Climate Justice: How Can Vulnerable Groups in Ukraine Adapt to Climate Change?


Outline of the presentation of the study "Climate (In)Justice: The Impact of Climate Change on Vulnerable Social Groups in Ukrainian Cities."

Homeless man sitting on the street with a sign asking for help

On November 25, Ecoltava NGO and Cedos think tank, with the support of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, Kyiv Office Ukraine, presented the study Climate (In)Justice: The Impact of Climate Change on Vulnerable Social Groups in Ukrainian Cities.

This study is not about dry statistics, but about the stories of people trying to survive. In cities without infrastructure, limited access to drinking water, and few green areas to shelter from the heat, there are no clear and effective social protection and support programs for people who have lost their homes as a result of a natural disaster. It is about the stories of the cities themselves, where the homeless die of hunger and cold in the middle of the road, where a lonely elderly bedridden man waits for a social worker for a week, men and women die of strokes and dehydration in hot factories without air conditioning. These stories are innumerable. 

And it was these stories that became the basis of the study, which was conducted from May to September 2020. The authors are Ecoltava NGO and Cedos think tank with the support of Heinrich Boell Foundation, Kyiv Office — Ukraine, who focused on determining how climate change affects the life of society, comfort and financial situation of people with different physical and social capabilities, and thus give rise to climate (in)justice. And, most importantly, they have developed several recommendations for city administrations, NGOs that care for socially vulnerable groups, and charities.

"We tried to develop the clearest possible recommendations for cities on how to live with the climate change factor and, in fact, to draw people's attention to the very concept of ‘climate justice,’ which is quite new for Ukraine. Besides, the study includes a thorough analysis of the opportunities, resources of urban space and adaptation of cities to climate change,” said Marina Tsyhryk, Executive Director of Ecoltava NGO.

The study focuses on 7 vulnerable groups, which include:

- low-income people;

- people working outdoors;

- homeless people;

- people with disabilities;

- women (gender inequality issues);

- elderly people;

- children under 14.

The main indicators of climate change in cities are heat waves and hot temperatures, flooding, the vulnerability of green areas, increasing frequency of emergencies, deterioration of water supply, increase and vulnerability of the population to new infectious diseases, the sustainability of energy systems in the city.

The study analyzes how climate change affects various areas of urban life, including public spaces, housing, transportation, and social policies, gives examples of how the current state of affairs in these areas does not correspond to the current trend of increasing climate change and its frequency in cities. This discrepancy between urban development and rapid climate change creates social inequalities. These, in turn, cause the social consequences of climate change.

"For example, homeless people do not have a home to hide from heavy rains, heat, and other abnormal weather events — the manifestations of climate change. Also, it is difficult for vulnerable groups to survive and recover from the negative effects of climate change. Homeless people are constantly suffering from illnesses, violence, malnutrition, and lack of sleep, therefore heatstroke in the summer, which other people can cope with, can be fatal for them. Moreover, poor people who have lost their homes due to bad weather cannot rebuild a house on their own or buy a new one,” says Yulia Nazarenko (Cedos think tank).

"During the tsunami in Indonesia, 77% of the dead were women. Having a high level of social responsibility, they were forced to save children first, and then take care of themselves. It is women who are more often involved in unpaid housework and caring for others. In general, women account for 75% of unpaid housework in the world. There is such a thing as ‘feminization of poverty’: 330 million women live on less than $ 1.9 per day, which is 4.4 million more than men,” shares the findings in her part of the study analyst Yelyzaveta Khassay (Cedos think tank).

Such examples are numerous.

However, the solutions to these social issues of people rest on the political decisions of states and administrative — of local authorities. Cities need to use gender mainstreaming in developing and implementing policies to adapt to climate change. Cities need actual effective programs to support low-income people. Cities need to implement sustainable mobility plans, create comfortable working conditions, programs for adaptation and rehabilitation of the homeless, legal regulation of outdoor work, and so on.

Cities need residents to adopt a humane attitude towards each other. Those who have the resources and management tools should ensure the humane treatment to those who need protection and support in the face of climate change.

Cities need people who know that "WE ARE VULNERABLE" and are looking for ways to mitigate this vulnerability and protect those who need it most.

You can watch the recording of the presentation here.

We will send the full version of the report, as well as the study in the electronic form to everyone who registered via the registration form.

If this is the first time you are hearing of the study and would also like to read the full version, you can send a request to Ecoltava's email address.