Climate Justice Fund evaluation: final report

Full report of the independent evaluation of the Climate Justice Fund's work to date, drawing on the experiences of those who have implemented or been directly supported by the Fund.

Annex 1. Literature Review

A review of grey literature around climate justice was conducted, including foundation reports, websites, and NGO and government papers. The literature ranges from organisational policy briefs, project summaries, and NGO/foundation websites. Literature specific to climate justice is not expansive, with the majority published pre 2016 (i.e., more than five years' old). The aim of the literature review was to, as far as possible, conduct a rapid review of relevant literature in order to help inform how to structure a global climate justice pathways ToC. Specifically, the objectives were to map what current funding and programmes are being implemented under the banner of 'climate justice'; who the key players are; clarify how climate justice is being defined by different actors and document commonalities between definitions; and identify any lessons learned from other programmes.

Working Definitions of Climate Justice

Currently, there is no one 'official' definition of climate justice. However, the most commonly used definition found in the literature is from the Mary Robinson Foundation:[25]

'Climate justice links human rights and development to achieve a human-centred approach, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable people and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and its impacts equitably and fairly. Climate justice is informed by science, responds to science and acknowledges the need for equitable stewardship of the world's resources.'

Many other foundations did not define climate justice directly, although Joseph Rowntree Foundation used this definition, which does not include aspects of rights and equity:[26]

'Ensuring collectively and individually we have the ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from climate change impacts – and the policies to mitigate or adapt to them – by considering existing vulnerabilities, resources and capabilities.'

The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) breaks climate justice into three aspects:[27]

1. Inter-country equity

2. Intra-country equity

3. Inter-generational equity.

The Scottish Government defines climate justice as:

  • An approach which recognises that it is those least responsible for the global climate emergency that are being affected first and most severely by it.
  • An effective response must tackle existing inequalities such as wealth disparity and discrimination based upon gender, age, disability or indigenous status, as the impact of climate change can be made worse by these factors.

Although no definition is the same as the other, all follow similar themes of tackling inequalities; recovery and resilience; equity and addressing vulnerabilities.

Focus of Current Climate Justice Efforts

There are a range of organisations working on climate justice in many different forms, with programmes in both the Global North and Global South. These programmes are addressing a wide range of justice related issues or sectors and include, but are not limited to:

  • Human rights (including legal support)[28]
  • Gender[29]
  • Just transition[30]
  • Natural resource management[31]
  • Water access[32]
  • Food security[33]
  • Sustainable livelihoods[34]
  • Migration and relocation[35]
  • Health and well-being[36]
  • Advocacy[37]
  • Legal services.[38]

At present, it appears that the main flow of funding toward climate justice comes from western donors/funders,[39] with the implementation of projects in the Global North and Global South.

Impact Principles

In understanding climate justice, the evaluators drew on definitions of different types of justice to categorise potential interventions and impact pathways:[40]

1. Distributive Justice relates to equal access to and sharing of resources and benefits and is used in Climate Justice definitions to include both access to resources and benefits and equitable sharing of costs of responding to climate change;

2. Procedural Justice relates to transparent, fair and equitable decision-making processes;

3. Transformative Justice relates to structural inequities and focuses on mainstreaming understanding of Climate Justice issues, as well building capacity, institutions, policies and regulations that support and advocate for Climate Justice outcomes.

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) lays out climate justice principles, which will support the further development of the ToC pathways as part of this evaluation:[41]

4. Social justice theory: Design of institutions and comparative assessments towards justice (procedural justice);

5. Development justice: Socioeconomic equity, capabilities and food, water, energy, and human security (distributional justice);

6. Climate negotiations: Common but differentiated responsibility for costs of mitigation and adaptation (transformative justice);

7. Environmental justice: Equitable distribution of environmental goods (distributional justice). Participation and recognition for decision making (transformational justice);

8. Civil society approaches: Vulnerability and the rights and needs of the marginalised.

In addition, the Mary Robinson Foundation establishes seven climate justice principles[42] which can be used for focusing and helping categorise Climate Justice programming and refine the evaluation final ToC. The evaluation team categorised key activities under each principle from the literature review. Note, some activities may be cross-cutting across more than one principles.

Principle 1: Respect and protect human rights (cross-cutting; procedural/ transformative justice)

Principle 2: Support the right to development (distributive/transformative justice)

  • Strengthening existing local initiatives around climate change adaptation[43]

Principle 3: Share benefits and burdens equitably (distributive justice)

  • Strengthening community legal tools and growing the community of climate legal activists[44]
  • Advocacy and organising against the extractive industry (including climate litigation against fossil fuel companies)[45]
  • Advocacy for national and global climate mitigation policy that is just and reduces burdens on countries with the least contribution to climate change (including equitable climate finance)[46]

Principle 4: Ensure that decisions on climate change are participatory, transparent, and accountable (procedural/transformative justice)

  • Supporting collective action, networks and coalitions to create stronger negotiating positions around climate change[47]
  • Leadership development of women, youth, and indigenous leaders to build community resilience and work for climate justice[48]

Principle 5: Highlight gender equality and equity49 (procedural/transformative justice)

  • Ensuring gender equality and equity are considered at all stages of project development and implementation

Principle 6: Harness the transformative power of education for climate stewardship (transformative justice)

  • Awareness and information – promoting the idea of climate justice among policymakers, communities, and other stakeholders[50]

Principle 7: Use effective partnerships to secure climate justice (transformative justice)

  • Linking grassroots organisations and communities with NGOs and governments to create dialogues and participation in negotiations and policy formation[51]
  • Integration of climate issues and social justice issues – i.e. linking climate change and migration to ensure policies are not siloed[52]
  • Establishing working groups in government to focus on climate justice initiatives.

Bringing in Local Voices/Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement is a prominent feature of climate justice thinking. For some organisations, this means centring local community voices at the heart of their work, through mechanisms such as community ownership and participation in dialogues. In particular, these organisations incorporate procedural and transformative aspects of climate justice in their approach to project implementation, such as respecting indigenous ways, identifying and supporting climate leaders, transforming power relationships, providing training and mentoring on climate justice related issues and approaches, partnership building with regional influencers, local activists, citizens, COP 26 influencers, etc. and using an intersectional lens. A few organisations have involved communities' right from the design phase to ensure equity and ownership. For others,[53] there is more of a focus on distributional aspects of social justice than procedural, and these tend to be more Northern-led with less input from local communities. For example:

  • Mary Robinsons Foundation authored several case studies on participation with some examples of how to practically engage in local communities.[54]
  • Climate Justice Resilience Fund has also done a little bit of thinking on this, such as respecting indigenous ways, transforming power relationship, and using an intersectional lens.[55]
  • Other strategies identified were:
    • identify and support climate leaders, and provide training and mentoring (Climate Justice Programme);
    • partnership building with regional influencers, local activists, citizens, COP 26 influencers, etc.[56]
  • Other advocacy-type organisations, like the Climate Justice Alliance, are focused solely on centring these groups.

When focusing a project or programme around stakeholder engagement and raising local voices, understanding local context and power dynamics is important, especially when focusing on issues such as race and gender. Representation must also be meaningful, rather than ticking a box, as is often seen in climate adaptation and resilience programming. Mary Robinson Foundation breaks down engagement into three levels. Although it specifically refers to women, the concepts could be expanded more broadly to encompass all vulnerable groups.[57]

1. 'Presence: Women are present in decision-making fora but lack any agency or voice to affect change. Women are not supported with capacity building or networking to strengthen their knowledge or confidence. The environment is not conducive to gender equality.

2. Partial Participation: Women are present in decision making fora and have some agency or voice to affect change in limited areas particularly on topics traditionally associated with women such as women's health or childcare. Women may be supported with capacity building or networking to strengthen their knowledge or confidence. The environment is somewhat conducive to gender equality albeit in a limited way and as long as it does not negatively affect the powerbrokers (men).

3. Meaningful Participation: Women are present in decision-making fora and have agency and voice to affect change in all areas of decision-making. Women are supported with capacity building, networks and access to resources to strengthen their knowledge or confidence. The environment is conducive to gender equality and men are allies and partners in this process.'

How Influence is Occurring within Climate Justice

During its ten years' of implementation (2010-2019) the Mary Robinson Foundation was extremely influential in promoting the climate justice agenda through international fora and collaboration with a network of NGOs and governments, and their definition is widely used by other organisations.[58] For example, by introducing the concept of climate justice, establishing principles for its operationalisation and sharing information, it led other organisations to adopt climate justice approaches, or at least to understand the importance of centring people in climate change mitigation and adaptation programming. One of the main methods the Mary Robinson Foundation used was bringing local voices to high-level events to help bridge that gap. It also created the Glasgow Caledonian Centre for Climate Justice through a partnership to bridge the gap between climate science and social justice. Networks both between organisations, but also with local communities and government stakeholders, appear to be critical in increasing understanding of climate justice and influencing policy development at the international level.

Context is also important in terms of influence. For example, organisations focused on the US are rooted in environmental justice concepts of anti-racism specific to the US, and leverage existing work done across the country to create networks and synergies.[59]


There is very little specific mention of sustainability in programme documentation. However, there is some evidence of key strategies/approaches that would contribute to achieving sustained impact. For example, some organisations have a specific focus on capacity building of local communities, identifying climate leaders and strengthening local capacity to combat climate injustice,[60] which if successful can ensure these skills continue after funding stops. This includes providing support and training to local legal experts, signposting to human rights institutions, leadership development and training for women, youth, and indigenous leaders, and supporting collective action, networks and coalitions. Others focus on a just transition, which by nature seeks transformative long-term change. The Climate Justice Alliance provides a ToC on their website[61] that details the steps to long-term just change. Still others are working at the national and global level to advocate for just policy change and challenges against traditional climate finance,[62] which would ensure a longer-lasting impact.

Other Lessons

Climate justice work takes place at many levels – global, national, community, and individual. Much of the literature focused on grassroots advocacy and capacity building, with an aim towards transformative change from the ground up. Several of the papers reviewed advocate for global policy change around emissions targets and challenging traditional climate finance models that have a negative impact on Global South countries.[63] The key appears to be ensuring that work gets done at all these various levels, but also bridging the gaps and facilitating dialogues from the local to national and international levels, as advocated for by Mary Robinson Foundation.[64]

In terms of funding the work, IIED's policy brief[65] discusses the need for private sector contributions (recommended specifically for the Scottish Government's CJF), but the rest of the literature does not discuss this. Most work is either government-funded or funded by individual donations.



Back to top