Evidence is increasing that climate change is taking the largest toll on poor and vulnerable people, and these impacts are largely caused by inequalities that increase the risks from climate hazards, according to a new report launched by the United Nations.
The World Economic and Social Survey 2016: Climate Change Resilience—an Opportunity for Reducing Inequalities (#WESS2016), found that governments can play a significant role in reducing the risks of climate change to vulnerable populations. Through transformative policies, the report shows that governments could address the root causes of inequalities and build climate change resilience.
While there is considerable anecdotal evidence that the poor and the vulnerable suffer greater harm from climate-related disasters, the report determined that much of the harm is not by accident, but that it is due to the failure of governments to close the development gaps that leave large population groups at risk.
In the past 20 years, 4.2 billion people have been affected by weather-related disasters, including a significant loss of lives. Developing countries are the most affected by climate change impacts. Low-income countries suffered the greatest losses, including economic costs estimated at 5 per cent of GDP.
“Sadly, the people at greater risk from climate hazards are the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized who, in many cases, have been excluded from socioeconomic progress,” noted United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the report. “We have no time to waste—and a great deal to gain—when it comes to addressing the socioeconomic inequalities that deepen poverty and leave people behind.”
The report argues that while climate adaptation and resilience are overshadowed by mitigation in climate discussions, they are vital for addressing climate change and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
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