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A just transition to sustainability must support the most marginalised

Climate change is not the only cause of ecological injustice and environmental degradation – but it is real and it is here.

The unprecedented and destructive bushfires of the Australian summer have had a devastating impact across many parts of the country and will have both short and long-term ramifications on all sectors, ecologies and communities.

The foundation of Jesuit Social Services’ ecological justice work is care of our common home. Ecological justice is the interconnectedness of social justice and environmental justice, and climate change and environmental degradation are a result of inharmonious relationships between people and the environment.

Our 2017 paper Ecological justice – Expanding the Conversation outlines our journey towards bringing an ecological justice perspective towards all of our operations, and our commitment to building a just society inclusive of both social and environmental justice.

It is increasingly clear that the impacts of climate change disproportionately impact the most disadvantaged people and communities, in many cases exacerbating existing inequality and marginalisation.

Many of the people Jesuit Social Services works with live in urban regions which have not been directly impacted by the fires, but the causes and secondary impacts such as extreme heat and smoke impact significantly on our participants, especially the homeless and people living in substandard housing.

Much of our research and advocacy work in the ecological justice area has been around the concept of ‘just transitions’ – how to move from current untenable economic and social systems to an ecologically sustainable, zero greenhouse gas emissions world in an effective way.

A just transition would ensure that those least able to cope with climate change receive the support they need to successfully adapt. It is vital that proactive policy responses, genuine community involvement and carefully targeted social protection are part of the solution.

In our recent Submission to the 2020-21 Federal Budget, we call on the Federal Government to recognise the serious and imminent risk posed by climate change to the planet and people, to legislate an emissions reduction target of net zero by 2050 and set a clear path to a just transition to a low-carbon future.

Meeting the challenges of climate change requires leadership by Governments of all levels. That is why we recommend that Governments establish coordinating bodies that facilitate cross-sector collaboration to work towards a just transition.

Engagement and collaboration with industry, researchers and technical experts, environmental organisations, the community services sector and communities themselves is also crucial.

We also highlight the need for increased funding and resources for organisations and communities alike who seek to trial, test and implement climate change adaptation, mitigation and transformation activities.

Download a copy of Ecological justice – Expanding the Conversation at bit.ly/expanding-the-conversation