Climate Justice Additionality Defined

The Concept of additionality: The concept of climate justice additionality originates from the fields of climate finance and climate change mitigation. This notion emphasizes that intervention strategies should not exclusively focus on the reduction and offsetting of greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, they should also consider the social and environmental implications on communities that are disproportionately affected by climate change.

Climate justice upholds an ethical and moral perspective. It dictates that interventions should not concentrate solely on curbing emissions but must also compensate for the costs incurred by communities vulnerable to climate change.  Particularly those communities comprised of small-holder farmers who do not have the resources to switch to activities that can promote resilience.

Climate JusticeAdditionality in the context of carbon markets: The term “additionality” is commonly used in the context of carbon markets. It pertains to the notion that interventions are deemed “additional” if they lead to emissions reductions or avoidance exceeding those that would have occurred in the absence of the project’s implementation, where the financial incentives provided by the project are the primary drivers for the changes in land use or management practices. These actions are considered to go above and beyond standard regulatory requirements (often referred to as a ‘regulatory surplus’). In essence, a project is evaluated as making a real and measurable impact on emissions reduction if it exhibits these qualities. For example, a forest in Papua New Guinea is under threat from logging and a protection program enables the standing forest to remain. The carbon that would have been emitted during deforestation remains in the intact forest and is referred to and qualifies as being additional. Climate justice additionality extends the concept of additionality, by emphasizing the imperative to ensure that climate interventions fulfill technical additionality criteria and address both social and environmental justice issues. This concept stipulates that projects should go beyond merely reducing and offsetting emissions; they should actively augment the well-being and resilience of vulnerable communities, particularly those most affected by climate change. Therefore, climate justice additionality can be defined as the differential in coping capacity between a stakeholder community that has benefited from an investment in resilience-related activities (e.g., moving to regenerative agriculture) and a community that has not been exposed to similar project interventions.
Key Principles: The key principles of climate justice additionality are:
  1. Equity: Projects should primarily aim to benefit communities that have historically contributed minimally to climate change yet bear the brunt of its effects. These are also the communities that are most likely to be stewards of the lands and run the highest risk and loss if their land is lost or degraded. These communities often lack the resources and capacities needed to adapt to climate impacts. Consequently, they should receive priority when it comes to project design and payment of climate finance. Their engagement should be governed through a Free Prior and Informed Process (FPIC).
  2. Inclusivity: Decision-making processes and planning for climate projects should actively involve the communities affected. This ensures that project goals align with the communities’ genuine needs and priorities, thereby making them more effective and sustainable. We are particularly concerned about those small/medium enterprises who drive employment and uptake of new climate technologies but must do it on their own because they are too small for big interventions.
  3. Co-benefits: Climate projects should promote additional benefits beyond emissions reduction and offsetting. These co-benefits may include increased local revenue and employment opportunities, enhanced biodiversity conservation, better air and water quality, and improved household and community resilience to climate shocks and disasters such as droughts and floods.
  4. Avoiding harm: Climate projects should also avoid exacerbating existing social inequalities or harm to vulnerable communities and their wellbeing especially those that impact the lives of women.
  5. Just transition: Climate projects also need to ensure, where relevant, a fair and equitable transition from high-carbon to low-carbon economies, so that workers and communities reliant on high-emission industries are not left behind, but instead gain access to new opportunities within a more sustainable economy.

Why is this important? By actively considering and designing a carbon project that promotes and achieves climate justice additionality, an investor de-risks the overall project by tying the long-term successful sequestering of carbon to a communities well-being.  It’s a triple win: for the investor, for the climate, and for the community.

Final note: By incorporating climate justice additionality into climate action strategies and financial mechanisms, there is a greater potential to address not only the environmental aspects of climate change, but also its moral and ethical dimensions for people and their communities. This integration fosters a more inclusive and sustainable approach to addressing the global climate crisis.


  • Hank Cauley

    An engineer who later got a business degree to achieve social and environmental justice through existing economic structures. He’s started or built many organizations and projects. Hank lives in Falls Church, VA, with his wife and is an avid bee-keeper.

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