Targets for planetary stability need to be both safe and just

Why should social scientists engage in environmental target setting? This question is discussed by researchers in the Earth Commission’s Transformations Working Group in the article Reconciling safe planetary targets and planetary justice in the journal Earth System Governance. Led by professor Joyeeta Gupta, co-chair of the Earth Commission, the group highlights the need to consider justice and human well-being when setting boundaries or targets to preserve ecosystems and the stability of the planet.

Transgressing planetary boundaries may lead to existential harm to humans that will be impacted by collapsing ecosystems and the effects of climate change, for example. But at the same time, meeting environmental targets might have implications for human well-being, as this may reduce access to resources for poor people in vulnerable situations. In the paper, Gupta and her colleagues from a wide range of countries and with various expertises, assess a range of views on planetary justice and present three arguments associated with why social scientists should engage with safe targets:

First, setting safe planetary targets is necessary from a justice perspective as humans depend on nature. Second, safe planetary targets need to be modified to ensure transformative, planetary justice, and third, it can be legitimate for scholars to qualify safe planetary targets by proposing that they also be just.

In summary, the group argues that “complementing safe targets with just targets offers a fruitful approach for considering synergies and trade-offs between environmental and social aspirations and can inform inclusive deliberation on these important issues”.

Access the full article here.