- By Jamie Shea
There is much room for improvement in the policy arena, none least of which relates to our approach to diversity and inclusion. Both need to be a crucial element in, and at the heart of, all policies. Climate policy is no exception. The everyday life of citizens around the globe will be affected by climate change at some point in the near future, if it hasn’t been already. To ensure that the policies written, and the actions taken, have a strong support base among all of us, it’s crucial that individual voices are heard and represented in the policy cycle.
Having a small group of bright minds formulate policies and action plans relating to the climate will not be received well if those bright minds all look alike. It limits discussion and idea sharing, and lacking diversity of thoughts, insights and personal experiences risks missing out on the key ideas that can solve the climate crisis. True dialogue and idea sharing can only be achieved through diversity. As such, climate policy needs to be radically inclusive to enable a multi-stakeholder analysis and fresh approach.
How can we ensure meaningful participation and representation of women, youth and disadvantaged communities in climate action? The answer is to ask them and involve them directly, while ensuring that such outreach and inclusion is part of an ongoing process, rather than a one-time thing. It can start from the bottom up at workplaces. If a work culture is not sufficiently representative of EU citizens, ask why not and if it can be addressed via hiring initiatives. In most cases, that means leaving the bubble. The classist phrase: ‘we wanted a diverse team, but we couldn’t find them’ doesn’t cut it anymore. There are many women, young people and members of disadvantaged communities among EU citizens that have the brainpower and willingness to contribute to climate policy, but companies and organisations must make it a top priority to search for them, identify them, include them, and most importantly, give them a permanent seat at the table.
Policymakers should constantly ask themselves questions like: how will this policy affect different communities?
In short, inclusion starts with meaningful involvement and participation. Climate action should work to benefit of all the communities it affects, not just one or two. Policymakers should constantly ask themselves questions like: how will this policy affect different communities? Is this action benefiting the majority, or just a small group of people? Who was involved in writing the policies? Have we included or considered a wide and diverse range of EU citizens? What these questions signal is that there is still great room for improvement in this arena.
Mainstreaming the importance of diversity in climate action will be one of the key challenges of the next decade. But a wealth of voices is out there and the resources available to hear them are propitious.
Firstly, the abilities to harvest ideas and crowdsource for input on climate policy and action plans is one such area of great potential. Get as many people and organisations as possible involved in the process through online campaigns, discussion forums and media outlets. If diverse messages are to be heard, this is the arena in which they will thrive.
Concurrent with policymaking procedures, a process of on-the-ground evaluation before, during and after policy implementation must be guaranteed
Secondly, teams which work directly on policy formulation at EU level would be remiss to continue their efforts without reassessing their in-house diversity breakdown. How do we expect to push forward on policy which will affect millions without this reckoning? There needs to be an effort to diversify these teams to ensure there is a good representation of EU citizens in the mix when action plans are tabled.
Thirdly, policy and action plans must be externally audited via the installation of a diversity and inclusion checkpoint. Simply put, if a policy or action doesn’t check the boxes required to validate it as an inclusive policy, then our collective response should be not to make it one until a full review and reform of the policy is completed to bring it in line with the necessary criteria. This not only will improve the results of diverse and inclusive policies, but also initiate a desired mindset from the outset of policy formulation.
Lastly, we must be cognisant of the spill-over effect that EU policies may incur, especially on our closest neighbours and continents. Policies and actions implemented by and within the EU have had a history of creating unwelcome changes to North African countries too, for example. Concurrent with policymaking procedures, a process of on-the-ground evaluation before, during and after policy implementation must be guaranteed to ensure that the EU is not inadvertently minimising diversity and inclusion in those regions.
In sum, the potential for improving our understanding and practice of diversity in climate policies is great, but without mainstreaming diverse voices on the inside and implementing a robust internal and external evaluation system, the potential will remain just that – potential that has not been attained. We must forge ahead with dialogue, inclusive hiring policies and stringent evaluation to realise our vision for a more diverse climate policy arena.
This article is part of our European Climate Pact series. The European Climate Pact is a movement of people united around a common cause, each taking steps to build a more sustainable Europe for us all. Launched by the European Commission, the Climate Pact is part of the European Green Deal and is helping the EU to meet its goal to be the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050.
Learn more about the European Climate Pact here.
Read our full European Climate Pact article series:
- What fuels our drive towards clean transport? A strategic vision for a greener Europe, by Jane Burston
- Creating a climate of change: youth and our green-digital future, by Lindsey Nefesh-Clarke
- The EU must equip itself with a climate change bazooka, by Thomas Dermine
- Age is just a number: intergenerational and lifelong learning can influence positive climate action, by Cristina Pozzi
- The climate super power that brings jobs and prosperity, by Wietse van der Werf
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