Social justice in the context of climate policy: systematizing the variety of inequality dimensions, social impacts, and justice principles

Several streams of research have discussed important aspects of social inequalities and justice in the context of climate, energy, and environmental issues. However, there is often a narrow focus on specific aspects, bearing the risk that tensions and trade-offs for policy are easily overlooked, and sometimes involving a loose, implicit, inconsistent, or uncritical use of the term justice. I argue to clearly separate the empirical analysis of inequalities from their normative assessment, and to adequately consider the large variety of potentially relevant inequalities as well as the variety of justice principles. In support of such an approach, this article suggests categorizations of (1) basic dimensions of social inequality in the context of climate and environment; (2) different social impacts of climate and environmental policies; and (3) different justice principles. The overall aim is to have typologies and an organizing framework at hand that help to systematically identify a broad range of inequalities which can then be discussed against different justice principles. This shall allow a better detection of intersectionality and policy trade-offs as well as broader-based normative judgments in research and in policy assessments (evaluations).