The climate crisis doesn’t impact all Bristolians equally
25th July 2022
Yasmeen Shaeik is ACH’s Project Officer. Her work supports integration for refugees with an emphasis on development. She is currently working on a climate bid to ensure tenants have a foothold in the new green sector that is sure to emerge. In this blog she highlights why it’s so important to consider how people are impacted by climate change when asking them to take climate action.
Is it fair to ask those most impacted by climate change to make further sacrifice?
Negative stereotypes and broken systems in the UK mean that 75% of refugees and migrants have no opportunities beyond low-paid, entry-level employment. ACH aims to redefine, recentre and rebuild this process to end the cycle of poverty. ACH is a social enterprise comprised of a diverse group of strategists and researchers led by lived experience. We provide tailored integration services that not only help individuals, but also disrupt the systems that have entrenched inequalities in our society.
Marginalized populations are disproportionately affected by pollution, climate change, and water contamination, to name just a few of the critical problems. From the period covering 2008 – 2017, weather-related hazards displaced an average of 21.7 million people each year, equivalent to 41 people every minute. Although not the biggest carbon emitters, or the ones most benefitting from large-scale industry, less economically developed countries will be the most impacted and least able to cope with the worsening conditions. Yet it is communities whose individual carbon footprint scarcely make a dent that are disproportionately affected by the unprecedented effects of climate change.
Refugee carbon footprint is less than half of the Bristol average
The same picture plays out right here in the UK. The effects of the climate crisis doesn’t impact all Bristolians equally – with the poorest, minority communities and most vulnerable being hit the hardest. Refugees, Black and ethnic minority communities will experience the effects of environmental injustice first-hand in their neighbourhoods, which are frequently marked by subpar housing, increased pollution, and restricted access to green spaces. Moreover, poverty, deprivation and health inequalities will reduce people’s ability to prepare for, respond and recover from overheating and flooding incidents. A carbon footprint report commissioned by the Centre for Sustainable Energy has found our ACH beneficiaries (all of whom are refugees) to have a very low carbon footprint on a per person basis; in fact, “it is less than half of the Bristol average.”
Designing climate action around the needs of communities
Therefore, the question is, should these communities that are experiencing the effects of climate change be leading the charge? The answer to this is somewhat complex. These communities should have a say in the suggested solutions since they are bearing the brunt of the effects of climate change. However, the solutions offered are frequently either exclusive or unrelated to their reality. Take our beneficiaries as an example. 5% of ACH residents’ carbon emissions are from their transport use (compared with the Bristol average of 19%). All of these emissions are from the use of public transport. Therefore, the common recommendation that “individuals ought to drive less” to mitigate the effects of climate change is rendered ineffective. This example demonstrates why, despite the fact that the climate issue disproportionately impacts minority populations, many of them lack the motivation or desire to get involved. The movement is frequently characterised by tone-deaf platitudes and exclusion.
To address this problem, our climate project is collaborating with the council, Bristol Green Capital Partnership, and co-production partners in an inclusive environment, placing diversity first. Every community’s climate action plan is specifically designed to meet the needs of the community, and with ACH’s decade long experience of working with refugees, we are uniquely placed to address the issue of climate change in our communities.
ACH are one of six community organisations who have been co-producing community climate action plans over the past year. Watch the recording of our webinar on How to Cocreate a Community Climate Action Plan to find out how to apply their learning in your own community.