Climate change poses the greatest threat to those least responsible for it, including low-income and disadvantaged populations, women, racial minorities, marginalized ethnic groups and the elderly. To make matters worse, these groups are already vulnerable to other deep-rooted challenges. Conversely, those who have contributed the most to climate change have much better capacity to protect themselves from its impacts.

As the effects of climate change mount, so does the urgency to ensure equity while pursuing solutions. Inadequate action will mean more lives lost, worsening inequality, mass migration and major economic disruptions.

Low-carbon and resilient climate action can be a powerful engine to revitalize global economic growth, contribute to poverty reduction, generate jobs and expand income opportunities, all while vigorously countering growing climate risks. Among other benefits, ambitious climate action could lead to benefits like improving food security, reducing energy costs, creating more than 65 million new low-carbon jobs and preventing 700,000 air pollution deaths in 2030.

WRI works at the intersection of equity, climate and development. We aim to inform and influence policymakers and empower equity advocates with effective solutions that not only divide the burden of responding to the threat of climate change, but also share the opportunities and benefits climate action presents for combatting inequity.

In collaboration with our international offices and on-the-ground partners, WRI conducts research to better understand how climate action (or lack thereof) will impact vulnerable populations around the world and identify promising opportunities for action in specific sectors. We also published a series of expert notes highlighting how the United States and other countries can build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic while creating much-needed jobs and fighting climate change. And through resources like the Just Transition and Equitable Climate Action Resource Center, we share lessons learned to help ensure a smooth transition to a zero-emissions economy that benefits everyone.

To put this research into practice, WRI works with governments to design climate policies that are transparent and give agency to socially and economically marginalized groups. We also encourage equity considerations within the United Nations climate negotiations — recognizing that equity challenges exist both between and within countries — and work to identify opportunities that simultaneously address climate action, development needs and the priorities of countries, communities and individuals.

Photo credit: Photo by Molly Bergen/WCS, WWF, WRI