Africa: Climate Action Must Happen ‘For Our People, Not to Them’, Cities Say

A shift to a greener economy should bring social benefits, especially for the poorest, or ‘the politics will end up against us’

Efforts to push low-carbon lifestyles and green energy to curb climate change will fail unless many people see benefits – and the poorest and most vulnerable should get the biggest gains, leading mayors and other city officials urged Friday.

“The journey to net-zero (emissions) has to happen with and for our people, not to them,” warned Susan Aitken, leader of the city council in Glasgow, the Scottish city that will host the COP26 U.N. climate negotiations in November.

“It can’t be about just telling our poorest residents what they have to give up … (It) has to show how to take advantage of this changing world,” she said during an online event marking 100 days until the key talks.

More than a half-century later, Glasgow is still battling social deprivation as a result of the city’s painful industrial decline starting in the 1950s, Aitken said.

That has made clear that as a new major economic shift gets underway to try to ward off surging climate threats, “anything but a just transition we will come to regret”, she said.

Nigel Topping, Britain’s high-level climate action champion for COP26, said failure to make sure the coming green shift was fair and benefitted the poor as well as the rich would derail it.

“If we don’t do it inclusively, the politics will end up being against us,” he said during the event organised by the C40 Cities network of major cities pushing for swifter action on climate change.