What does Greta Thunberg’s call for equity mean?

(Climate Change News, 2 Oct 2019) The Swedish activist has mentioned it in all her major speeches. Here’s how we can calculate the fair share of the burden of climate action .

Greta Thunberg has some memorable quotes that now adorn thousands of protest placards and Instagram posts.

However, one word which she has mentioned consistently in her speeches — from the speech at Cop24 in Katowice that made her a household name to the European Parliament to her latest speech at the UN climate action summit — has been given little to no attention, despite being the key to climate action.

That word? Equity.

To put it as simply as possible, equity is about fairness.

You’ve probably noticed that in discourse about climate change, and in particular climate action, there’s a lot of use of the word “we.”

But there’s a problem with this which my friend Daniel Voskoboynik describes in his excellent book as “the hollowness of we”. This hollowness is everywhere around us. You see it in all the talk about saving ‘the future’, while in the present, people are already dying in a 1C world. When the IPCC land report came out a few months ago there was a Wired.com headline: “We’re eating this planet to death”. But 1 billion go to bed hungry each night. 3.8 billion people survive on less than $5 a day, and 26 individuals own as much as the poorest half of humanity.

So who is the “we”?

You’ve all heard that 100 companies are responsible for 71% emissions. That’s one way of cutting the cake. Another is that the world’s richest 10% make 52% of the world’s income and are responsible for 50% of emissions; the poorest 50% get only 8% and are responsible for 10% of emissions.

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Climate Change News, 2 Oct 2019: What does Greta Thunberg’s call for equity mean?