Applying earth system justice to phase out fossil fuels: learning from the injustice of adopting 1.5 °C over 1 °C

Joyeeta Gupta*, Yang Chen, David I.Armstrong Mckay, Paola Fezzigna, Giuliana Gentile, Aljoscha Karg, Luc van Vliet, Steven J. Lade, Lisa Jacobson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Paris Agreement has seen the adoption of a 1.5° to 2 °C climate target, based on the belief that climate change becomes ‘dangerous’ above this level. Since then, the scientific community and the countries most affected by global warming have reiterated that the maximum limit to be reached should be 1.5 °C. This paper goes one step further by questioning the reasoning behind the adoption of these targets, arguing that the fossil fuel-dependent political context in which they were adopted has undermined justice concerns. We highlight the political influence of the fossil fuels industry within target-setting negotiations, analyzing the evolution of climate targets and fossil fuel lobbying. We then harness published scientific evidence and the Earth System Justice framework to analyze the impacts of the 1.5 °C target, and the injustices that have so far been implicitly deemed acceptable. We argue that 1 °C would have been a far more just target and was undermined by vested interests and status quo maintenance. Finally, we propose just supply-side policies to ensure an adequate placement of responsibility on the fossil fuel industry. This way we (a) identify political influences and scientific blind spots that have and could continue to hinder climate action, (b) reveal how these influences delayed more ambitious climate objectives, contributing to the adoption of an unjust climate target, and (c) promote a focus on supply-side measures and polluting industries in order to break free from the impasse in the energy transition and foster more just outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-255
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Feb 2024


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