Publications

Equity, justice and the SDGs: Lessons learnt from two decades of INEA scholarship

Gupta, Joyeeta; Gupta, Aarti; Vegelin, Courtney

Summary

Environmental justice issues have been incrementally but consistently covered within this journal in the last two decades. This article reviews theoretical and empirical approaches to justice in INEA scholarship in order to identify trends and draw lessons for the interpretation and implementation of the 2030 Agenda and for living within environmental limits. Our review traces how justice considerations were initially covered within new institutionalist scholarship on collective action and social practices, to conceptualizing justice as ‘access and allocation’, to newer notions of planetary justice. We link these trends to scholarship on diverse epistemologies and typologies of justice, including conservative, corrective, distributive and procedural justice, and examine their operationalization within the empirical domains of climate, water and sustainable development. In concluding, we draw out implications for the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. We argue that a just approach is essential to living within environmental limits, with greater synergies needed between collective action and social practice approaches. While justice can be unpacked for practical and political reasons into access and allocation, we find that (procedural) access considerations are more politically palatable in practice than a concern with allocation (distributive justice), which remains much more contested. As such, dominant approaches promote ‘conservative’ or thin market-based notions of justice. We conclude by noting that just allocation is a precondition to just access. A failure to prioritize and achieve more corrective and distributive forms of justice will, without doubt, contribute to exacerbating global ecological degradation.