Avoiding climate Apartheid: Climate Justice as a Necessary Condition for Equitable Transformational Adaptation

Cristy Clark, Paul Mitchell

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review


As climate change impacts intensify so too is the research, policy, and implementation focus on adaptation. To date, however, the majority of approaches to adaptation policy development and implementation have focused on an incremental adjustments approach, often activated via mainstreaming climate change risks and resilience building into existing social and economic development systems and processes. This incremental approach holds a serious risk of locking in maladaptive development-as-usual pathways, which would undermine the lives and livelihoods of millions of people, particularly the poor and climate vulnerable. This chapter argues that in order to achieve climate justice, adaptation must move beyond an incrementalist approach to pursue to genuine transformational change. The concept of transformational adaptation is emerging as the scale of the challenge becomes clearer. However, transformational adaptation is not likely to be easily implementable or politically feasible, due to its potential to threaten the status quo. In this context, mainstreaming could serve as a critical pathway from incremental to transformational adaptation, in order to facilitate the shift to equitable and locally led climate resilient development. While this would be a pragmatic approach, the potential remains that it will continue with top-down, technocratic processes, which would have ongoing implications for the distribution of power and resources. This chapter argues that, in order to achieve climate justice, any pathways to transformational adaptation must incorporate a human rights approach to guide its development and implementation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of Climate Resilient Societies
EditorsRobert Brears
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9783030328115
ISBN (Print)9783030424619
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Apr 2021


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