Climate Justice

Building a Strong Foundation for Climate Justice: Learnings and Insights

At Nature For Justice (N4J), we’re working with global and local partners to lay the foundation for climate justice.

Our work is evolving quickly:

Across several African countries, we are building partnerships to identify and support carbon projects that (1) deploy nature-based solutions (NbS) and (2) channel meaningful benefits for participating communities. We are currently screening and co-creating projects through various tools, such as our Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis, with approximately 10 carbon projects about to enter or pass the Project Identification Note (PIN) stage.

The N4J U.S. program is taking shape as we expand our relationships and networks with BIPOC farmers and prepare to kick off our U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program to help BIPOC farmers access new resources and support to build their resilience to climate change.

In Canada, we have just finished participating in a gathering hosted by the Restore Assert Defend (RAD) Network, focused on exploring financing pathways for Indigenous-led conservation. In Canada, our work focuses on harnessing carbon markets and NbS to unlock new sources of finance for Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs).

Across our global programs, we’ve seen a few common themes:

Start with the Basics: Carbon 101

One of the major barriers to entry for frontline communities and their organizational representatives is a lack of technical knowledge. Without a clear understanding of how carbon projects work and what is expected of them, communities may be hesitant to participate — or, if they do engage, they may be in a weaker position to advocate for their interests. At the RAD gathering last week in eastern Canada—which included representatives from a range of Indigenous communities— the demand for a clear, accessible, and actionable introduction to carbon markets came through loud and clear. 

Providing Carbon 101 training to partners has proven helpful in preparing them for complex deals and ensuring they know their rights. This is especially important for Indigenous communities, who may have limited experience with carbon projects and need to be able to make informed decisions.

Carbon Is Just the Catalyst

Carbon projects, both avoidance and removal, have the potential to bring about much-needed changes in land management. However, carbon funds must be used for conserving biodiversity, protecting ecosystem services, generating jobs, and improving health to ensure that the benefits of the projects are sustainable at the local level. It is not enough to focus solely on carbon reduction or removal. The overall impact of the projects must be considered to ensure that they are truly beneficial for the communities involved.

Ensure Climate Justice Additionality

Carbon additionality is crucial for achieving the goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but climate justice additionality is equally important. Climate justice additionality means ensuring that carbon projects positively impact frontline communities and that benefits are shared fairly. By using carbon as a catalyst for achieving climate justice, we can ensure that these projects have a lasting impact on the environment and the people in it.

Climate Justice
Think 3 Generations Forward

High discount rates, short-term thinking, and failure to value natural capital assets contributed by local communities threaten the long-term success of climate justice programs. It is essential to think about the impact of our actions not just in the present but also in the future. Let’s face it, few of us will be here in three generations to see what the fruits of our labor will be. But we can sow the seeds and shape the landscape.

Building local groups’ managerial and technical capacity to adapt is a critical step toward achieving long-term resilience. By investing in the future, we can ensure that the benefits of our work are felt for generations to come.

Innovate to a Specific End

Reducing the cycle time from project inception to credit issuance and measuring progress through a climate resilience index are innovative solutions that can help facilitate an adaptive management approach. The use of AI to expedite the cycle time process is one example of how technology can be used to make the process more efficient. The climate resilience index can help us to understand how communities are changing and what is working or not, enabling us to adapt more quickly to needed changes. By innovating in this way, we can create more sustainable and effective climate justice programs.

Building a Foundation for Climate Justice

Achieving climate justice requires a sustained effort that prioritizes the needs of frontline communities. By building technical capacity and understanding, valuing natural capital assets, looking beyond carbon, and innovating for the future, we can build a foundation for climate justice that is truly sustainable. 

By continuing to work together and prioritize the needs of the people most affected by climate change, we can create a more just and equitable future for all.


  • 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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