An agenda for ethics and justice in adaptation to climate change

Morten Byskov, Keith Hyams, Poshendra Satyal, Lisa Benjamin, Sophie Blackburn, Maud Borie, Simon Caney, Eric Chu, Gareth A. S. Edwards, Kristel Fourie, Arabella Fraser, Clare Heyward, Helen Jeans, Colin McQuistan, Jouni Paavola, Edward Page, Mark Pelling, Sally Priest, Krystyna Swiderska, Marcela TarazonaThomas Thornton, John Twigg, Alice Venn

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As experts predict that at least some irreversible climate change will occur with potentially disastrous effects on the lives and well-being of vulnerable communities around the world, it is paramount to ensure that these communities are resilient and have adaptive capacity to withstand the consequences. Adaptation and resilience planning present several ethical issues that need to be resolved if we are to achieve successful adaptation and resilience to climate change, taking into consideration vulnerabilities and inequalities in terms of power, income, gender, age, sexuality, race, culture, religion, and spatiality. Sustainable adaptation and resilience planning that addresses these ethical issues requires interdisciplinary dialogues between the natural sciences, social sciences, and philosophy, in order to integrate empirical insights on socioeconomic inequality and climate vulnerability with ethical analysis of the underlying causes and consequences of injustice in adaptation and resilience. In this paper, we set out an interdisciplinary research agenda for the inclusion of ethics and justice theories in adaptation and resilience planning, particularly into the Sixth Assessment Report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR6). We present six core discussions that we believe should be an integral part of these interdisciplinary dialogues on adaptation and resilience as part of IPCC AR6, especially Chapters 2 (“Terrestial and freshwater ecosystems and their services”), 6 (“Cities, settlements and key infrastructure”), 7 (“Health, wellbeing and the changing structure of communities”), 8 (“Poverty, livelihoods and sustainable development”), 16 “Key risks across sectors and regions”), 17 (“Decision-making options for managing risk”), and 18 (“Climate resilient development pathways”).: (i) Where does ‘justice’ feature in resilience and adaptation planning and what does it require in that regard?; (ii) How can it be ensured that adaptation and resilience strategies protect and take into consideration and represent the interest of the most vulnerable women and men, and communities?; (iii) How can different forms of knowledge be integrated within adaptation and resilience planning?; (iv) What trade-offs need to be made when focusing on resilience and adaptation and how can they be resolved?; (v) What roles and responsibilities do different actors have to build resilience and achieve adaptation?; (vi) Finally, what does the focus on ethics imply for the practice of adaptation and resilience planning?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalClimate and Development
Issue number1
Early online date21 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021


  • Climate adaptation
  • IPCC
  • ethics
  • justice
  • resilience

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