Climate poverty and justice: critical threats to communities

Imagine being reset to zero, after you have worked so hard to achieve despite steep challenges.

Imagine telling yourself that you would be able to access resources to help yourself to get back on your feet, only to realize that you don’t have access to the resources required to assist you.

This is exactly the position that vulnerable and disadvantaged communicates find themselves in, due to climate change. Particularly for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), such as Caribbean islands, where sustainable development is still a work in progress, poverty and justice are two words that pop up in the discourse about climate change.

Widening the gap

The injustice of it all

Inequalities and development gaps will be exacerbated by climate change impacts. Why? The poor and vulnerable will bear a disproportionate burden of negative effects, such as loss of livelihoods, shelter, and reduced food security. This is called climate justice.

Why should they be the ones to bear the loss, when larger, more developed countries are the ones who are the main contributors to high emissions that cause global warming?

Why should they be the ones to bear the brunt, when research shows that SIDS contribute very little to global warming?

Why should their coral reefs die, why should their islands be battered by unpredictable natural disasters, and why should their ecosystems face apocalypse when they’ve had no real part in driving industrial growth at the expense of the environment?

The injustice of it all...right? This is why climate justice is a major concern in the fight against global warming.

Research shows that the majority of developing states contribute little to the overall causes of climate change. Still, they bear the brunt as they have do not have sufficient capacity to resist or recover from climate effects, due to factors such as:

  • Geography.
  • Proportion of the country’s population dependent on agriculture.
  • Inequalities in access to services and appropriate technologies.
  • The historical exploitation to which many countries have been subjected.

Vulnerable populations and ecosystems should not have to pay the price for larger entities, which have more resources to create climate solutions and adapt their processes to reduce the global rise in temperatures by 2030.

At present, the lion’s share of economic losses stemming from climate change events are being borne by governments, development partners, communities and households, resulting in an emerging population in climate poverty.

How is The UWI trying to help?

Symposia to educate Caribbean societies

  • In January 2020, The UWI Mona Climate Studies Group, in collaboration with Rutgers Global and Rutgers Advanced Institute for Critical Caribbean Studies, hosted a symposium to address these issues.
  • The symposium was themed “UWI Climate, History, & Responsibility: Climate Justice in the Caribbean”, and provided a platform to discuss the environmental, economic, structural, and long-standing historical dimensions of global climate change impacting the Caribbean region.

Climate Risk Insurance Research Collaboration

  • At the global level, the Climate Risk Insurance Research Collaboration (CRIRC) was established through a partnership with the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), the Munich Climate Insurance Initiative (MCII), the University of the South Pacific (USP), the United Nations Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP), and The UWI.
  • The CRIRC will facilitate inter-regional South-South learning and research. CRIRC research identifies ways to prevent climate poverty in Small Islands States.