Are you affected by long-term climate plans?

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WWF’s MaxiMiseR project has been delving into the policy weeds of long-term climate strategies for the past three years. But now, with the project coming to an end, we wanted to take a step back and look at the difference those strategies can make to the man - or lady - in the street.

MaxiMiseR asked Collingwood Environmental Planning to have a closer look at the impacts of long-term climate plans on society and the economy - that is, on you and me. MaxiMiseR Project Manager Jane Wallace-Jones explains what they found out.

What were the reasons for looking into the socio-economic impacts of long-term climate plans?

Long-term climate plans require substantial economy wide change and this will heavily impact on people’s lives. Because the LIFE funded MaxiMiseR project aims to trigger the development and implementation of strong long-term climate plans, it needs to see exactly what those impacts will be. This report looked at all the possible social impacts of climate plans - on culture, community, political systems, environment, health and wellbeing, to personal and property rights, fears and aspirations. What is clear from this study is that low carbon development strategies that are grounded in an understanding of day to day living stand a better chance of being successful.

How are people’s everyday lives affected by long-term climate plans?

This study shows that all aspects of an individual’s everyday life are affected by the policies and measures adopted in  long term climate plans. For example, measures foreseeing better insulation in buildings will have health benefits for the occupiers of the building. Moreover,  people’s way of life is positively affected by having more control over their energy use through smart meters and there are, of course, economic benefits, such as lower energy bills, which result from energy efficiency measures. 'Overall, because the potential social impacts of policies and measures are so broad, we recommend that governments always plan to address them in the development of their climate strategies.

What are the main barriers when it comes to the inclusion of social impacts in long-term climate plans?

The officials from Member States interviewed for this study all acknowledged that including social impacts was very important, but said that the time and cost involved in doing so is a significant barrier. Plans are often developed over short periods of time which put limits both on the social impacts considered, and the involvement of citizens in the strategy development process - which is a key way of working out what those impacts would be. Another result is that those in charge of the development process are often individual ministries or departments with narrow mandates. This means they miss a broader view on aspects outside of their field

How can we help ensure social impacts are taken into account in long-term climate plans in the future?

National government officials agree that greater inclusion of social impacts in long term climate plans is beneficial. To achieve this, we need the involvement of ministries and departments beyond those responsible for the strategies.  They need to work with a timeframe and budget for strategy development which allows for the growth of knowledge and capacities to tackle social aspects. Social aspects need to be mainstreamed into long-term plan development and much of this could come through greater inclusion of citizens and communities in the strategy development and implementation process.

How do the results of this assessment relate to the MaxiMiseR project?

A core aspect of the MaxiMiser project has been the definition of what a good long term climate plan looks like. This study makes it clear that an essential ingredient of a successful long term climate plan  is defining the policies and measures that will be introduced, based on a thorough understanding of how people’s lives will be affected by them. This is because the success of long term climate plans depends on  those people changing their behaviour. This must happen at the individual, community and organisational levels. By addressing social impacts , governments could get a better understanding of some of the barriers and facilitators that might need to be addressed or supported during the implementation of the strategies.

Read the full report here