The impacts of global warming are felt in many parts of people’s lives: their health and wellbeing, finances, comfort at home and resilience to extreme weather events. Climate change creates new impacts on our lives and landscapes and stands to exacerbate the existing vulnerabilities and disadvantages that people and communities are facing.
Our response to climate change therefore needs to address critical threats to our wellbeing, and use the transition as an opportunity to lift equality across our community. Approaching this immense task with the aim of ‘climate equity’ is a way to improve social equity. A climate equity approach ‘ensures that all people have the opportunity to benefit equally from climate solutions, while not taking on an un-equal burden of climate impacts’.
Climate equity is about who should be responsible for addressing climate change. An equitable response acknowledges the unequal burden that climate change places on people, whether locally or globally. It recognises that people experiencing poverty and disadvantage are typically not responsible for the causes of climate change, but are more vulnerable to its impacts, and require more support and protection. Conversely, the people who contribute the most to the causes of climate change usually face lower climate-related risks and are often more able to protect themselves from these impacts
Climate equity puts the people who are most vulnerable at the forefront of decision-making. It aims to reduce the risk of them being hit harder by climate change than their better-resourced friends and neighbours. It addresses the inequities which climate change could entrench. And it embeds fairness in how we mitigate climate change and adapt to the impacts which are already locked in.
It is critical that Victoria’s response to climate change is equitable, and protects the people who are most vulnerable. Government, industry, community organisations and communities themselves must be part of the response. There is significant policy paralysis at the federal level when it comes to climate change. The Federal Government must show leadership in this space. While we wait, it falls to Victoria and local communities to lead the charge on challenges such as fair energy and transport transitions, and combatting the risks to our health.
- Expanding energy efficiency programs for low-income earners,
- Introducing meaningful energy efficiency standards for rental properties,
- Boosting public transport, and even
- Considering government subsidies for people who can’t afford to buy a low-emissions car.