THE KEY ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES
What is climate equity?
The Mary Robinson Foundation explains climate equity in this way:
“The benefits and burdens associated with climate change and its resolution must be fairly allocated. This involves acceptance of the common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in relation to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Those who have most responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions and most capacity to act must cut emissions first.”
Climate equity is about fairness in the way we tackle climate change – among our own population, and as part of a global community.
The distributional effects of a policy, or type of economic activity, means the way in which it affects the allocation of wealth or other resources in society. Climate action can widen gaps in wealth, opportunity and quality of life between people, or narrow them. An equitable response would seek to prevent those gaps widening, and, if possible, to close them.
The social impacts of a policy or activity means the way in which it affects various groups in society in different ways. For example, a blanket tax on large cars could have a disproportionate impact on disabled people or large families, whose other transport options are more limited. An equitable approach might tailor this kind of policy to ensure vulnerable groups are not overly disadvantaged.
Progressive funding solutions are approaches which don’t ask lower- or middle-income islanders to shoulder the majority of the cost of climate change mitigation, and which fairly distribute the economic and social benefits of climate action.
Green jobs and a green economy are central to an equitable approach. Stopping climate change is often thought to involve taking things away from people. An investment-driven approach, which stimulates green and low-carbon jobs and rejects austerity, can instead offer opportunities and policies which make life easier for everyone, and give everyone an economic stake in society.
Maintaining a global outlook means recognising Guernsey’s responsibility to the rest of the world to play our part in mitigating climate change, as well as using our local assets and expertise to help others do so (for example, through Overseas Aid and Green Finance).
Democratic participation is central to an equitable approach to climate action. This doesn’t just mean a vote every four years for the States, but regular exercises in listening to islanders’ ideas and concerns as we make the changes which are necessary.
Why should we care about climate equity?
Climate equity matters because there are massive variations in how people contribute to climate change. This is true if you compare richer countries to poorer countries. It is also true if you compare richer and poorer people within the same country. In simple terms: poorer people and poorer countries have contributed much less to the causes of climate change. However, they are much more likely to be hit first, and hit hardest, by the worst effects of climate change.
Climate equity means recognising that those who have contributed most to climate change (and benefited most from doing so, in the short term) have a responsibility to take the greatest action to stop it. It means acting in ways that avoid adding the costs of climate action to the already heavy burden that poor people face as a result of climate change itself – and, in fact, taking action which actively tries to reduce the disproportionate disadvantage faced by poorer people and poorer countries as a result of climate change.
Why does it matter here in Guernsey?
Climate equity could be at the heart of Guernsey’s aspiration to Revive and Thrive. Climate change is an urgent challenge, transitioning to a green economy offers a unique opportunity to build a more inclusive, vibrant society and economy.
The Bailiwick’s brilliant success in containing Covid-19 showed us all the benefits of a policy approach to a major global challenge, which put people and community first. That same kind of ambition and pro-people direction of policy, is key to climate equity.
Although Guernsey has a small population, we are a developed jurisdiction and we have enjoyed and benefited from many of the fossil-fuel based things that have contributed towards climate change. This means we have a responsibility to go further, faster, than many other places in the world in terms of reducing our emissions (not only local emissions, but also those which our finance sector helps to facilitate).
By putting fairness and investment in every islander at the heart of climate policy, we will be able to truly move forward as Guernsey Together.
Where can I find out more?
• Mary Robinson Foundation: Principles of Climate Justice
• UN: Sustainable Development Goals
• Vox: The Green New Deal, explained
• The Conversation: Emissions Inequality – There is a gulf between global rich and poor
• Oxfam: Extreme Carbon Inequality
• The Conversation: Inequality and Climate Change – The rich must step up
• Science: Estimating economic damage from climate change in the United States
• DW: Climate change reinforces inequalities – even in developed countries
• Yale Environment 360: Unequal Impact – The Deep Links Between Racism and Climate Change
• UNESCO: Climate Change and Gender Equality