People with disabilities ‘systematically ignored’ in climate crisis, study finds | Climate crisis

People with disabilities are “systematically ignored” by governments around the world when it comes to the climate crisis, even though they are particularly at risk from the effects of extreme weather, research has found.

Few countries make provision for the needs of people with disabilities when developing plans to adapt to the effects of climate degradation, and none mention people with disabilities in their plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. according to the first complete assessment of the question.

Sébastien Jodoin, a professor at McGill University in Canada and co-author of the report, titled Disability Inclusion in National Climate Commitments and Policies and released on Friday, said the needs of people with disabilities were being overlooked.

“I was very disappointed with our findings,” he told the Guardian. “Countries have not thought about how people with disabilities can be included in climate plans. They were systematically ignored.

Yet people with disabilities were among the most vulnerable to climate impacts, partly because of the nature of their disabilities and also because of the social disadvantage that often accompanies them. “These are some of the most marginalized people in our societies,” Jodoin said. “They tend to be poorer, have fewer resources.”

People with disabilities were already at risk from the climate crisis, he noted. For example, when Hurricane Katrina hit the United States in 2005, many people in wheelchairs found themselves stranded because there was no plan for their evacuation and they were unable to use unsuitable vehicles. .

Yet few lessons have been learned: when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, the same problems repeated themselves for many wheelchair users. In response, people with disabilities sued New York City for this oversight and forced policy changes so that there were provisions for wheelchair accessible public shelters.

Researchers from McGill University have examined the detailed climate commitments and policies, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), that countries must submit under the 2015 Paris Agreement, which contains a requirement for persons with disabilities to be taken into account. They also combed through countries’ national plans to adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis.

They found that only 35 of the 192 parties to the Paris Agreement made reference to persons with disabilities in their NDCs, and only 45 countries made reference to persons with disabilities in national adaptation policies or programs.

Major economies, including the United States, United Kingdom, China and Japan, have not included such recognition at all, although a few – including Germany, Spain and South Korea South – have included a baseline in their adaptation plans. Only a few countries, including Zimbabwe, Mexico and Panama, have done both.

Most of the countries that have included specific reference to people with disabilities have done so “superficially, without including meaningful mechanisms to consult with people with disabilities or ensure that their rights are respected”, according to the report.

Developing countries tend to perform better than rich countries, according to the report. Of the 35 countries citing persons with disabilities in their NDCs, only one – Canada – was a developed country, and of the 45 countries citing persons with disabilities in their adaptation plans, only 15 were developed countries, with most being developing countries. EU member states.

The disparity is likely due to the fact that donor countries, which help countries develop their NDCs when providing climate finance to help poor countries reduce emissions and deal with the effects of extreme weather, often stipulate that people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups such as children, women and the elderly are given special attention.

But when it comes to national policies, this focus is often lost. Jodoin cited the UK as an example, saying the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office had strong donor inclusion policies, but the UK’s national climate plans did not take into account the needs of people with disabilities.

People who use wheelchairs are among the most vulnerable to the climate crisis, but some of the risk factors for people with disabilities are less obvious. For example, people with schizophrenia tend to experience up to 50 times the death rate of the general population when heat waves hit. This is because their medications make them more sensitive to temperature changes.

These people could benefit from greater awareness of the problem and measures to cool their homes, but this is likely only to happen if countries take a more concerted approach.

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Governments should review their policies to take into account the needs of people with disabilities, according to the report. For example, Jodoin said early warning systems for storms and extreme weather should be tested to ensure people with hearing or communication difficulties can be notified appropriately. Many of these measures were simple to implement, but some would require additional funding, he said.

Jodoin told the Guardian that the links between disability and the climate crisis were not well understood, even among academics. “I spoke to climate experts and said, ‘I work on disability and climate change,’ and they looked at me and said, ‘What does that mean?’ “, did he declare. “People would have said something like that if you had said 10 years ago that you were working on gender and climate change.”

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