There is no climate justice without social justice

Though the climate crisis affects us all, the burden of climate breakdown is disproportionately borne by our most underserved, marginalised communities and worsens widespread inequality. While the richest 10% of the global population account for more than 50% of cumulative emissions to date, the poorest half of the population are responsible for just 7% of them – yet they are the ones who are hit hardest by the impacts of the climate crisis. 

Some communities are in more vulnerable conditions than others, making them highly exposed to climate hazards. During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, most of the victims trapped in New Orleans were Black women and their children, the poorest demographic in that part of the country. An estimated 1 billion people worldwide live in informal settlements without access to adequate and risk-reducing infrastructure. As a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated 100 million people living in cities are likely to fall into poverty, with as many as 71 million people falling into extreme poverty.

100 million people could be forced into extreme poverty by 2030 without equitable climate strategies1
80% of people displaced by climate change are women2
40 cities have signed C40’s Equity Pledge, representing close to 100 million people

Thriving societies with opportunities for those previously left behind

Equitable climate action presents a unique opportunity for mayors to create more inclusive urban communities, with new protections for groups that have been historically marginalised. Successful implementation means ensuring that the voices and needs of the most discriminated-against and hard-to-reach people are heard – this could mean improving air quality in low-income districts, creating new jobs for women and young people, increasing access to sustainable transportation within the peripheries of cities, and so much more.

C40’s Inclusive Climate Action Programme supports mayors in putting equity and inclusion at the heart of climate policies and all other urban decision-making. This ensures that mayors can engage a wide range of communities and stakeholders, design and deliver policy with fairness and accessibility and distribute the benefits of climate action equitably. There is no climate justice without social justice, and action at the city level is critical to achieve both. 

By ensuring that local climate action creates good jobs, supports livelihoods and reduces inequality and poverty, city leadership will gain stronger support and trust from often-neglected communities that must be included in the climate movement. The aim is to ensure a just transition away from fossil fuel-dominated economies, create thriving societies with good green jobs and opportunities for those previously left behind, achieve economic justice alongside social and environmental justice, and increase the quality of life for everyone, everywhere without destroying the natural world around us.

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Inclusive climate action spotlight series

New case studies

Read to learn about city-led actions in African cities, supported by the Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Fund, to address urban loss and damage, ensure a just transition, and promote inclusive climate solutions through C40’s Inclusive Climate Action programme.

Addis Ababa - a worker at recycling centre packing waste
© Abinet Teshome – C40

Programmes & Initiatives

  1. Shock Waves” report by the World Bank. Foreword page xi. 
  2. UNDP Gender and Climate Change report. Page 8.