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Transitional Justice and Climate Change – Prof. Sonja Klinsky

Image by J Lloa from Pixabay .

In November, we hosted Professor Sonja Klinsky (School of Sustainability at Arizona State University) in collaboration with the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism. Her work looks at the intersection of justice, climate change and policy. She has been an observer to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations sines 2009.

Professor Klinsky addressed how climate change policy and justice are deeply intertwined, especially when considering the geographical and temporal disconnect between contributions to, and impacts from, climate change. She presented the idea of transitional justice, a tool used when working towards a collective future without ignoring past harms, in order to address the justice aspects of climate change policy. Transitional justice-based approaches have been used in situations where historical responsibility and injustices must be addressed simultaneously with pushing towards a collective future (for example, in post-Apartheid South Africa). Prof. Klinsky argued that such a tool is important in order to address the collective responsibility of climate change, for example the need to consider cumulative emissions as opposed to focusing on current emissions.

She also highlighted the fact that, in contrast to other examples of transitional justice being implement retroactively, there are additional challenges and complexities of trying to implement such processes in an ongoing and dynamic global challenge. An key takeaway from the talk was that questions of justice, morality and collective responsibility must be taken into an account during climate policy negotiations - justice tensions will not simply go away and solidarity towards a common goal does not emerge without intentional action.

The presentation was followed by a discussion with McGill Faculty members Megan Bradley (Department of Political Science) and Sébastien Jodoin (Faculty of Law), and was moderated by McGill Law student Larissa Parker.

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