25 Feb 2020
In the UK academics have identified over 10,000 neighbourhoods that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, such as extreme heat or flooding. Generally, people living in these areas are least responsible for the crisis, and are least equipped to respond (due to factors like income, health, age and mobility).
Climate justice means remedying this by protecting these people as much as possible, while ensuring they can also consume enough energy to heat their home, travel, and have a good quality of life. The goal
Councils should ensure that those most vulnerable to the effects of climate change are properly supported and protected.
What councils should do
Points 11 and 12 in our Climate Action Plan for councils suggest councils should:
11. Identify the most vulnerable people in the areas most at risk of flooding and high heat levels and target adaptation policies, actions and spending to these people and areas.
- Researchers at Manchester University have identified 12,705 neighbourhoods in England and Wales where there is a very high, acute or extreme social flood risk to surface flooding and 437 areas where there is a risk of coastal or river flooding. These are neighbourhoods which are both vulnerable to flooding and where there is a high proportion of people less able to prepare or recover from extreme weather events. The council can use this information to help people prepare for extreme events and help them recover afterwards.
12. Ensure that voices of the most vulnerable communities are also represented in council decision making and council-citizen deliberations.
- Councils need to hear the voice of all their citizens in decision-making. Well-educated and middle-class people are adept at getting their voice heard but the voices of the most vulnerable to climate change are often not heard. Ensuring these voices are heard doesn’t just mean looking at decision-making processes but investing in life-long education to support these people in increasing their participation.
Although many climate adaptation programmes will save councils money in the long run, many have been neglecting these areas due to a lack of funding. The government needs to address this, and Friends of the Earth has called for an extra £1 billion a year of investment in extreme weather protection. This includes money for natural flood defences, such as tree planting in the uplands to hold back flood water, and trees in urban areas to provide cooling.
The government also needs to ensure that regulations on issues such as building standards are adequate given likely future extreme weather. A Parliamentary Select Committee review into the 2018 heatwave stated that “The current lack of regulation to prevent overheating, means that new developments, including hospitals and care homes, which will be around for the next 70 years will add to the number of buildings that overheat.”
Climate Just. https://www.climatejust.org.uk
How climate friendly is your area? https://takeclimateaction.uk/climate-action/how-climate-friendly-your-area-enter-your-postcode-see-results-your-community