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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)


15 April 2019 – New research from CISL researchers Dr Sanna Markkanen and Dr Annela Anger-Kraavi, which draws on existing literature on the social co-impacts of climate change and implications for inequality, has been published in the academic journal Climate Policy.

The Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set ambitious targets for environmental, economic and social progress. Climate change mitigation policies play a central role in this process. To maximise the benefits and minimise the negative effects of climate change mitigation policies, policymakers need to be aware of the indirect and often complex social and inequality impacts that these policies may have and the pathways through which these impacts emerge. This paper synthesises evidence from the existing literature on social co-impacts of climate change mitigation policy and their implications for inequality. The analysis shows that most policies are linked to both co-benefits and adverse side-effects, and can compound or lessen inequalities depending on contextual factors, policy design and policy implementation. The risk of negative outcomes is greater in contexts characterised by high levels of poverty, corruption and economic and social inequalities, and where limited action is taken to identify and mitigate potentially adverse side-effects.

Key policy insights

  • The risk of adverse social outcomes associated with climate change mitigation policies, including worsening inequality, increases as countries ratchet up their ambition to meet the Paris Agreement targets.
  • Negative inequality impacts of climate policies can be mitigated (and possibly even prevented), but this requires conscious effort, careful planning and multi-stakeholder engagement.
  • Climate change mitigation policies should take a pro-poor approach that, in best case scenarios, can also lead to a reduction of existing inequalities.

This research was supported by the European Union (EU) Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 730427 (COP21 RIPPLES).

Download the report here.



Zoe Kalus, Head of Media  

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