• People in low-income countries are four times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather than those living in rich countries.
  • With climate resilience and economic development dependent on healthy ecosystems, investing in nature is a critical part of securing climate justice for poor communities.
  • Equality, justice, and investment in nature are all fundamental if the corporate response to climate breakdown is to help deliver a resilient, prosperous future.

With the outcome of climate negotiations in Glasgow in the balance, the role of business in responding to the planetary emergency through initiatives such as the Race to Zero is more important than ever.

Yet with the most severe impacts being felt by the most vulnerable sectors of society who have contributed least to the crisis, and whose livelihoods often depend on a resilient natural environment, companies must put equality and justice at the heart of attempts to tackle climate change.

While the richest 10% of the world’s population were responsible for 52% of polluting gases, of the cumulative carbon emissions between 1990 and 2015, the poorest 50% were responsible for just 7%.

Climate disasters such as floods, storms, droughts, and fires wreak the most destruction on communities with the poorest quality infrastructure, and with the fewest resources with which to rebuild. People in low-income countries are four times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather than those living in rich countries. And climate change severely impacts sectors that rely on natural resources, such as agriculture, forestry, fishing, and tourism, on which poor people often depend. Agriculture accounts for 65% of employment in Africa, for example, and coastal-based tourism for 20%-50% of GDP in small-island developing states.

Ensuring a just transition

It is vital then that companies help deliver a just transition – a shift to a green, low-carbon economy that does not leave millions of workers and their communities behind – and ensure climate justice across their business operations, supply chains, philanthropic activities, and engagement in policy dialogues.

Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition to a green economy hold the promise of green jobs and the reallocation of capital in support of industries that create societal value. But efforts to ‘build back better’ that do not address climate justice could make the situation worse. For example, policies that increase the costs of polluting fuels without also mitigating effects on the poor can worsen energy poverty, exacerbating vulnerability. People in disadvantaged communities will, without support, struggle to access the training and skills they will need to thrive in the low-carbon economy.

Business Fights Poverty’s paper, Business and Climate Justice, explores how companies can embed climate justice in their response to climate change, and highlights numerous opportunities. These include investing in small producer resilience across value chains, especially through supporting economic opportunities for women; increasing access to essential products and services such as insurance, and making them affordable; and investing in community regeneration and economic diversification in areas impacted by a move away from carbon-intensive industries, with a particular focus on low-paid workers.

A nature-positive response

With climate resilience and economic development dependent on healthy ecosystems, investing in nature is a critical part of securing climate justice for poor communities, as well as ensuring an inclusive recovery from the global pandemic. It’s especially important that we support those communities most impacted by climate change by scaling bold environmental, socio-economic solutions through initiatives such as the UpLink Climate Justice Challenge, which is now openly sourcing innovative solutions from communities most impacted by climate disasters – with the aim to support their self-determination, uplift their ideas, and make their voices heard.

One way business can help is by supporting sustainable community enterprises. WWF’s Nature Pays Hub works with hundreds of community enterprises around the world to bring conservation, social justice, and economic opportunity together. Communities engaged in sustainable enterprise are powerful allies for conservation in some of the world’s most precious landscapes. They are also more climate resilient. Madagascar’s Vezo tribe offers a great example, where the community together with WWF and international exporter Ocean Farmers have created a seaweed farming enterprise which provides a sustainable income for fishing communities, while helping conserve the natural environment.

In addition, many of the responses WWF has been developing to help communities recover from the COVID-19 pandemic – such as helping those dependent on ecotourism to diversify revenue streams – can also be applied to and support climate resilience.

The opportunity to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C is very slim but still possible, and momentum for integrated corporate action on climate and nature is building. Yet any effort to address climate impacts and vulnerabilities that is not society-wide, which fails to address inequality, and which does not build a broadly-based, innovation-led green economy, will fall short of meeting humanity’s needs.

Equality, justice, and investment in nature are all fundamental if the corporate response to climate breakdown is to help deliver a resilient, prosperous future.