Equity and climate change
Climate change will affect every Australian and many of its impacts are likely to hit low-income households hardest. Older people, infants and people with disability are particularly at risk during heatwaves, for example, which are predicted to become more frequent and severe in south-eastern Australia.
Along with the direct impacts of climate change, many households are facing difficulties due to higher energy bills. Few can afford to invest in efficient home appliances or solar power systems that will cut their energy costs. Renters face even greater hurdles to energy efficiency. This means that as energy prices go up, the people least able to adjust will see their standard of living reduced even further unless assistance measures are put in place.
Many low-income households are underinsured, making them more vulnerable to losses from extreme weather events like storms or floods. And in communities that rely heavily on jobs in industries that are vulnerable to the economic restructuring that climate change will require, such as the closing of coal-fired power stations, people's livelihoods may be at risk. This makes climate change not just an important environmental issue, but also a vital social issue.
To ensure that low-income Australians are protected from the impacts of climate change and that our responses to it do not increase social inequality, Australian governments must take action.
What we're doing
The Brotherhood of St Laurence has been at the forefront of research into the potential effects of climate change on low-income people and communities. This is enabling us to work with governments, businesses and environmental organisations to devise socially equitable solutions.
Our current focus is on:
More on our work in this area is available at Research: Energy, Equity and Climate Change.