achieved more.

As part of the preparations prior to this year’s negotiations, discussions have taken place with governments around the world and with major global emitters with significant capital. And some progress has been made, says Peter Ruskin, as five years ago around 30 per cent of the global economy was covered by zero emissions’ objectives – this is now 70 per cent. Science and research, not least the IPCC’s most recent report, are also extremely important before and during the upcoming meeting, in providing background, understanding and context for the discussions.

“Climate justice covers many different aspects. One that we are especially focusing on is climate financing. Industrial nations have a particular responsibility to provide the necessary funding to help poorer countries in their work for the climate. Several years ago, we agreed on a target of USD 100 billion per year. We come some way to achieving this, but there is a bit to go,” says Peter Ruskin.

Sweden’s delegation highlights the issue of justice

Mattias Frumerie, Sweden’s Chief Negotiator om climate issues.

Sweden’s Chief Negotiator, Mattias Frumerie, believes that Sweden is highlighting issues of justice in various ways at COP26. This includes how the composition of the Swedish delegation, with youth representatives and representatives from the Sami Parliament, reflects the breadth of Swedish participation.

“We try to keep highlighting young voices, equality and human rights in the various negotiation tracks. We can also see that many issues on the agenda reflect a justice perspective; climate financing is one of these.”

Mattias Frumerie regards climate negotiations as ongoing work, while COP26 is an important opportunity for manifesting the necessary climate ambition. He hopes that the result, regardless of what it is, will be a good foundation to build upon in raising future levels of ambition. Not least in the next decade, when decisions on eradicating fossil fuels need to be in place.

Mattias Frumerie regards the different values that nations place on fairness and climate justice as comprising one challenge among many others in the UN’s climate process. He believes that using the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a basis is a good idea, as this has backing from every country.

FAIRTRANS studies an equitable transition

Mikael Karlsson, Associate Professor at Uppsala University, is involved in the Mistra and Formas-funded FAIRTRANS research programme, which is studying a fair transition for a fossil-free society. As part of FAIRTRANS, researchers will examine an equitable distribution of emissions allowances – a carbon budget – globally, nationally and at the individual level.

Mikael Karlsson, Associate Professor at Uppsala University and part of FAIRTRANS.

One of Mikael Karlsson’s focus areas will be the relationship between science and policy, where science describes the challenges and shows how policy does not correspond to what needs to be done if we are to achieve policy goals. He believes this causes tension and leads to the climate demonstrations that are occurring around the globe.

Naghmeh Nasiritousi, from Stockholm University and the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, is a researcher on two climate projects that relate to climate justice. One is a Swedish, Formas-funded project on the interaction between state and non-state actors, which examines climate justice in the form of participation; the other has an international focus, and studies countries’ long-term climate planning and ambitions.

“Climate justice has been a significant part of climate issues from the very beginning. Poor countries have seen it as a societal problem, while rich countries have wanted a bigger focus on technology to simply reduce emissions. All climate policy research looks at different aspects of climate justice.”

Naghmeh Nasiritousi, researcher at Stockholm University and the Swedish Institute of International Affairs.

She says that the project on Sweden’s transition is studying a government initiative called Fossil Free Sweden and their work with societal stakeholders, among other things. They can see that a great deal of focus has been placed upon industrial transition, where industry has been included in producing plans for carbon neutrality.

“However, civil society does not feel that their voices are being included in the roadmaps, and these roadmaps are based upon a government target that does not at all correspond to the Paris Agreement. Our research shows that this legitimacy risks being eroded, the further we come in the climate crisis, unless we see the rapid changes society needs,” says Naghmeh Nasiritousi.

Financing is an important trust issue

Both researchers talk about how the pandemic has put focus on the issue of trust, as it has highlighted societal injustices – but also because it has brought insight into crises. At the same time, the climate issue is not currently being treated as a crisis, according to Mikael Karlsson.

To put a spotlight on climate justice during the negotiations in Glasgow, Naghmeh Nasiritousi believes that there must be a focus on financing and the issue of injury and loss, two important trust issues regarding how the rich world will help the countries that are most vulnerable and hardest hit by climate change.

Naghmeh Nasiritousi and Sweden’s chief negotiator Mattias Frumerie also mention the participatory perspective, where the pandemic can make it difficult for some island nations to get to the negotiations in Glasgow.

Mikael Karlsson believes that research is of great significance on the aspect of justice, mentioning the importance of researchers’ voices in the debate and in stating when disinformation is being disseminated, but also participating in dialogue about solutions and evaluating policy decisions.

The FAIRTRANS research programme will use civil society’s experiences and commitment to facilitate and accelerate a fair climate transition.

“Groups in civil society have put forward many suggestions for solutions, strategies and measures, so it could be a task for academia to make in-depth studies of the pros and cons of various instruments, generating policies with a greater basis in science,” says Mikael Karlsson.
The webinar’s moderator was Catarina Rolfsdotter-Jansson, chair of the independent Global Utmaning thinktank.

Watch the webinar Klimaträttvisa inför COP26 – vad säger forskningen?