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Poverty is linked to disproportionate climate change impacts

According to a recent report, people living in poverty are the least responsible for climate change, but are at the same time the most negatively affected.

The Inequality in a Future Wales report has found that there is a strong relationship between climate change and inequality and that the poorest and most marginalised populations are the least responsible for the production of greenhouse gases while also being the most likely to be exposed to its negative effects, more susceptible to damage, and have the least resources to respond, cope and recover. The report, from the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe, Public Health Wales and Cardiff University, highlights how “Climate change mitigation could benefit marginalised communities if done well but could increase inequalities if the impacts on different groups in society are not factored in.” It looks at several decarbonisation areas including transport, housing, new energy sources, recycling infrastructure and pollution and “suggests a way forward for policy and reflective thinking about inequalities.”

The issue of climate change disproportionately affecting people living in poverty is not only a significant issue in Wales and across the UK, but also across the globe. For example, according to the Center for Global Development, “Poor people in developing countries will feel the impacts first and worst (and already are) because of vulnerable geography and lesser ability to cope with damage from severe weather and rising sea levels. In short, climate change will be awful for everyone but catastrophic for the poor.”

One main response to this uneven impact of climate change is referred to as the Just Transition approach. It aims to ensure that the benefits of a green economy transition are shared widely. According to the Climate Justice Alliance, “If the process of transition is not just, the outcome will never be.”

If we are to make the most of the cultural, social and economic shifts required to tackle climate change, then we need to incorporate an analysis of the existing social reality and take the necessary steps to ensure that the impact of the transition and its benefits are shared equally across society and across the globe.



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