No climate justice without peace, No peace without liberation

World conflicts and the environmental crisis are inherently linked. The violence and humanitarian injustices that can be seen globally not only have many of the same root causes as climate change but contribute to it. There is a need for unification amongst climate action and calls for justice in global conflicts as environmental and humanitarian issues become increasingly intertwined.

Photo by Markus Spiske

Eyes on Palestine

On October 7th, 2023, Hamas militants killed 1,200 people in Israel and took more than 200 hostages, according to the Israeli government.¹ Since then, the Israeli government offense has killed over 34,000 people in Gaza and starved more than 2 million Gazans of food, water, fuel, medical care, and safety.¹ The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has described it as the “unprecedented and unparalleled” loss of innocent civilian life and the United Nations believes that war crimes have been committed by both parties.¹ The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is examining whether Israel has committed genocide in its Gaza offensive, however, this will take years to decide and Israel continues to reject the charge.² Although unable to provide a final ruling yet, on January 26th, 2024, the ICJ ordered Israel to take measures to prevent genocide in Gaza, yet forms of ethnic cleansing continue.²


Along with the continuous bombardment of innocent civilians, Palestinians continue to suffer from increasing discrimination, in the form of a humanitarian crisis, such as the water apartheid, as 97% of Gaza’s scarce water is unfit for human consumption.³ As well, the destruction and transformation of agricultural communities through the seizure of land, an imposed famine, and a lack of access to fuel have resulted in the total shutdown of wastewater treatment plants, putting millions of Gazans at risk of water-borne illnesses. Most recently, over 1 million Palestinians have been crammed into Rafah, a place that was supposed to offer refuge, but is now under threat of a ground invasion after continuous barrages of airstrikes by Israeli forces.

Photo by Hosny Salah

In addition to the devastating toll on human life and Palestinian culture, this crisis has also resulted in massive environmental impacts. The shutdown of wastewater treatment plants has led to the daily release of over 130,000 cubic meters of untreated sewage into the Mediterranean Sea, creating devastating impacts on ocean ecosystems. The destruction of tens of thousands of buildings alongside the usage of chemical weapons such as white phosphorus, has been incredibly polluting of both the air and water and has created a toxic environment to which all Gazans are unavoidably exposed to. The physical and emotional toll of these acts will take years to heal from and the carbon cost of rebuilding will also be immense. 

Photo by Hosny Salah

In terms of carbon emissions, the 25,000 tons of explosives dropped on Gaza in the first 60 days alone emitted over 281,000 metric tons of carbon – which is already far higher than the annual emissions of many countries in the Global South. The bombings have also destroyed Gazans’ efforts to become climate-resilient and energy-independent. Before October 7, 60% of Gaza’s energy came from solar power.³ Meanwhile, 97.7 percent of Israel’s electricity production comes from fossil fuels, and Israel is still seeking to extract natural gas and generate electricity from fossil fuels from the “levant Basin” reserves, even after October 7th.³


Looking Globally

These issues of environmental and humanitarian injustice are not limited to Israel and Palestine, as ties between the climate crisis, humanitarian crisis, and violent conflict can be seen globally


According to UN estimates over 10,000 civilians have been killed and over 18,500 have been injured since Russia launched its full-scale armed attack against Ukraine in February 2022. Ruslan Strilets, Ukraine's environmental protection minister, claimed that the war has led directly to 77 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in 18 months, and that rebuilding Ukraine will cause significantly more emissions, including up to 49 million tons of carbon dioxide. The government also claims that approximately 600 animal species and 750 plant and fungi species are under threat.⁷ 

Photo by Wilfried Pohnke

Ukrainians are facing their own humanitarian crisis as they have been stripped of resources to meet basic needs, almost a million people displaced, and a UN report has found continued evidence of war crimes and human rights violations committed by Russian authorities in Ukraine, including torture, rape and the deportation of children.⁹



Meanwhile, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as Tutsi-led M23 rebels violently claim more territory, displacing millions, there are the same echoes of violent conflict rooted in a battle to control natural resources.¹⁰ The DRC, along with much of central Africa, is rich with natural resources, such as cobalt and coltan, that are used in technology we depend on in Canada (ex. phones, electric cars).¹⁰ The exploitation of these resources among others is driving environmental degradation, human rights abuses, war crimes, violence, and genocide.¹⁰

Image sourced from Canva

The DRC continues to fight the long-lasting impacts of colonialism driven by land grabs as western-based multinational corporations fund and fuel conflict to maintain access and control over resources while ensuring the people remain desperate enough to give their labour to warlords and corporations to survive.¹ Reports of child labour and other serious human rights abuses in the mining sector remain widespread, and these offenses only become harder to address amidst rampant corruption and a humanitarian crisis. Even so-called peace-keeping forces deployed to the DRC are there primarily to protect the interests of mining capital.¹⁰ Meanwhile over half a million Congolese people are experiencing emergency levels of food insecurity, and hundreds of thousands of people facing violent attacks and displacement



The brutal year-long war in Sudan between the once-allied Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) has left more than 7.8 million people displaced since April 2023.¹¹ At least 14,000 people have been killed and more than 26,000 injured, though innocent civilian casualties continue to rise.¹¹ Sudan was already experiencing a grave humanitarian crisis before the conflict broke out, with more than 15 million people facing severe food insecurity and more than 3.7 million internally displaced persons.¹² 

Image sourced from Canva

Loss of life and declining living conditions have only been intensified by the growing impacts of climate change, and the conflict has made it more difficult to take action for environmental and humanitarian aid. The U.S., for its part, has accused both sides of war crimes and the RSF of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity but has seen little progress in its efforts to help broker peace.¹²


(Keep an eye out for more blogs on these topics!)


A Call for Justice

There is a lot more that can be said about these examples of environmental and humanitarian injustice and many others occurring worldwide. Without needing to expound on them all in significant detail, the common feature is found in the fact that militarism and war, and more specifically the violence of oppressive powers, are inseparable from the crisis of climate change.


In terms of emissions, only a handful of countries publish even the bare minimum required by UN reporting guidelines, many countries with large militaries publish nothing at all about their carbon emissions.¹³ The best estimate is that militaries are responsible for 5.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, this excludes the carbon emissions arising from the impacts of war itself. If the global military were a country, it would rank as the fourth largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions.¹³ Not only do militaries contribute enormously to the worsening of climate collapse through their emissions, but of course increased militarisation is used to protect the interests of fossil fuel corporations.


One cannot care for the environment without thinking about people. While it is true that dropping bombs results in considerable carbon emissions, it is essential to also address the catastrophic impact that war has on the lives of people. 

Photo by Markus Spiske

Amplified by the ongoing destruction of Gaza, Cop28 in December of 2023 saw attention on the relationship between the climate crisis, peace, and security.¹²  It will require that the climate movement build on the growing trend towards intersectionality in its advocacy, and not shy away from these subjects. “Human rights is central to the issue of climate justice. We cannot truly solve the climate problem if countries are in violence, repression, fear, and militarization,” said Lidy Nacpil, coordinator of the Philippines-based Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, which focuses on social and climate issues in the region.²

The continuous emissions of greenhouse gases will only intensify human suffering as some of the poorest and most marginalized people are also bearing the brunt of the climate emergency that is now intensifying, impacting people’s rights, including the right to live in safety. Therefore, environmental issues are issues of justice. At its core, our struggle for climate justice is a fight to dismantle all forms of exploitation and oppression, it is a banner under which to rally the marginalized and oppressed toward the freedom of all peoples.


Photo by Luis Morera

Toronto350 stands by’s statement for a ceasefire and respect for international humanitarian law in Palestine and internationally. As Namrata Chowdhary, head of public engagement at, said “We recognize that there can be no climate justice without peace, and in this, we are calling for peace on both sides”. We add that there cannot be peace without liberation. These issues don't just end once there's a ceasefire but instead require an ongoing commitment to dismantling systems of colonialism and oppression, which are the same systems that are at the root of climate issues.

For more information on these topics:

Information about Palestine: 

Climate for Palestine Toolkit: 





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Written by Chris Cherry