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Governments exclude disabled people from climate crisis plans

a person in a wheelchair on a concrete cliff next to the sea
a person in a wheelchair on a concrete cliff next to the sea Image credit: theguardian.com

According to research people with disabilities are being “systematically ignored” around the globe in regards to the climate crisis.

A review states disabled people are not being taken into account when governments propose plans to lower greenhouse emissions in their programmes.

Sébastien Jodoin, a professor at McGill University in Canada and co-author of the report, titled Disability Inclusion in National Climate Commitments and Policies, told The Guardian: “I was very disappointed by our findings. Countries have not considered how people with disabilities can be included in climate plans. They have been systematically ignored.”

People with disabilities are amongst those most affected by climate change because of their health conditions and barriers in social interaction.

“These are some of the people who are most marginalised in our societies,” said Jodoin. “They tend to be poorer, to have fewer resources.”

Jodin went on to highlight the Hurricane Katrina tragedy in 2005 where there was no eviction plan put into place for disabled people, many of which were wheelchair users.

The climate pledges and policies, known as national determined contributions (NDCs) - which countries must submit under the 2015 Paris agreement - were examined by researchers at McGill University alongside countries’ domestic plans for adapting to the impacts of the climate crisis.

They found only 32 of the 192 parties to the Paris agreement took disabled people into consideration and just 45 countries refer to people with disabilities in any national policies or programmes for adaptation.

The US, UK, China and Japan did not recgonise disabled people at all in their plans. A small percentage of countries including Germany, Spain and South Korea referenced people with disabilities but only Mexico, Panama and Zimbabwe did both.

According to the report most of the countries that did include reference to people with disabilities did so “in a cursory manner, without including meaningful mechanisms to consult people with disabilities, or ensure their rights are respected”.

On the whole, developing countries focused more on disabled people in comparison to wealthy nations.

In some cases it is less obvious to see how climate change affects people with disabilities, those with schizophrenia for example can stomach heat waves up to 50 times more than the general population.

They could benefit from an awareness programme on how to keep their room temperature down.

It has also been suggested that warning systems for extreme weather conditions such as storms should be tested for people with communication barriers such as those living with hearing loss.

Jordoin said: “I have spoken to climate experts and said: ‘I work on disability and climate change,’ and they looked at me and said: ‘What does that mean?’

“People would have said something like that if you’d said 10 years ago you were working on gender and climate change.”

Fossil fuel is responsible for over 80% of gas emissions.