Climate adaptation and social justice


Who will bear the burden of adapting to climate change? More extreme weather will have particular effect on already vulnerable or marginalised groups. Reducing vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, or increasing our resilience to these impacts, is an issue of climate justice, in Scotland and across the globe.

Academics, councils, charities and policy makers discussed options for delivering socially just adaptation at recent conference to inform the Scottish Adaptation Programme. The gathering was organised by Scottish Government, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Sniffer to discuss the latest research with practitioners from across sectors and across Scotland.

To date, climate justice has mostly been seen as an international issue. The conference confirmed that it is very much also a domestic issue relevant to a healthier and fairer Scotland. 

The impacts of a changing climate will exacerbate existing inequalities, as well as creating new imbalances.  Vulnerable individuals, groups and communities must be at the centre of action towards a resilient low carbon society. 

Through Adaptation Scotland Sniffer is helping organisations, businesses and communities to increase their resilience to a changing climate. One strand of this work is focused on community engagement and strengthening communities’ ability to adapt.  The initial focus has been on working with informed and active communities to harness and build on their interest and commitment.

Sniffer’s involvement in the event and follow-up is to focus on exploring optimal support and delivery mechanisms to reach beyond the engaged communities.

The 100 conference participants discussed the justice of adaptation measures within the Scottish Adaptation Programme, due to be published in 2013. Workshops focussed on practical examples of working with vulnerable groups and the lessons to be taken from the projects spanning community engagement for action on climate change, health and the justice system.

Ensuring climate justice will mean thinking about existing social injustice issues systematically. The effect of a changing climate cannot be seen as a set of independent problems. They are connected to other agendas, in particular economy and social issues.

The conference concluded that it is necessary to develop the adaptive capacity and resilience of vulnerable sectors of society as well as the organisations that provide public services, such as housing, health and social care. Discussions also highlighted the need to encourage and enable community engagement in decision making processes and planning as vital ingredients for delivering climate justice.

Read more about our community work

Read more about Adaptation Scotland’s work

Read more about the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s work

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