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The Social Dimensions of Climate Action: Equity, Justice and Inclusion

Social Dimensions of Climate Action by Ankit Jain, StepChange

In the face of escalating climate change impacts, the global community has united behind the ambitious goal of achieving Net-Zero emissions. This collective effort seeks to balance the scales between greenhouse gas emissions and removals, sparing us from the worst consequences of a warming planet. However, while we diligently focus on technological advancements and carbon reduction targets, we must not overlook the critical social dimensions of this monumental transition.

The importance of inclusion, justice, and equity in the transition to a Net-Zero society:

Climate change is not an equalizer, it disproportionately affects vulnerable communities and regions around the globe. According to the World Bank, more than 132 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 due to climate change. By 2050, over 216 million people could be displaced by sea level rise, floods, droughts, and storms. The WHO warns that climate change could cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress between 2030 and 2050. Low-income countries, marginalized populations, and indigenous communities face heightened risks from these and other threats to their food security, water availability, health outcomes, biodiversity, and cultural heritage. Ignoring these social dimensions undermines our collective ability to address climate change effectively and diminishes the potential of a sustainable future for all.

Weaving inclusion, justice, and equity into the fabric of our climate action plans can unlock transformative outcomes that transcend carbon reduction targets.

Inclusion ensures that every voice is heard, valued, and actively engaged in shaping our climate initiatives. Embracing diverse perspectives stimulates innovation, helps uncover blind spots, and fosters a sense of ownership and shared responsibility. Climate action plans that incorporate the wisdom of indigenous communities, youth activists, and marginalized groups bring about comprehensive and nuanced solutions that resonate with the complex challenges facing us.

Furthermore, justice lies at the heart of climate action. It calls for historical accountability and an acknowledgment of the disproportionate contributions of certain nations and industries to climate change. According to the IPCC, developed countries are responsible for about 79% of historical CO2 emissions between 1850 and 2010. The IEA reports that fossil fuel consumption subsidies doubled from 2021 to an all-time high of USD 1 trillion in 2022. A just transition compels us to realign our efforts and investments to ensure that the burden of mitigation and adaptation is borne equitably across societies.

Equity serves as the moral compass guiding our climate action plans. It requires that we recognize and address the disparate impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations. Climate justice demands equitable access to resources, clean energy, sustainable jobs, and resilient infrastructure for all communities, irrespective of socioeconomic status. By dismantling systemic barriers, bridging the gap between developed and developing nations, and embracing inclusive policies, we can forge a more equitable and resilient world that leaves no one behind.

The Road to Sustainability

The social dimensions of justice, equity, and inclusion are not peripheral or optional but essential for the success of our climate action plans. As we continue on this journey, we have a unique opportunity to leverage the power and potential of businesses. Businesses are not only major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions but also key drivers of innovation, investment, and employment. They have the capacity and the responsibility to reduce emissions through environmental innovation and data engineering. They also have the opportunity and the incentive to create value for themselves and society by addressing the social dimensions of climate change. Aligning operations with the principles of inclusion, justice, and equity, businesses can become the catalysts for positive change and lead the way towards a just, equitable, and inclusive net-zero society.

Here are some ways they can do so-

  • Assess environmental and social impacts: Industries should conduct comprehensive assessments to understand the environmental and social impacts of their operations. This includes analyzing emissions, resource consumption, community health, and socio-economic factors, enabling businesses to identify areas for improvement and prioritize equitable solutions.

  • Set ambitious yet inclusive targets: Industries should establish ambitious climate targets aligned with the scientific consensus. However, it is equally important to ensure that these targets are developed through inclusive processes that incorporate diverse perspectives and consider the needs of vulnerable communities.

  • Collaborate and share best practices: Industries must collaborate across sectors to share knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned. This collaboration can foster collective action, facilitate the exchange of ideas, and accelerate the implementation of equitable climate solutions.

  • Engage with local communities: Industries should actively engage with local communities to understand their concerns, aspirations, and needs. By involving community members in decision-making processes, businesses can co-create solutions that address specific challenges, foster trust, and empower communities to participate in the transition.

  • Embrace transparency and accountability: Industries should adopt robust reporting mechanisms to communicate their progress on climate action transparently. This includes disclosing emissions, social impact assessments, and community engagement efforts. Transparency fosters accountability and enables stakeholders to hold businesses responsible for their commitments.

The imperative of equity, justice, and inclusion in climate action cannot be overstated. As we navigate the challenges of a changing climate, it is essential to recognize that environmental sustainability alone is not enough. We must address the social dimensions of this transition ensuring that the burdens and benefits are equitably shared. By embracing diverse perspectives, rectifying historical imbalances, and fostering inclusive decision-making, we can forge a path toward a more just and sustainable future. It is a collective responsibility to create a world where every individual and community can thrive while safeguarding the health of our planet. StepChange is a climate-tech startup that helps companies and brands accelerate their sustainability journey and transition to NetZero. Learn how we may be able to help your organization through our website or simply follow us on LinkedIn to stay tuned!

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