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The historical lack of diversity in the climate change activism space creates a self-perpetuating inaccessibility that dissuades Black community leaders from entering a conversation that is shaping the health and wealth of the Black community the UK or abroad. The lack of Black voices at global climate change summit, COP26, tells a chilling story of exclusion, oversight and erasure. In an effort to aid intersectional thinking on this subject, Do it Now Now invited researcher Cryton Chikoko to examine the impact of climate change on Black communities in this post.
In the UK, the climate crisis overwhelmingly affects the Black people who predominately live in urban areas and are most in need of climate responsible regeneration and support. Despite being the least responsible for climate change; least likely to own a car, least likely to engage in air travel etc. Black communities are simultaneously more susceptible to the damage wrought by climate change and hit hardest by current measures to combat it. Those are some of the findings of the Inequality in a Future Wales report, led by Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, which examined the impact on equality of future trends such as climate change. The study has highlighted new challenges for Black people in the UK as world leaders gather at COP26 to discuss plans to address climate change.
The recent report points out that laudable measures to combat climate change such as the electrification of cars, greener methods of transport, and improved housing are not affordable to most underserved people. It warns that climate change mitigation could benefit underserved communities if done well, but could also increase inequalities if the impacts on different groups in society are not expressly factored into the decision-making process.
Immediate action that puts people most harmed by the climate and natural disasters at the centre of policy-making is crucial to stop inequalities from worsening. The report was published together with stories by people from across Wales affected by devastating flooding. Indo Zwingina saw the results of the climate crisis in her home city of Abuja in Nigeria. She is now experiencing the impact in her new home of Treforest in south Wales told the researchers: ‘Politicians need to listen to people to tackle climate change – we can only make the changes we need if they engage people and understand their lives and the reality for them, they can’t force ideas on people, it needs to be about what communities need and can do.’
The report also highlights that older people, people with health conditions, and people from Black and South Asian communities are predisposed for COVID-19, and these groups were more likely to come from areas with the highest levels of economic deprivation and the highest levels of pollution.
Another recent report by the Environment Agency said deprived communities face higher flood risk exposure. Low-income households are less likely to be able to afford insurance against flood damage, or the necessary infrastructure changes to their property, which would make them more resilient. It added that recent analysis of social vulnerability to flooding highlighted the disproportionate disadvantage experienced by people of colour, particularly Black people.
CEO of Do it Now Now, Bayo Adelaja said: ‘There is a desperate need for more Black people to enter the space, build culturally relevant interventions, and challenge some of these practises which bring so much destruction to Black communities. We are often underrepresented in climate discussions but highly affected by decisions made.’
Climate change is a defining challenge of our times. We are not surprised that climate change unequally affects Black people. We have already seen how climate change is having a disproportionate impact on communities of colour in the global South as well as here in the UK. As COP26 draws to an end, the UK government must urgently re-examine climate mitigation policies, addressing the disadvantages to those who are most vulnerable. Climate change is an equality issue. Failing to address its impact through this lens, risks further entrenching economic, social, and medical divisions.
About the author:
Cryton Chikoko is a Migrant Voice community researcher and founder of Equanicity, a media platform advocating for equality in the UK.