We Must Reduce Inequalities to #ActOnClimate

During Global Goals Week, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) hosted the Nature for Life Hub, a four-day virtual event that brought together political and corporate leaders, local authorities, indigenous and community leaders, trailblazing thinkers, and mobilizers and practitioners in order to discuss strategies and solutions to address two major issues of our lifetime: climate change and rising inequalities.

Nature for Life Hub Day 1: Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Day explored the importance of our world’s natural ecosystems and how vital it is to achieve not only Goal 13—Climate Action—but all the SDGs because of how nature is intricately connected to our world and, therefore, many of our world’s problems. To solve many of the social ills and natural calamities plaguing our planet, we must work on multiple fronts to tackle a variety of global issues simultaneously.

One of the global challenges our generation faces is inequalities at an unprecedented level. There is still considerable work that needs to be done to reduce relative income inequalities in many countries so people can have a chance to lead dignified lives. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened existing inequalities by impacting the poorest and most vulnerable communities, both at home and abroad.  The social safety nets that wealthy countries have is a luxury that most nations cannot afford, and vulnerable populations are left to fend for themselves and their families. A fast-changing climate means hotter days for everyone, but the poorest populations are disproportionately affected, unable to properly shelter from the elements, provide food for their families, or access clean water. It is imperative that we focus on preserving our ecosystems to combat the changing climate, especially for future generations.

SDG 10 cannot be achieved without securing enough food and water for the growing global population, increasing relative wages, tracking the changing climate, and buffering the impacts of climate change. Ensuring healthy, functioning ecosystems is necessary when addressing inequalities.

In my home state of California, we are dealing with devastating fires that are destroying lives and homes. Living in the Sacramento Valley, the smoke, from fires to the east in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and fires to the west along the Coastal Range, has caused hazardous air quality and “spare the air” days for weeks at a time. These terrible fires and the impacts on human health have put a spotlight on socioeconomic inequalities and the fragile social safety nets that have left vulnerable populations to bear the burden of the crisis. In addition to the fires, California has endured unprecedented heat waves, which further exacerbate the wildfires. To reduce the inequalities that natural disasters have inflicted on vulnerable populations, we must work together to ensure healthy and functioning ecosystems.

During the session Nature for Health and Security, Dr. David Navarro, Strategic Director and Chair of Global Health at Imperial’s Institute for Global Health, delivered a keynote address about the importance of nature and wellbeing in reducing the likelihood of more natural disasters in the near future. Dr. Navarro spoke about the steps that communities and governments can take to improve the wellbeing of ecosystems, including the connections between all living systems and how they can be used as a source of security. He emphasized that the changing climate, rising global temperatures, and increasing quantities of carcinogenic and o-zone depleting chemicals can only be addressed with reevaluating our actions that impact nature in order to contribute to viable future that is sustainable and equitable for all.

Sadie is a 2020-2021 UNA-USA Global Goals Ambassador for SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities.