Seminar series: Climate Change, Inequality, and X

The Tyndall Centre’s Overcoming Poverty theme is holding a seminar series this May 2021. The series will focus on three topics: adaptation, conservation, and energy and are open to the public.

Climate, inequality, and adaptation 


That the impacts of climate change will unduly affect the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world is well established. Climate change is embedded within the same complex and interconnected socio-economic, political, technological, industrial and environmental systems as poverty and inequality. Yet, too often the more social and political explanations that seek to challenge structures that maintain and reproduce poverty, inequality and vulnerability are obscured and the status quo is maintained. For example, apolitical framing and neoliberal discourse can push responsibility for climate adaptation onto individuals and communities who are often ill-equipped to respond effectively. (c.f. Bettini et al 2017). Similarly, the promotion of triple wins or co-benefits in relation to progress on adaptation, mitigation and development remains persuasive and influential but obscures the difficult decisions and choices that will inevitably be required as we look to the future (c.f. Ellis & Tschakert 2019). Taken together, these examples highlight that contemporary institutional and power constellations can recreate and perpetuate landscapes that entrench existing inequalities. This seminar will critically explore issues of adaptation and inequality within this contested terrain and ask how we can create conditions through which the needs of disempowered populations are more fairly and justly included within thinking and action on adaptation.

Climate, inequality and conservation


Rural communities in tropical forest landscapes of the global South carry little responsibility for climate change, and yet disproportionately suffer the impacts – which include extended droughts, increased risk of uncontrolled fires and disease. The conservation agenda typically targets communities in these same landscapes with site-level interventions that are increasingly blended with responses to climate change. Such efforts include REDD+, forest and landscape restoration programmes, integrated landscape initiatives and other nature-based solutions. Rural small scale subsistence farmers are thereby affected by not only climate change, but also responses to it. Whilst climate conservation interventions present an opportunity for tackling climate change, conservation and development, they may also pose risks to local communities. Given the increasing interest in nature-based solutions in the international policy arena, it is imperative that interventions do not extenuate the vulnerabilities of rural populations and instead enhance the resilience and well-being of the communities they impact. Ensuring that the pursuit of climate-related conservation delivers equitable outcomes demands the design of bundles of interventions that resonate with the ecological context as well as the place-based realities of local communities. This seminar will address and critically reflect on some of the challenges posed, and harvest lessons learned from past and present experiences in climate conservation interventions.

Climate, inequality and energy


Access to clean and affordable energy is crucial to support economic development, with the potential to alleviate poverty, improve access to healthcare, improve wellbeing and reduce global warming at the same time. Whilst global access to energy is increasing, with 90% of the global population having access to electricity in 2018 compared to 83% in 2010, still 789 million people are without access to electricity across the world, with inequalities remaining within, and between, nations. Despite progress, particularly in improving energy access in urban areas, in sub-Saharan Africa, around 600 million people lack access to electricity, and 900 million to clean cooking fuels. Universal access to energy through clean sources comes with complex challenges. Decentralized solutions can be successful, however up-front capital requirements and costs of usage must be commensurate with beneficiaries’ income levels. Regulatory frameworks also play a critical role in attracting investments.

This seminar features Prof Charles Jumbe, Professor of Economics and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Malawi, and Mr Pierre Telep, Director of Climate Platform and Climate Finance Consultant at the African Development Bank, with contributions from Tyndall Manchester Researchers Velma Mukoro and Christopher Walsh; it is chaired by Dr Sarah Mander (Tyndall Centre at the University of Manchester). It will reflect on challenges of providing energy access to all, including issues of inequality, and energy access policies for climate finance, development finance and leveraging private sector finance on access.

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