Climate Change and Inequality

In this blog, EaRN volunteer Anny discusses the link between climate change and inequality in light of the COP 26 conference in Glasgow which starts next week. 

The COP26 Summit is set to take place between 31st October and 12th November in Glasgow this year. The summit aims to increase action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to fight climate change.

Climate change is the long-term changes in temperature and typical weather patterns of a particular place. Tackling climate change is an inequality issue for multiple reasons.

Firstly, rich, developed nations arguably have more responsibility for the current effects of climate change. During the industrial revolution, countries like the UK, emitted lots of CO2 which led to economic growth and life as we know it today. The universal 2050 net zero goal has been criticised by some developing countries for going against climate justice. Developing countries, whose economies are still growing, are still going through this process of industrialisation, and therefore still producing lots of greenhouse gases. To ensure that developing countries can continue to grow their economies, they are unlikely to be able to meet the net zero target by 2050. Therefore, for developing countries to continue to grow their economies and improve people’s living standards, they are asking that the goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions should not be universal but take developed nations’ histories of industrialisation into account.

Additionally, the unequal effects of climate change have been made visible through the increase in extreme weather events, such as flooding, hurricanes and droughts in certain parts of the world. Certain communities will always suffer more than others as a result of extreme weather, such as indigenous communities who rely on natural resources and those in financially poorer areas where weak housing infrastructure is more vulnerable to extreme weather. Social and economic inequalities are made worse in the wake of a disaster and unmanaged climate change could set back the already-made progress of efforts to eradicate poverty.

Further, Inclusion Scotland has published a climate change report, highlighting the unequal effects of climate change on disabled people. Disabled people are already more likely to be vulnerable to extreme weather, such as floods and heatwaves, as they are ‘less likely to be evacuated safely, more prone to health risks and struggle to get insurance that protects their homes’. The inclusion of disabled voices during the COP26 summit aims to change this by incorporating more disability-inclusive climate action.

Asking everyone to do their bit to tackle climate change ignores issues of inequality which may prevent someone from doing so. Although individual action can be important, not everyone is able to always take public transport, buy reusable items, or focus on climate change. Climate change can be tackled, but issues of inequality must also be addressed at the same time to move towards a greener future for everyone.