Socioeconomic inequality is an integral part of the climate crisis, and must be addressed. Climate change disproportionately impacts poor and marginalized people and communities, who suffer climate impacts more severely, do not have the resources to respond or adapt, and lack the resources and influence to demand necessary changes. Climate change particularly impacts women and girls. Climate change is also a factor in the migration crisis. Climate change hurts the poor or marginalized more than the rich, compounding existing inequalities.
Inequality is a key driver of the climate crisis. Inequality lies at the root of unsustainable behaviors. Inequality makes it socially acceptable for some people to have far more than others, and ties consumption to social status, promoting over-consumption. Our economic system also drives the climate crisis, as growth, short-term incentives and profit motives systematically contradict sustainability.
Inequalities, both within and among nations, block agreements and pathways that could lead to sustainability. Within nations, socioeconomic inequalities reduce cultural diversity, depriving societies of potential models for more sustainable ways of life. Overwhelmed with problems caused by inequalities, societies cannot turn their energy towards the transition to sustainability. Between communities and nations who do not share common interests and responsibilities, agreement to address climate change is unlikely to be found. Socioeconomic inequality, by eroding trust and creating social fragmentation, blocks cooperation and joint problem-solving.
We call on the world’s governments, nations and communities to recognize that inequality is an integral part of the climate crisis; that those who did the least to precipitate the crisis are likely to be harmed the most; that developed countries have a moral and legal obligation to support developing countries in adapting to climate change; and that all countries should support their most vulnerable communities.
We further call on the world’s governments, nations and communities to commit to – making the inequality and injustice dimensions of the climate crisis a central element of the COP 21 climate accords and subsequent policies; ensuring that the full benefits of climate protection, technology transfer and CDM programs are channeled to the appropriate people, particularly to poor communities; a more equitable global distribution of wealth and resources, including the GHG emissions budget; providing the economic resources, technologies, and expertise to empower developing countries and less privileged communities to protect themselves from climate impacts, and to move successfully along an innovative, efficient and sustainable development pathway; climate finance mechanisms that bridge the gaps in capacity between nations, and that empower marginalized communities to implement their own priorities; developing and implementing a global resettlement plan to take in all refugees of conflict and economic collapse – often related to a worsening climate; fully respecting human rights throughout the process of responding to climate change; systemic social, economic and political changes towards more equal and participatory societies; ensuring workers’ rights to a secure livelihood during the transition to non-fossil fuel-based energies; divesting from fossil fuel-based economic activity and redirecting such investment towards sustainable energy technologies; and greater democratization of decision-making, in which vulnerable communities play a leading role in determining how best to achieve social resilience, mitigation and adaptation.