Climate change inequality: Reducing vulnerability of ACP countries

Understanding the relationship between inequality and climate change vulnerability

In most ACP countries, the negative consequences of inequality are linked to factors contributing to climate change vulnerability. Social and economic inequalities drive vulnerability among particular groups, some of which have restricted access to the resources required for building adaptive capacity and responding to climate change. Understanding the relationship between inequality and climate change risk is key to informing National Determined Contributions and achieving the SDGs. Participants will discuss the following questions.

  • How does inequality shape vulnerability among different socioeconomic groups?
  • How is the vulnerability-inequality nexus related to the current socioeconomic paradigm?
  • How would limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C affect this nexus?

Key points

  • The ACP dialogue has moved in the past few years from development priorities to climate impact goals in concluding new economic agreements.
  • The EU and ACP are deepening their mutual climate agenda goals at a time when leading global emissions players such as populist-government led India and Brazil are backing away
  • Countries hit by recent unprecedented disasters because of climate change have found common cause in demanding tougher guidelines


Environmental degradation was already viewed in recent years as an acute threat by the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) countries. Its Members States have struggled to even stay on track for the first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 1) on poverty reduction by 2030. Now, after the devastating cyclones Idai and Kenneth earlier this year, which left more than 1,000 dead and millions homeless in Mozambique, ACP countries have stepped up plans to counter the devastating impact of climate change. At the same time there is recognition that the “Global North” is the main culprit for CO2 emissions, while the “Global South” has become its understandably guilty conscience. A CO2-enhanced Mother Nature has thrown infrastructure vulnerabilities into stark relief, such as the devastation of the development-funded renovation of the port city of Beira in Mozambique, as noted by the panel, in the recent storms. Protecting development gains in ACP countries against environmental shocks have become top priorities in the area of ACP-European Union cooperation. The EU views the ACP as a key partner in achieving the Paris Agreement, which was the successful outcome of a bottom-up approach, in contrast to that taken in Kyoto. There is expected to be a new agreement reached between the EU and ACP in 2020. However, NDCs (nationally determined contributions) are still not legally binding as international commitments. They remain, as one speaker described it, as only the first step on a 1,000-mile journey. Nonetheless, the renewed determination of the ACP’s 79 countries plus the EU Member States can provide a powerful lobby to combat increasingly powerful and more frequent droughts and catastrophic wind and rainfall in the ACP region. Although such man-made catastrophes are becoming regular features in India, Russia and the United States, there appears to be a state of denial among government leaders. Meanwhile, through a combination of public and private investments and strong input from the European Investment Bank, wind power now makes up 20 % of the sustainable energy mix in Africa. In addition, climate finance, using the Paris Accord as alignment, means that even if future projects are not directly linked to combating climate change, they must still achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Despite that, the track record on international legal safeguards remains woeful. In global governance terms, meeting the SDGs is proving difficult because many of the proper oversight tools are lacking. There is no International Climate Court, or an enshrined right to a clean environment such as exists in the Belgian constitution. As one legal expert noted, you can take your next-door neighbour to court for poisoning your garden, but not a neighbouring country for polluting the skies overhead.


International accountability for climate change remains largely a pipe dream and there is no international court access to deal with violators. Until this international legislative issue is resolved it will be difficult to enforce compliance beyond rhetorical naming and shaming.

Organised by


Pendo Maro
Team Leader Intra-ACP GCCA+ Programme
African Caribbean and Pacific Secretariat
Stefano Signore
Head of unit
European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development
Shahr-yar Sharei
Center for United Nations Constitutional Research
Kaire Mbuende
Embassy of the Republic of Namibia
Patrick Gomes
Secretary General
ACP Group
Philip Owen
Head of Unit
European Commission - DG for Climate Action
Luca Lazzaroli
Director General
European Investment Bank (EIB)
Samson Sithole
Chief Executive Officer
Eswatini Agriculture and Water Devevelopment Enterprise