Times Square, New York City

Half of climate change plans neglect people most in danger, researchers claim

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According to a report on the UN development goals, the world's governments are failing those most at risk from climate change by not placing them at the heart of efforts to adapt to more extreme weather and rising seas.

The analysis of progress made by 86 countries found that just over half their strategies aimed at building climate resilience have overlooked groups of people bearing the brunt of environmental pressure, such as indigenous people.

The index from the London-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI) assessed whether countries are on track to meet a commitment to “leave no one behind”, a key pillar of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed in 2015.

Overall, 55 countries were deemed “ready” to meet that commitment, 24 partially so, five “not ready”, while two lacked sufficient data to draw any firm conclusion.

The 17 SDGs aim to tackle the world’s most challenging problems by 2030, such as ending poverty and hunger to combating climate change.

For the first time this year, the ODI index has analysed the extent to which government strategies on climate change have considered those groups vulnerable to extreme weather events and other effects of global warming.

ODI researchers analysed the language in climate change action plans produced by countries reporting on their progress towards the SDGs at the UN’s High-Level Political Forum in New York this week, as well as countries that reported last year.

Report co-author Amy Kirbyshire told the Thomson Reuters Foundation governments talk about helping climate-vulnerable people, but “in those documents the reality appears to be that they aren’t focusing enough on the groups who are at risk”.

In a sample of 57 climate change action plans submitted for the Paris Agreement to curb global warming, researchers found that keywords such as “poverty”, “women” and “ethnic” did not appear even once in almost half the plans.

Women, minorities and other marginalised groups must be included in decision-making on how to respond to climate change, Kirbyshire said, and governments should start by paying more attention to them when they assess disaster risks.

“It’s about making sure those groups are seen and heard and have a voice.”

As UN representatives gathered in New York this week to discuss action on climate change, a thematically relevant immersive augmented-reality public artwork was unveiled in Times Square.

American conceptual artist Mel Chin has created a multimedia art installation that shows how climate change could lead to sea levels rising over low-lying sections of New York City.

Using smartphones, visitors to Times Square can see 3D holograms of ships and marine life floating above them in the flooded Square, as part of the artists augmented-reality display, titled ‘Unmoored’.

Chin, who has worked across various mediums for more than 40 years to create art that sparks discussion, said the augmented reality allowed viewers to see virtual structures superimposed on the city’s landmark surroundings via an app on their smartphones.

“It’s an opportunity to have ideas float above you,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. In partnership with Microsoft, ‘Unmoored’ immerses viewers in a six-minute augmented-reality film.

Climate change is predicted to push sea levels up by as much as 1.8m by 2100 in New York City, according to a 2015 report by the citys Panel on Climate Change.

Many major cities around the world are threatened by rising sea levels as a result of global warming. 1.25 million people living in London and £200bn worth of assets in the capital city may be severely impacted by climate change by the year 2050, according to a new report assessing the damage it is expected to wreak on urban environments.

Swathes of South Asia could become entirely uninhabitable by humans by 2100 due to rising temperatures brought about by climate change, while a study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) highlighted that climate change could make it harder to eat healthily, with yields of vegetables falling by more than a third as temperatures rise and water becomes scarce.

You can follow all of E&T’s coverage on climate change on our dynamically updated, dedicated news page.

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