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Symposium 2015

Stopping climate change, ending poverty, and limiting inequality: Killing three birds with one stone?

The Challenge

Climate change, poverty and the rise in inequality are major issues of global, regional and national policy discourse and are increasingly understood to be interlinked. While billions of people have been lifted out of poverty by globalized markets and economic growth, this has come at the expense of an unprecedented rise in greenhouse-gas emissions. The resulting climate change is again impacting poor people: the degradation of land hurts small farmers and decreases food security.

Furthermore, measures to fight climate change bear the risk of rising inequality when carbon prices increase the costs of living for poorer households. Thus, strategies for combatting climate change and fostering sustainable economic growth must be embedded in a broader discourse on sustainable development. Access to education, health and physical infrastructures, providing sufficient investments in the natural capital and in access to clean water, sanitation and electricity might be important cornerstones in this respect. Moreover, climate policy has to be evaluated according to inter- and intragenerational justice. If carefully designed, CO2 taxes and land policies can help to reduce inequality.

Can we develop solutions for the entangled challenges of climate change mitigation, poverty eradication and the limitation of distributional inequality by stressing synergies rather than trade-offs? Can the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) trigger the development of joint solutions for these problems? Can the SDGs set a new impulse? How can policy instruments for mitigation be designed so that they do not increase inequality within and between countries? Is the improvement of global living conditions possible without the continued depletion of the Earth’s natural capital?

This session is organized by the Stiftung Mercator.