Tackling Climate Change, Reducing Poverty: The first report of the roundtable on climate change and poverty in the UK | Low Carbon Economy

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A new coalition of leading UK environmental and social justice groups, convened by Oxfam and net (the New Economics Foundation) and including Friends of the Earth and the Royal College of Nursing, says the government cannot choose between tackling poverty and climate change
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  Tackling climate change, reducing poverty The first report of the Roundtable on Climate Change and Poverty in the UK  EMBARGO: 00:01Monday 12 January 2009  This report represents the coming together of leading environmental and social justice organisations in the UK. For too long now, groups tackling poverty and protecting the environment have operated separately. The fact that climate change and poverty are connected, and must be tackled together, has not been sufficiently understood. Yet they are two of the most pressing challenges faced by our generation. Contents Introduction 2Environmental justice 4Energy 10Housing 16Livelihoods 21Health 24Food 30Transport 35Conclusion 38Case studies index 39 Endnotes 40  2 INTRODUCTION The need for a joint approach Despite being a wealthy country, in the UK poverty is an ongoing problem. According to Oxfam GB today 1 in 5 people in the UK don’t have enough to live on. 1  There were 2.9 million children and 2.5 million pensioners living in poverty in the UK in 2006/2007. 2  Children go to school hungry, or to bed without enough food. Poor communities are in poorer health and have shorter life expectancy.On the issue of climate change, there is an emerging consensus that we have less than a decade to seriously reduce carbon emissions before potentially irreversible changes to the climate begin to happen. If we fail, we will outstrip our ability to maintain a climate conducive to supporting stable societies – with potentially disastrous effects. A future of uncontrolled climate change will mean heat waves, rises in sea level, flooding, and unpredictable weather that will create upheaval in the UK. It will affect vital systems on which we all depend, such as growing food and energy supplies. It will directly affect human health, housing and livelihoods.These problems are also closely connected. People in poverty are the most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change, as they tend to have a lower level of physical and mental health, live in worse housing with less access to insurance, and have fewer resources to cope with rising costs. Equally, the measures to combat climate change – namely drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions – unless carefully tailored will, like the effects of climate change, hit the poorest hardest. Taxing fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for example, could affect the poorest most. The fuel and food price spikes of 2008 clearly demonstrated the damage that fluctuations in price have on low-income families and individuals, with many more households finding themselves living in fuel poverty. What is clear is that tackling climate change simply through a price mechanism, without having a mechanism for transferring resources to the poor, will only worsen the already serious problem of poverty in the UK today. An equally unwise strategy would be to attempt to tackle poverty without regard to fossil fuel emissions. This would incur the serious negative impacts of climate change and the poorest, in particular, are the most vulnerable. This is not a successful way to tackle poverty in the long term. Solving the problems of climate change and poverty demands integrated thinking. The failure to see that the problems of climate change and poverty are interrelated has meant that at times the environmental and social justice movements have worked against each other, rather than working together. Campaigns for building new homes for low-income families, for example, have appeared to be in conflict with arguments for protecting greenbelt land. Arguments to increase petrol prices have been in tension with the desire to provide affordable travel, particularly in rural areas. All too often, these apparently opposing interests have allowed policy-makers to avoid taking action urgently required on the issues of climate change and poverty. In reality, lifting people out of poverty and creating a sustainable environment are not conflicting aims; these goals are actually mutually supportive in a multitude of positive ways. This report presents a wide range of examples which are helping to solve the problems of poverty and climate change in an integrated way. There are numerous case studies which demonstrate the types of positive feedback or ‘virtuous circles’ that can result in simultaneous positive social and environmental outcomes. To name a few: home insulation can be used to cut fuel bills, keep homes warm and reduce CO 2  emissions; investment in public transport can provide affordable travel and cut air pollution; and tasty, healthy and sustainable food in hospitals can help vulnerable patients recover and provide local jobs. Introduction
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