Climate Justice – protecting Victorians in an age of climate change
The Federation of Community Legal Centres is committed to realising climate justice across the Community Legal Centre sector and beyond.
If you have been impacted by a climate disaster and need legal support, find your nearest Community Legal Centre here.
What is climate justice?
Climate justice is the connection between social justice and climate change. It recognises that marginalised communities are often the most affected by climate change. Climate justice seeks to ensure community and government responses are driven by equitable, fair and inclusive interventions, and that those in power address existing systemic issues and the drivers that create and perpetuate inequity and environmental harm.
Climate justice is a priority for Community Legal Centres for three main reasons:
- Climate justice aligns with the fundamental social justice mission of Community Legal Centres
- Climate justice reinforces the importance of place-based approaches
- Climate justice draws on Community Legal Centres’ holistic, integrated service delivery model to best meet the unique challenges of climate change-induced legal need.
In a democracy, we rightly expect equal access to justice and assume that access to legal mechanisms that ensure a just and equitable society are a fundamental human right. And yet too often we find the most disadvantaged and marginalised members of our communities struggling with this basic right, beset by barriers that impede their access to justice and by systems and processes that work against them.
Climate change already impacts access to justice for many in our communities who have been hit by climate disasters and slow onset impacts like drought. As global emissions continue to rise, so too will the range and intensity of climate impact, putting more and more people and ecosystems at risk. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that at approximately 1.5°C of global warming climate change will likely multiply existing and create new climate vulnerabilities which will manifest in areas such as housing, health, family violence, economic livelihoods and all areas of legal need.
Empowering Victorians through worsening climate change
The Federation of Community Legal Centres' commitment to climate justice can be broken into two key initiatives:
Our commitment to both areas includes:
- Advocating for law reform with a climate justice lens
- Supporting our 46 member Community Legal Centres in disaster response and climate change adaptation
- Building capability across all 46 Community Legal Centres so we can better respond to communities’ climate justice legal needs
- Leading partnerships and working with partner organisations to realise climate justice in Victoria.
Climate change will affect individuals and communities differently depending on age, location and legal problem. Direct impacts include extreme weather events, such as an increased frequency of cyclones, floods, heatwaves or bushfires. Indirect impacts may result in more ‘hidden’ legal problems, including:
- Insurance and consumer law problems fuelled by uninsurable goods and properties
- Tenancy law problems arising from disputes about heating and cooling, and habitability during times of extreme heat or flooding
- Employment law problems, especially for low-paid workers in high heat environments, pay and conditions, workplace injuries
- Family violence law problems, which all too often spike during disasters and extreme heat
- Mental health law problems which can be exacerbated during crises. Community legal education needs to help people understand the laws and policies that will affect them in terms of local climate risk and provide strategies to help them adapt.