January 21, 2018

Climate change research centre to protect world’s most vulnerable communities

A new research centre that will support communities threatened by climate change was launched at the University of Reading by former Irish President and UN human rights high commissioner Mary Robinson.

The Reading Centre for Climate and Justice is dedicated to putting justice at the heart of understanding the problems caused by climate change, and finding solutions to protect those most vulnerable to them. It seeks to deploy expertise at the University to identify gaps in knowledge, and emerging areas, that would benefit from a justice-focused approach.

Mrs Robinson, President of Ireland from 1990–1997 and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997–2002, was keynote speaker at the launch of the centre on Thursday 18 January. She is President of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, and from 2014–2015 was the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change.

Professor Chuks Okereke, Associate Director of the Centre for Climate and Justice, said: “Much climate research is dedicated to finding out the causes and likely impact of a changing climate, but there is relatively little attention given to the people whose lives are being changed forever by it.

“The Centre for Climate and Justice will speak up for those most affected by the effects of climate change, many of whom live in some of the poorest parts of the world.”

Professor Catriona McKinnon, Director of the Centre of Climate and Justice, said: “The launch of the Centre reflects the University’s commitment to joined up thinking about the human impacts of climate change. It will serve as a hub for scientifically informed, policy-relevant projects that will help to enable agents of change to resist climate injustices and enhance their resilience.”

Contributing to the Centre’s work will be experts in ethics, law, politics, geography, development, philosophy, international relations, and climate science, from across the University of Reading. The Centre will also draw from world-leading experts within and outside the UK. They will equip policymakers and communities with the best resources to inform change, as well as training future researchers.

Over the next two years, the Centre will aim to advance knowledge in the following areas:

  • Climate displacement: what legal claims can be made by communities displaced by climate change? How do they make them? How are the problems of justice created in this new space of claims-making best navigated?
  • Ethical approaches to uncertainty: how can the uncertainties of climate science be communicated to promote climate justice? How can we protect against the abuse of uncertainty – about causes, impacts, and solutions – as a barrier to more just climate action?
  • New technologies: could geoengineering promote justice in the face of worsening climate change or will it reinforce existing injustice? What ethical commitments should be baked into the governance of new technologies such as CDR, or SRM? How can we ensure this happens?
  • Equity and fairness in global climate policy: what are the emergent and innovative ideas for enhancing justice and equity among increasingly fragmented and polycentric global climate governance arrangements?  How can such ideas be best implemented?  What are the implications and obligations for key global actors and institutions?
  • Climate justice and inclusive green growth: what equity and justice issues are implicated in green economy and low carbon transition programmes in developed and developing countries? How can green economy initiatives be best designed and implemented in an equitable and inclusive manner? What obligations does inclusive green growth raise for key actors and institutions?
  • Climate justice across time: People in the future will be hit worst by the impacts of climate change. What just institutions can we build now to protect them? How can we engage people’s concern on climate change and future justice, in the face of the pressing present damages caused by climate change?

Article source/image credit: University of Reading