Citizens most affected by climate change must have a voice in the global environmental movement

Many poorer communities and people of color are stuck in a climate change loop as if to endure one natural disaster after another, as well as the risks of climate change that disproportionately affect them. What is troubling about this reality is that poverty often determines decisions and circumstances racial and ethnic minorities, as their place of residence. In addition, people of color often reside in areas who are sensitive to climatic disasters or they live in areas where there is a high probability of losing their land, such as areas where biofuel crops are grown.

Hurricane Katrina illustrated this problem: 58 percent of the communities affected by the 2005 storm were minorities and 80 percent of the people who lived in the flooded areas were also minorities. The repercussions of climate change have exacerbated financial difficulties within these communities, further widening the existing disparities in income and economic opportunity.

In addition to conversations about reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, inequalities in climate action plans were a major talking point at the recent Nobel Prize summit. While it is clear that global industry leaders, NGOs and businesses are aware of climate research and are increasingly taking action on it, there is one overlooked problem: the lack of diversity and representation in the global environmental movement.

The #ColorForClimate campaign

During the summit, Svanika Balasubramanian, one of the co-founders of rePurpose Global, presented an eight-point agenda and a petition as part of the #ColorForClimate campaign, which addresses the lack of diversity and representation in the global climate action movement. During the event, Balasubramanian showcased the need to include young adults from diverse backgrounds – many of whom face the challenges of climate change – in policy making, boards and advisory groups that come together. focus on the global climate movement.

From eight requests What Balasubramanian and rePurpose Global are calling for: equal representation in climate negotiations; integrating diversity into environmental financing; the expansion and collection of climate research in the countries of the South; and investments in talent development in marginalized communities.

In an interview with TriplePundit, Balasubramanian explained the existing gap in the global climate movement. “The people who make the decisions and the people who actually face the consequences of the decision are not necessarily the same,” Balasubramanian said. “Conversations about the environment and sustainability take place in these ivory towers even though the South and people of color are disproportionately affected.”

A gap between who causes climate change and who suffers from it the most

From 1990 to 2015, global carbon emissions increased by 60% per year. Oxfam estimated that the richest 10 percent of the world’s population were responsible for 52 percent of carbon emissions while the poorest 50 percent were responsible for 7 percent of carbon emissions. Despite their small contribution, women, minorities and indigenous communities disproportionately suffer the majority of climate changes consequences.

In other words, poor households in hot countries are more likely to be exposed to higher temperatures. In India, for example, the majority of workers in the agriculture and construction sectors in India are the most vulnerable to dangerous heat waves. The same can be said of immigrants who work on farms in Californias Central Valley.

The gap between decision-makers and vulnerable communities represents a huge global challenge. In 2019, minorities only understood 20% of the top of the United States environmental agencies and foundations – in a country where 40% of the population is from a racial or ethnic minority, and this percentage increase quickly. If the solution-oriented conversations in these arenas exclude vulnerable communities, how can we ensure that these global solutions will help everyone?

Offer a seat at the table for ignored voices

One of the petition’s requests includes the introduction of a “reality seat”. As Balasubramanian explained to 3p, “Whenever you make a decision, have someone represent the reality of that decision at this table,” Balasubramanian said. “It must be someone who is under thirty-five and comes directly from the community that will be most affected by what you are talking about today.”

According to Balasubramanian, creating a reality seat may require fair representations in governments, NGOs, social enterprises and even the financial sector. The benefits of creating these seats for diverse voices are not only blatantly ethical, but could also be gratifying from a Balasubramanian perspective. “The solutions themselves will be so much more effective and so much more holistic and so much more sustainable in nature if we really listen to what is happening on the ground and what is doable and what is working,” Balasubramanian added. Equal representation within institutions also helps the development of partnerships with various groups and organizational funding.

Balasubramanian explained at the summit that she is often the only young of color among industry professionals. To this end, the rePurpose Global team recognizes the lack of diversity and the benefits of including diverse voices. The plastic credit platform is led by young people of color who are helping businesses become “plastic neutral” by helping them finance the recycling of plastic equivalent to the amount they produce. Based in India, rePurpose Global finances plastic recovery and waste management projects in South America and Africa (including one in Nairobi, Kenya, pictured above) and in Asia. Some of these projects such as Asara Wealth Association engaged informal waste collectors in informal jobs and Saahas zero Waste which has improved health facilities.

The global environmental movement cannot leave any community behind. While many people and organizations are working diligently to reduce carbon emissions and deliver solutions for climate action, there is still room to include more people in the search for ways to stop climate change. And who is better to include in this process, while ensuring that everyone has a place at the table, than those communities that are directly and disproportionately most exposed to climate change and potential solutions.

Image Credit: rePurpose Global /Facebook

About Geraldine Higgins

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