MSc colloquium by Louise Gleyen: Climate Justice movements and their impacts on environmental policy

Published on
December 1, 2020

You are hereby cordially invited to the MSc thesis presentation by Louise Gleyen entitled ‘Climate Justice movements and their impacts on environmental policy: a Gilets Jaunes case study’.

Supervisor: Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen
Examinor:  Katrien Termeer

Date: 1 December 2020
Time: 09.30 hours

Click here for the MS Teams link


Emerged spontaneously in November 2018 as a reaction to carbon tax hikes, the Gilets Jaunes movement bewildered by its timespan, unusual form, and the extent of their demands. While the protesters have been labelled as “anti-ecological” due to their rejection of the carbon tax, the movement quickly became a symbol of the lack of well-being of the population and a call for a more inclusive and egalitarian public policy. Indeed, French protestors mostly pointed out the lack of fairness and justice that came with the measure, instead of the idea of carbon taxation itself. This research aims at providing an academic interpretation of the Gilets Jaunes movement, as mostly press articles have been focussing on the subject and academic literature remains scarce. First, the motives of the Gilets Jaunes are investigated and analysed to assess whether they can be characterized as a climate justice movement. Then, the fallouts of the dissent on French environmental policies are delineated. Research shows that the movement displays a strong affinity for social justice principles, coupled to environmental awareness and an overbearing desire for a better inclusion in the political process. These characteristics allow to describe the Gilets Jaunes as a climate justice movement. On the other hand, the protests led to a modification of the French environmental policies – and of the political process in general. While the outcomes are manifold, the main victory of the Gilets Jaunes turns out to be a greater inclusion in the political process through the creation of instances of deliberative democracy (e.g. the Grand Débat National), which is unprecedented in the history of the French fifth Republic. The movement also seems to have infused some climate justice principles in the political discourse. While one will have to wait to see if words are matched with deeds, it appears as a first step in the direction of more climate justice in France. Based on these findings, two ways of enhancing climate justice in environmental policy are offered. First, climate justice activism can be stimulated through appropriate education, which would increase the pressure on policymakers to incorporate climate justice principles in their decisions and create a “virtuous cycle” of climate justice. Secondly, the development of networks of polycentric climate governance is suggested, as it is thought to be able to generate climate justice in society and policymaking. These propositions pave the way for several leads of future research, for instance appropriate education for climate justice, or furthering the links between polycentricity and climate justice.