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Three Facets of Climate Justice In The United States of America
The first and the most salient facet pertains to the disproportionate impact of climate bads. Research on environmental justice suggests that the underprivileged are disproportionately exposed to pollution or environmental degradation or both. Although climate change results from the overuse of global commons, its costs are asymmetrical across countries, regions, and communities. Governments can reduce climate vulnerability, but inequities are at play with their policy responses as well. Political and fiscal considerations lead governments to invest in climate adaptation to protect high-value areas populated by the rich and the powerful. The second facet of climate justice pertains to the ease with which citizens can benefit from environmental public goods provided by the government. Because accessing public goods often involves incurring a cost, those from rich households disproportionately access these amenities. Furthermore, cities have a revenue incentive to provide public goods that favor richer neighborhoods. They tend to neglect the poorer neighborhoods in their distribution of climate-proofing amenities, such as tree canopy cover that can provide some protection from heat waves and thus reduce household energy bills. The pro-rich structural bias extends to federal policy. The third facet, perhaps the most controversial one, pertains to who bears the cost of environmental protection. Environmental policies often impose concentrated costs on specific sections of the population to produce environmental protection benefits for all. For this reason, some organizations believe that the transition to a low-carbon economy will not necessarily be just. The backlash from some labor groups against climate policies could stem from perceptions of the unjust burden imposed on specific industries and communities for mitigating climate change. To create an equitable environmental governance framework, the first step is recognizing that climate justice has multiple facets. Next, policymakers need to decide how to translate these equity concepts into concrete policies.