What is Environmental Justice?

What is Environmental Justice?

Communities who experience disadvantage or marginalisation are often more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, pollution, energy poverty and other environmental harms.

This may be because they live in areas with high levels of pollution and less access to parks and green spaces, or areas that are worst hit by the impacts of climate change; or because they live in poor quality accommodation and cannot afford energy efficiency and retrofit measures or do not qualify for government grant schemes.

These communities include low-income households, people from migrant or ethnic backgrounds and those who are vulnerable to the health impacts of environmental harms including children, people with disabilities and older people.

Environmental justice seeks to protect the most vulnerable people in society from the impacts of climate change and other environmental harms and to ensure the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people in the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.

What are environmental harms?

Environmental harms are any issues which contribute to environmental degradation. In addition to the above list, but not limited to the following, these harms can include:

  • Health concerns arising from air or water pollution
  • Illegal dumping/ littering
  • The burning of private waste
  • Homes at risk of flooding
  • Flooding or lack of flooding infrastructure in high-risk areas
  • Poor housing conditions (cold, damp)
  • Poor sanitation or access to clean water
  • Lack of access to green space, parks etc.
  • Noise pollution
  • Energy costs and access to retrofitting schemes or fuel allowance
  • Pollution of freshwaters and marine waters,
  • Inadequate traffic/ cycling infrastructure
  • Dereliction
  • Loss of biodiversity
  • Industrial mining, coal extraction and fracking gas
  • Difficulty accessing information on environmental issues.

Other areas which intersect with environmental harms include housing and health. A report by the ESRI cross analyses housing, health, children and environment and finds: “Children who grew up in inadequately heated homes were also more likely to have worse health, as reported by their parents, and experience more accidents or injuries requiring medical treatment.”

The law is a powerful tool which can help tackle issues caused by environmental harms. CLM’s Centre for Environmental Justice (CEJ) aims to ensure that you know your environmental rights and that you can act upon them. The goal of environmental justice is to protect both people and the planet.

Read more about environmental justice in Ireland in this report, completed in 2022 by researchers at Dublin City University’s School of Law and Government in conjunction with the CEJ.

Climate Change and Health comic strip. This graphic outlines the implications of air pollution on our overall health.
Climate Change and Housing comic strip. This graphic outlines how climate change has implications on housing.

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