An initial scoping of transitional justice for global climate governance

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11 Scopus citations


Geopolitical changes combined with the increasing urgency of ambitious climate action have re-opened debates about justice and international climate policy. Tensions about historical responsibility have been particularly difficult and could intensify with increased climate impacts and as developing countries face mounting pressure to take mitigation action. Climate change is not the only time humans have faced historically rooted, collective action challenges involving justice disputes. Practices and tools from transitional justice have been used in over 30 countries across a range of conflicts at the interface of historical responsibility and imperatives for collective futures. Central to this body of theory and experience is the need to reflect both backwards- and forwards-oriented elements in efforts to build social solidarity. Lessons from transitional justice theory and practice have not been systematically explored in the climate context. This article conceptually examines the potential of transitional justice practices to inform global climate governance by looking at the structural similarities and differences between the global climate regime and traditional transitional justice contexts. It then identifies a suite of common transitional justice practices and assesses their potential applicability in the climate context. POLICY RELEVANCE Justice disputes, including about historical responsibility and future climate actions, are long-standing in the climate context and could intensify with increased climate impacts and broadened mitigation pressures. Lessons from efforts to use transitional justice mechanisms could provide insight into strategies for balancing recognition of harms rooted in the past, while creating stronger future-oriented collective action. Several areas of transitional justice practice including: the combination of amnesties and litigation, truth commissions, reparations and institutional change could provide useful insights for the climate context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)752-765
Number of pages14
JournalClimate Policy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 3 2018


  • Climate regime
  • governance
  • historical responsibility
  • justice
  • negotiations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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