Climate change is a serious challenge to the rights, health and wellbeing of people, communities and the environment. Its impacts are already hurting our communities through more intense and frequent bushfires, drought, floods, storms, and heatwaves. It is having profound and devastating impacts on people’s health, homes, jobs and quality of life.
People experiencing disadvantage are impacted by climate change first, worse, and longest because they have access to fewer resources or options to cope, adapt and recover.
Those on the lowest incomes are forced into long-term homelessness following fires and floods, they struggle to stay healthy and cool during heat waves, and they’re finding it impossible to pay rapidly increasing power bills.
To limit the impacts and avoid worsening inequality, we need to reduce our carbon emissions fast. We also need to make sure that our transition to a clean economy is fair, equitable and inclusive, so people with the least can benefit and are not made worse off.
To date, most climate and energy transition policies disproportionately benefit people who have wealth, choice and control. People with wealth or who own a home can access subsidies to put solar on their homes or buy cheaper electric vehicles, reducing energy and transport costs, while those who would benefit the most from these are being left behind.
However, if we put people and communities experiencing disadvantage at the centre of our climate response, we can ensure that the transition to net zero emissions improves their lives from the cities to the outback.
We can create opportunities for more affordable, healthier and reliable energy, housing and transport suited to a changing environment, and access to jobs in the new energy economy. We can close the gap for First Nations communities in health, housing, energy and transport, and ensure their rights to self-determination over resource development.
However, Australia has no federal framework to explicitly guide and manage the impact of climate change or the transition, fairly, equitably and inclusively.
That’s why we are calling on the Federal Government to amend the Climate Change Act 2022 to include objectives, principles and processes to guide a fair, equitable and inclusive transition. The amendment should:
- Ensure fairness and equity, inform the development of policies, programs or processes to achieve Australia’s emissions reduction targets.
- Acknowledge a duty of care to protect younger people and future generations from climate change.
- Require the engagement and self-determination of impacted groups in policy development. This includes marginalised communities at greater risk, First Nations Peoples, people living with disabilities, migrants, people experiencing poverty, children, older people and women.
Through a well-planned climate change transition that is fair, fast and inclusive, putting people experiencing disadvantage, younger people and communities first, we can create a safer, more prosperous, sustainable and fairer society and economy.