Environmental Justice

Alongside our work on environmental democracy through the Aarhus Convention and our activities on enforcement of existing environmental legislation, the EEB also works on governance innovation and environmental justice at both the grass roots and the meta-level. By joining forces with academics and activists in the field, in writing aspirational policy recommendations and networking with knowledgeable policy innovators in and out the EU, we aim to look beyond the current policy agenda and set out the contours of a paradigm shift. We do this work at both the European and International level.

The concept of environmental (in)justice arose from the fact that some communities or human groups are disproportionately subjected to higher levels of environmental risk than other segments of society. Growing concern over unequal environmental burdens and mounting evidence of both racial and economic injustices led to the emergence of a grassroots civil rights campaign for environmental justice in the 1980s in the United States (Bullard, 1994). The concept was taken up by philosophers in the 1990s, and then sociologists, geographers, economists and politicians took interest. Now an international Environmental Justice Movement is flourishing, having emerged out of various struggles, events and social movements worldwide. Theory and practice of environmental justice necessarily includes distributive conceptions of justice, but also embraces notions of justice based in recognition, participation and capabilities (Schlosberg, 2007).


Environmentalism of the poor


The so called Environmentalism of the Poor (EOP) has the potential to become a main driving force for achieving an ecologically sustainable society. Until recently, environmentalism was seen as a preserve of the rich or northern societies while EOP was often overlooked as a movement more motivated by social issues and survival than concerned with the environment. The key to truly empowering EOP and taking advantage of its inherent qualities is allowing the poor a more equitable and participatory role in the global sustainable development agenda. To this end, alliances between North and South will help ensure better global environmental governance by giving the South a stronger and fairer role in the future development of the global community, which will be the challenge in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. More on our work in this field is here. Many scientific concepts used to achieve justice are born in civil society movements, as this paper illustrates. Other important references are Martinez Alier's book 'The Environmentalism of the Poor' and a paper by Iain Davey on Environmentalism of the poor and Sustainable Development. The EEB wants to put those ideas into practise.

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Project Officer

Tel: + 32 (0) 2 790 88 15


April 2, 2015
Metamorphosis #74
December 17, 2014
Metamorphosis #73
April 11, 2014
Metamorphosis #71
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