Climate Justice in the Context of an Ailing Economy: The Case of Zimbabwe

Climate justice, as both a concept and a movement, acknowledges that the impacts of climate change will vary across communities, leading to unequal effects based on factors such as race, socio-economic status, social class, gender, age, disability, sexuality, geographic location, and other social identities. Learn about the case of Zimbabwe.

Climate Injustice in Zimbabwe
Climate justice, as both a concept and a movement, acknowledges that the impacts of climate change will vary across communities, leading to unequal effects based on factors such as race, socio-economic status, social class, gender, age, disability, sexuality, geographic location, and other social identities. Achieving climate justice requires prioritizing equality and human rights in decision-making and climate action, as well as equal distribution of environmental benefits and costs (Hurlbert, 2015; UNDP, 2030)

The Zimbabwean economy has suffered political, economic, social, and environmental challenges for a considerable period of time, and this has affected the general populace at large. In the context of Zimbabwe, climate change has resulted in cyclones, floods, droughts, the destruction of fauna and flora, and the internal or external displacement of people. The effects of climate change are varied in Zimbabwe based on geographical location, socio-economic status, and age. For example, the recent cyclone Idai of 2019 affected the eastern parts of Zimbabwe and areas such as Chipinge, Chimanimani, Zaka, and others (International Organization for Migration, 2024). More than 270 000 people died, over 340 are still missing, health and school infrastructure were destroyed, agricultural crops were destroyed, and road infrastructure was damaged (Reliefweb, 2020). From a geographic perspective, the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe have been prone to cyclones.

In terms of socio-economic status, people with better incomes are not severely affected by climate change. When there is a drought, they can use their income to source food from different countries.

In the context of floods, which normally affect Zimbabwe, people with better socio-economic status can relocate to higher places. On the contrary, the less fortunate have been victims as some have died and some have lost their property due to floods. The young population in Zimbabwe is capacitated to quickly relocate if such natural disasters loom. However, the elderly cannot unless they are assisted, and of late, the government has issued warnings that people should move to higher ground when a cyclone comes. This only helps those who have the means and are still fit. Some elderly individuals lack access to radios, leaving them without a means to receive information about disasters. Zimbabwe’s disaster management plan is not robust enough, and as a result, it leads to loss of life and structural inequalities in the economy of Zimbabwe.

Marginalized communities in Zimbabwe will remain largely affected by climate change unless robust policies and resources are put in place to solve the challenges these communities face. Corruption and weak governance structures affect the progress of restoring stability to people affected by climate change. For example, Econet Wireless pulled out its reconstruction program of 500 houses for cyclone Idai victims due to alleged corruption issues from government officials (The Standard, 2020). This implies that the elderly, the less fortunate ones who reside in flood-prone areas, are exposed to risks before a natural disaster strikes, and also suffer after the disaster is over as they do not receive sufficient aid. Oral evidence suggests that even when the Zimbabwean government claims that they provide accommodation for people during natural disasters, such shelter is not well equipped, and there is no provision of food, water, or sanitation services. This may paint the picture that the Zimbabwean government does not fully protect its citizens but rather uses gimmicks on issues of climate change. All these challenges also imply that people end up exposed to poverty, lack access to education and health, and that their source of income, such as subsistence farming, is affected due to the adverse effects of climate change. Thus, Zimbabwe may take a long time to attain some of the sustainable development goals (SDGS), such as goal 1: poverty reduction; goal 2: hunger; goal 5: education; and goal 6: climate action (United Nations, 2024).

The Path to Increasing Climate Justice in Zimbabwe: An Economist’s Perspective

It is important to address the severity of climate injustice in Zimbabwe because it helps to reduce inequalities, build resilient communities, and attain selected sustainable development goals. There are a number of solutions that can be implemented to reduce the severity of climate injustice in Zimbabwe. There is a need for crafting robust climate change policies: the government must create robust climate change policies that clearly articulate ways of addressing climate injustices as well as effective disaster management plans. Combating corruption and poor governance: the Zimbabwean government, through the anti-corruption commission, must deal with all corruption, abuse of funds, and aid meant to help people affected by natural disasters. This will help to deliver climate justice in Zimbabwe. Stiff penalties must be implemented as well to complement the corruption reduction measures. Resource mobilization is crucial to redress the adverse effects of climate change. This can be from government coffers or even from non-governmental organizations or other stakeholders. This will help meet the immediate needs of people when they are affected by natural disasters. Finally, research and development are crucial to create a resilient economy before natural disasters affect it. Thus, the Zimbabwean government must invest in research and technology and use the expertise from different institutions of higher learning to address climate injustice.

For an economy such as Zimbabwe, solving climate injustice may take years as the economy is not performing very well and there are other social, political, and economic issues that must be solved to ensure that the economy functions optimally.

About Dr Freeman Munisi Mateko:

Dr Freeman Munisi Mateko is an economist by profession. Currently he is a postdoctoral research fellow at University of Johannesburg, South Africa under the department of South African Research Chair in Industrial Development.

Reference List: 

Hurlbert, M. (2015). Climate Justice: A Call for Leadership. Retrieved from:

International Organization for Migration (2024). Zimbabwe — Tropical Cyclone Idai. Retrieved from:,%2C%20Gutu%2C%20Masvingo%20and%20Zaka.

Reliefweb (2020). Zimbabwe: Tropical Cyclone Idai Final Report, DREF Operation n°: MDRZW014. Retrieved from:,dead%20and%20many%20others%20missing.

The Standard (2020). Corruption, blunders stall relocation of Cyclone Idai survivors as Covid-19 looms. Retrieved from:

UNDP (2030). Climate change is a matter of justice – here’s why. Retrieved from:
United Nations (2024). The 17 Goals. Retrieved from:

Disclaimer: Please note that CCECJ is committed to amplifying the work of independent authors and artists. The opinions or perspectives presented in this article may not necessarily align with those of CCECJ, nor were they written by employed staff.