Tackling climate change could present an opportunity to address poverty at the same time, according to a report out today. ‘Tackling Climate Change, Reducing Poverty‘ is the first report from the ‘Roundtable on climate change and poverty in the UK’, a group that includes Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, new economics foundation, and others.
“For too long now, groups tackling poverty and protecting the environment have been operated separately” begins the report in what can only be described as music to our ears. “The fact that climate change and poverty are connected, and must be tackled together, has not been sufficiently understood.”
One in five people in the UK live in poverty, and climate change will affect them disproportionately. With worse housing and health, those on a lower income will suffer more from extreme weather. Any tax on carbon could leave them unable to afford heating or transport. Since poor households make a smaller contribution to overall warming, but suffer more from its effects, dealing with climate change in a way that doesn’t put the burden on the poor is a matter of environmental justice.
The good news is that climate change and poverty can be addressed together. Insulation is a good example, as it saves money and lowers CO2 emissions. Public transport is another case, where investment could make transport more affordable and more sustainably at the same time. A shift to a post-carbon economy also offers the opportunity to create jobs, and to train or re-train people to do them. Community gardens provides poor families with healthier food, while cutting food miles and pesticide use.
The report is packed with case studies and examples of each of these. It is all UK based in this case. If such an approach can be taken internationally too, we’ll have made an even bigger step forward.