Climate Justice

Climate change is real, and its impact on our world is growing. As global temperatures warm and ice caps melt, weather patterns are becoming more dramatic, oceans are rising, and people are feeling the effects. While the developed world—by far the bigger contributor to the crisis—discusses action, those most affected by climate change—the rural, the poor, and indigenous peoples—are the least able to influence global climate policy negotiations. They are excluded from decision-making about their future.

These marginalized communities deserve to have their voices heard. Those on the front lines of climate change possess key knowledge, creativity, and direct incentive to address this global threat. Including these grassroots perspectives is essential to developing viable and just climate policies. We need more than global action on climate change—we need climate justice.

The Greengrants Climate Program supports grassroots solutions to climate threats.  We partner with groups working to adapt to and mitigate these threats, whether through local projects or international conferences. We are supporting local leaders at the forefront of grassroots climate action.

Communities in vulnerable regions (coastal areas, wetlands, deserts, rural agricultural areas, arctic regions, and alpine zones) need strategies to adapt to climatic changes. In working to protect these ecologically sensitive areas, we focus on building capacity for adaptation by:

It’s estimated that by 2050, 150-200 million people will have become climate refugees

  • strengthening local leadership and institutions
  • developing ecological management strategies specific to the affected region
  • sharing knowledge among communities facing similar challenges

Effective and inclusive climate change adaptation requires strong grassroots organizations linked to broader networks. Adaptation resources and policies developed by governments must incorporate local knowledge and benefit the communities most affected by climate change.

The Tuvalu Association of NGOs


Located between Hawaii and Australia, the tiny island nation of Tuvalu is already facing the threats of climate change. Rising ocean levels and shifting weather conditions have already damaged coastlines. Since the nation’s highest altitude is only 4.5 meters, changes in sea level pose a serious threat to Tuvalu’s continued existence.

A climate-awareness session hosted by TANGO

With a series of four Greengrants grants, the Tuvalu Association of NGOs (TANGO) has devoted itself to spreading awareness among the citizens of Tuvalu and helping them to adapt to their changing environment. Grant money has been used to initiate school programs and educate residents on the effects of climate change. Grants have also been used to conserve vital coastline forest; the group has restored groves of endemic trees on the windward coast of the island of Niutao to reduce erosion and flooding and to increase food productivity.

Mitigation is the effort to reduce the impact and severity of climate change; it is also a central part of climate justice. In order to mitigate climate change, we support local groups who are:

  • taking action against fossil fuel development in their communities
  • advocating for carbon-free alternatives
  • developing zero waste and anti-incineration initiatives
  • actively participating in energy conservation

Learn more about how we’re helping communities shape mitigation policies like the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) program by clicking on the REDD tab above.


The Management Committee for Mocal Hydroelectric Construction in Tómala, Lempira

Annual emissions from all developing countries are projected to surpass those of developed countries between 2013 and 2018


In developing countries, energy production often brings pollution and exploitation. The Management Committee is fighting that trend in Honduras with a community development project to generate and sell clean energy. The organization is funding micro-hydroelectric projects on the Mocal River as a sustainable means of generating energy; profits from the sale of energy wil then be used to support sustainable development in the area. With a $2,600 grant from Greengrants, the organization is building the capacity of the community organization responsible for managing the project. Together, we’re empowering local, carbon-reducing solutions to energy development in Honduras.

The United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) is one of the most controversial new mitigation efforts in the international battle against climate change. The program calls for forest owners, companies, and governments in the Global South to be compensated for preserving their countries’ forests. If forests are given a monetary value, they and their incredible carbon filtering capacity might be preserved. However, activists and local leaders are worried that REDD could have severe consequences if local people are denied a voice in its development. 

The potential problems of the plan include:

  • The role of indigenous peoples and communities: These are the people who have protected forests and made their livelihoods from sustainable use of forest resources. The plan is unclear about their role in a monetized system of stewardship.
  • Definition of forests: The UN definition of forests does not distinguish between forests and plantations. Thus, REDD may unintentionally give countries incentive (even monetary compensation) to cut down their native forests and replant them with monoculture tree plantations. 
  • Corruption: With monetary incentives to mitigate climate change come corrupted desires to cheat the system. Corruption could run rampant as large amounts of money are funneled through corrupt governments and as banking systems explore REDD as a means to make greater profits.
  • Is REDD really a solution? Some experts worry that REDD would do nothing to offset climate change. They argue that REDD would only create a substitute for emission reductions in developed countries, at the expense of developing countries.

For more information on REDD and its possible consequences, see REDD-Monitor, a grassroots blog that critically analyzes the problems related to REDD and “avoided deforestation.”


Timberwatch Coalition

South Africa
Since 2003, Greengrants has been supporting South Africa’s Timberwatch Coalition in its efforts to monitor the environmental and social impacts of industrial timber plantations. In 2010, a Greengrants grant for $5,000 helped the organization raise awareness about the negative social and environmental impacts of large-scale tree plantations by holding a workshop about these plantations in the Eastern Cape. The remainder of funds covered the costs of network building—the organization was able to send a member to the Commonwealth Forestry Conference in Scotland. By empowering local communities with knowledge about monoculture forests and by meeting with other key organizations, Timberwatch is enabling its community to take a stand on REDD and against unsustainable forest policies. 

Samuel Nnah Ndobe, Greengrants advisor and founding member of the Accra Caucus

The Accra Caucus is a network of nongovernmental organizations formed at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Accra, Ghana in 2008. The coalition represents around 100 civil society and indigenous peoples’ organizations from 38 countries. The group is investigating the effects of the REDD proposal and its alternatives. The mission of the Accra Caucus is to place the rights of indigenous and forest communities at the center of REDD negotiations. The group also seeks to ensure that efforts to reduce deforestation promote good governance (and are not a substitute for emission reductions in industrialized countries).

Our grantees are working closely with Accra Caucus to ensure their communities have a voice in their country’s REDD programs. Samuel Nnah Ndobe (left) is a founding member of the Accra Caucus and one of our International Financial Institutions Advisory Board members.

Fighting for Climate Justice at COP16: A Discussion from the Grassroots Perspective

Climate change is a serious threat. As global temperatures warm and ice caps melt, weather patterns are becoming more dramatic, oceans are rising, and people are feeling the effects. While the developed world—by far the bigger contributor to the crisis—discusses action, those most affected by climate change — the rural, the poor, and indigenous peoples — are the least able to influence global climate policy negotiations. They are excluded from decisions about their own future. As such, participation by grassroots organizations at conferences such as COP16 is critical, giving a voice to those individuals and organizations that may not otherwise be heard. To listen to the call recorded on December 10, 2010, click here. To read a transcript of the call click here.