Since the 2015 Paris agreement, mitigating climate change has been established as a common, world-encompassing goal; however, both the impacts of the climate crisis and the actions currently being taken vary widely across the globe. At the moment, the most prominent cities are outpacing governments in addressing the climate crisis and fostering a green transition, but their actions are counteracted by inaction and an increase in carbon emissions elsewhere. Moreover, the vulnerabilities and adaptive capacity to different levels of climate disruptions vary across nations. Discussing environmental inequalities through the lens of climate risks and mitigation actions, the following highlights the need for a global coordinated and transdisciplinary effort in addressing the climate crisis.
Environmental inequalities are defined as the expression of an environmental burden borne primarily by disadvantaged and/or minority populations or territories. The concept cuts across various scales, from the social groups within a city to the varied effects of environmental issues on territories and nations. Global warming has already exacerbated global economic inequality, and climate shocks tend to impact developing regions harder. At the same time, while the implementation of renewable energy is a significant effort for rich countries, it is a daunting challenge for less economically developed nations.
Aside from the differences in perspective climate change, developing countries will also experience the effects differently, as the vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities vary across nations. Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia will be most severely affected by crop failure, while the Asia-Pacific region will experience loss of coastal lands. The levels of climate risks are not equal across the world; therefore, the globally accepted goals and measures impact territories differently.
An Uneven Sustainable Development
Recently, Norway has unveiled plans to bury CO2 in depleted oil and gas fields under the North Sea, and New York has announced a significant investment in carbon-capturing technologies. As wealthy nations and cities decarbonize their energy systems and invest in technologies that would help curb climate emissions, some parts of the world struggle with taking similar actions, and this uneven pace in green transition may have significant consequences for the overall global climate action. While the EU is heading towards its goal of at least 32% energy from renewables by 2030, the continent of Africa is expected to reach a percentage of only 10% non-hydro renewable energy, while total generation will double