Inclusivity and Equality: Essential Pieces to the Climate Change Action Puzzle
“Development is not sustainable if it is not fair and inclusive – and rising inequality hinders long-term growth,” stated UN Secretary-General António Guterres at a Forum on Sustainable Development. Guterres’ statement is an eloquent and concise description of two intermingled issues at the forefront of todays’ news: sustainability and equality. Recently, organizations like Global Green Growth Institute and the United Nations have been working to integrate sustainability and equality into a movement that is both inclusive and green. One area where this partnership is extremely important is in climate change action. While small climate action movements may focus on local action and regional change, climate change is a global issue that requires attention to disadvantaged places just as much, or more, than advantaged areas. Climate change action must incorporate a partnership with equality, and strive to be wholly inclusive, incorporating every nation, culture, and community. In the process of doing so, jobs, education, and livelihood can be significantly improved for those who are currently disadvantaged.
The places that are hit the hardest by climate change, and experience the most extreme effects, are often the places that can least afford to combat or adapt to the changing climate. Where developed countries and advantaged areas could import more goods and resources, or easily rebuild and relocate, disadvantaged areas do not have the means to apply the same strategies.
River systems in parts of Africa have been experiencing more frequent droughts and floods as a result of climate change, making water supplies that were previously the primary water source of towns and cities unreliable. The River Rwizi in Mbarara, Uganda is one such river experience these shifts due to Climate Change, resulting in the community implementing water rationing as a precaution for the droughts that have recently been cutting off the town’s main water source.
In sub-Saharan Africa, climate change is shifting the soil makeup and weather patterns, causing large losses of land fit for agriculture. As a result, food insecurity is on the rise, and farming-based communities are left to restructure their lives, or relocate. In Jakarta, an extreme water shortage has led to residents digging so many wells that the city has begun to sink. Kim Samuel writes about this desperate phenomenon, echoing many of the climate-induced changes across the globe, “Indonesia’s capital stands as a sobering reminder of the stakes at hand: In the fight to protect our planet, we stand or sink together.”
The World Health Organization predicted around 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050 from climate change related causes, largely concentrated in developing countries and other areas that have less resources to combat the dangerous effects of climate change. While thinking about the effects of climate change, we must not think only of our region or country, but of the places that will be hit the hardest. We must remember that climate change is not relative to one’s specific area, but that it is a global problem and if visible damage is occurring in one place, the damage is worldwide.
Disadvantaged areas, especially in developing countries, also often have less access to the equipment, technology, or funds to make use of renewable energy sources, therefore forcing these areas to be more reliant on exploiting natural resources. Because of pollution, poor water quality, and lack of access to resources, developing countries face obstacles in the way of furthering their development, keeping them from advancing to more expensive, greener infrastructure and technology. Here, a level of collaboration and communication is required between developing and developed countries, as the most highly developed countries now focusing on renewable energy and green economies often have the technology or equipment needed to help reduce risk factors of climate change for developing areas. Additionally, developing countries and disadvantaged areas are often contributing the least to climate change, as their emissions do not come close to those of developed countries, or more industrially settled areas. For example, Kiribati, a small island country with very low emissions is facing the looming challenge of being completely submerged due to rising sea levels- an affliction that comes to them not from their own contributions, but largely from the emissions of other nations. This is another reason why climate change cannot be addressed community by community, or country by country. It must be a collective effort because the damage one area may contribute can be easily addressed in that place, but may cause a much larger impact in another area. The fight against climate change must be a global one, that incorporates sharing, helping, communicating, and collaborating.
As explained by Guterres, climate action can be incredibly impactful on both the environment and the economy, but only if it is an international fight, “with social justice and equity being core aspects of climate-resilient development pathways”. The incorporation of social inclusion and equality into climate action is the most efficient and effective way to fight climate change, and can also restructure the economy to both sustain green behavior and be more globally and socially inclusive.
The climate change action movement has shown signs for some time now of incorporating social inclusion, but as conditions grow worse, it is important that intentions are turned into reality. One path for achieving the required structural change involves reformatting the economy into an inclusive, green economy that features thousands of new jobs in the green sector, tying economic success, climate action, and inclusivity and developing area growth into one large game-plan. Instead of a focus on goods and companies, this new green economy ideally focuses on the impact, effect, and effort of the people. This way, a collective effort combined with global green initiatives can turn small, local climate action, into worldwide climate action that simultaneously pulls disadvantaged areas and people into better working and living conditions. Yvo de Boer and Andrew Norton succinctly summarize this collaboration between bettering major world issues, writing “Success is measured not only by profits and economic gain, but also by overall advances in social and environmental value, including job creation, poverty reduction, and sustainable use of natural resources.”
Organizations and movements have been founded on such beliefs, including The Green New Deal, The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), the Green Economy Coalition (GEC), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. These efforts are the beginning of an economic shift towards the merging of sustainability and equality. The more support such organizations get, the more traction these issues gain, and the more movements and organizations created on similar grounds, the closer we can get to reducing the effects of climate change as an inclusive, united global effort.
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