Why we need a socially just response to climate change

Kate Damiral was Climate Change Project Officer at NCVO from April 2011 until April 2013. Kate no longer works for NCVO but her posts have been archived on this site for reference.

Last week we brought together participants of NCVO’s vulnerable people and climate change project for a final workshop. This was a chance to share project experiences and re-commit to the action plans these non-environmental organisations have developed for tackling climate change – all spurred on by a great keynote presentation from Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

In her address, ‘Why we need a socially just response to climate change’, Julia shared insights from the Foundation’s climate change and social justice programme and spelled out the valuable role voluntary and community organisations must play to help ensure we deal with our changing climate in ways that work for all members of society. This means protecting the most vulnerable and advocating on their behalf.

Hardware and software

Julia’s over-arching call was for the voluntary sector to use its extensive reach and expertise to continue to build the resilience of communities across the country, so that they become better connected and more able to cope collectively with the uncertainties and disruption of our increasingly extreme weather (climate change adaptation), as well as the drive to cut carbon to avoid runaway climate change (mitigation). Julia described this creation of social capital as the ‘software’ that needs to go hand in hand with the ‘hardware’ of technical solutions to climate change such as flood defences and carbon reduction technology.

We recorded the speech so you can listen to Julia’s presentation and watch her slideshow.

Technical hitch!

Due to a technical hitch with our own hardware though, we didn’t manage to record the first bit of the presentation. But it kicks in on slide five, and runs for 17 minutes, plus ten minutes of questions and answers.

Then, if you’ve time to keep listening, you can also hear my overview of what we’ve all achieved through the project, followed in the final five minutes by a short presentation from Anne-Marie Benson of Hull and East Riding Citizens Advice Bureau, one of the participating organisations in our anti-poverty cohort.

Walking the talk

Anne-Marie explains how the CAB ran a survey during the project to get their clients’ views and concerns on climate change, many of whom are on low incomes and likely to be particularly disadvantaged by climate impacts such as the cost of flood insurance.

She also outlines how the CAB will track related trends (for example, the risk that some flood-prone communities on the CAB’s patch could become ghettoised) and is thinking strategically about the need to help clients to become more self-reliant to enable the CAB to prioritise its services at times of crisis for those most in need. Anne-Marie’s team have also committed to feeding in their insights to local and national policy forums to inform wider responses to climate change.

This is just the sort of response Julia Unwin is calling for: our project participants are walking the talk.

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