By David Miller, C40 Global Ambassador for Inclusive Climate Action
The World Economic Forum’s global risk report, released earlier this month, identified environmental challenges, including the failure to mitigate climate change, as the number one danger facing the world economy. At the start of this week, OXFAM published a report stating that 26 billionaires own as much wealth as half the world’s population. In 2017 that number was 43. In 2016, 61. These two challenges are deeply related.
Climate change affects some more than others. When disasters like hurricanes or wildfires hit, low income people are more vulnerable to the impacts and often lose their homes, jobs, and livelihoods. They also have fewer resources to adapt. But even without disasters, climate change impacts the marginalised, the elderly, the young, and those with fewer financial resources the hardest. For example, extreme heat in summer or cold weather in winter hits those who cannot pay their heating and cooling bills the most, putting them at serious health risk. Responses to climate change may aggravate this inequality by benefitting the already well-off population who typically have easier access to environmental subsidies, resilience measures, and the ability to afford energy retrofits.
This is fundamentally unfair and needs to be addressed. If left ignored, governments will lose their permission to act on climate change. The yellow vests protests against fuel tax rises in France have demonstrated that inequality, if not addressed, can give rise to serious challenges to state action. In this historical moment where many governments are choosing to promote fear and anxiety, climate action must provide hope and also redistribute resources more in a equitable way in order to succeed. In this way, the energy and ecological transition is not only necessary to survive, it is an incredible opportunity for a better and more just world.
Mayors are recognising this need for inclusive climate action. Barcelona, New York, Paris, Cape Town, Los Angeles, Sydney, Buenos Aires and a range of other cities are incorporating these principles into their long-term planning. Initiatives range from climate actions with a focus on environmental justice in Barcelona and a just energy transition in Paris, to car sharing programs in low-income neighbourhoods in Los Angeles, or from subsidies for ceiling insulation in marginalised communities in Cape Town, to improvements to storm water management infrastructure in Buenos Aires.
Mayors are not only taking action locally, but are taking a stand at the global level as well. At the Global Climate Action Summit, 32 cities signed an equity pledge to increase action on community-led development and infrastructure projects that achieve major environmental, health, social and economic benefits especially in low-income and vulnerable communities. In November last year, the mayors of Barcelona, Milan, and Athens called upon the European Commission, the member states of the European Union and the citizens of Europe to act on climate change in a way that benefits all people.
Mayors and guest speakers discuss inclusive climate action at the Global Climate Action Summit
C40 Cities is supporting these efforts in cities across the world. Our Inclusive Climate Action programme enables mayoral leadership and provides cities with resources needed to plan, build consensus and deliver climate action that is equitable and beneficial for all. In this context, during the days of the World Economic Forum, we have launched Inclusive Climate Action in Practice, a publication showcasing examples of how to achieve inclusive climate action with the intention to share knowledge and experience among cities. The publication reveals common lessons learned that are helpful for local governments across the globe.
This is just a start. Leadership from mayors of the world’s major cities is imperative to ensure that the world recognises this challenge and steps up to address climate change in an inclusive and equitable way. Only when the fundamental inequality of climate change is addressed, can climate actions be successful. Mayors globally have recognised this and are working together to build a movement for inclusive climate action.