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As global consumption of resources and human populations increase, the search for energy and materials cause the “commodity frontiers” to expand. Along the entire global chain of production, from extraction, to processing, to disposal, the impacts of pollution are distributed unequally among populations. Those most heavily impacted are marginalized sectors of the population including poor people, women, minorities and particularly indigenous peoples, who depend most directly on natural resources for their livelihood. Environmental Justice Organisations (EJOs) are civil society organisations involved in conflicts over resource extraction or waste disposal, focusing on the link between the need for environmental security and the defence of basic human rights with the aim to redress inequitable environmental burdens.

The Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade is an FP7 project supported by the European Commission that will run from 2011-2015. The project supports the work of Environmental Justice Organisations, uniting scientists, activist organisations, think-tanks, policy-makers from the fields of environmental law, environmental health, political ecology, ecological economics, to talk about issues related to Ecological Distribution. Central concepts are Ecological Debts (or Environmental Liabilities) and Ecologically Unequal Exchange. We focus on the use of these concepts in science and in environmental activism and policy-making.

The Action Plan

The Action Plan of EJOLT comprises the production of databases, networking platforms, mutual casemstudy development, workshops, possible legal actions, policy papers, dissemination of best practices, round-table events, and training materials on environmental conflicts for EJOs, other stakeholders and policy-makers, geared to a key issue of great immediate interest to society, namely:

Which are the underlying causes of increasing ecological distribution conflicts at different scales, and how to turn such conflicts into forces for environmental sustainability?

This entails:

  • To compile a large database, ‘The Map of Environmental Justice’, that will comprise an atlas of thematic and regional maps covering ecological distribution conflicts around the world, drawing on activist knowledge and linking them with material trade flows among other variables, and providing a platform for communication among EJOs and scientists working on related issues.
  • To make available the latest knowledge on indicators of social metabolism for the analysis of the environmental impacts of nuclear energy, oil and gas extraction, biomass extraction, mining and ship breaking and e-waste, focusing on the whole ‘commodity chains’ (from extraction to waste disposal or recovery).
  • To unveil some of the socio-environmental and public health impacts which are invisible to the consumers in the main resource importing and waste exporting countries, and to empower stakeholders to monitor and understand risks to environmental health.
  • To apply methodologies that allow the study of the valuation languages deployed in ecological distribution conflicts, particularly related to environmental liabilities.
  • To improve the basis for EJOs to undertake legal actions regarding environmental liabilities or campaign for institutional changes in corporate accountability.
  • To develop the basis for EJOs to use notions and methods of calculation of ecologically unequal exchange and ecological debt.
  • To hold workshops and develop an online resource library for EJOs on political ecology and public policies, environmental health (including popular epidemiology), ecologically unequal trade and the ecological debt, and legal redress.
  • To translate project findings into concrete policy proposals to be communicated to decision makers in European, international institutions and corporate bodies. The emphasis of the recommendations will be on increasing corporate accountability and on legal institutional mechanisms to seek alternatives to and minimize harmful resource extraction and waste disposal.

Click here to know about our work areas.

Professor Jennifer Clapp (Waterloo University, Canada) is the external evaluator of the EJOLT project. On September 29, 2012, she finished the Evaluation Report for the first 18 months (April 2011 – September 2012). We publish it here.

The final report of the EJOLT project, which ended on 14 March 2015, can be found here.

What are Environmental Justice Organisations?

EJOs are civil society groups involved in conflicts over resource extraction or waste disposal, which increase as the world economy uses more materials and energy. Costs of economic growth and development are dispro- portionately borne by the most socially and economically vulnerable sections of society, who often lack the political power to resist displacement, dispossession or exposure to environmental health risks. By giving these people a voice, EJOs practice "environmentalism of the poor". Click here to learn more on the 23 universities and EJOs in this project and here to subscribe to our newsletter.