Last week, world leaders gathered in Davos, Switzerland for the Annual World Economic Forum Summit. In somewhat of an irony, where tickets cost approximately €15,000 for non-invitees, global inequality and climate change were amongst the items on the agenda. While, very little of substance emerged from the Davos summit, it served to generate discussion around global inequality and its links with environmental issues.
Most of us will have often heard the phrase ‘the rich get richer while the poor get poorer’. Unfortunately this is now truer than ever before. Last week, Oxfam released a report which shows that, globally, the wealth of the richest 1% is equal to that of the remaining 99%. Here at home, many are struggling to make ends meet. Child poverty has doubled and homelessness figures have spiked.
Despite world leaders celebrating recent growth in the economy (only just!), ordinary people are not feeling the benefits, and trends are going the wrong way for many. As well as being damaging socially, this inequality is also bad for the planet. Various studies show that a more equal society would be a safer and happier one, but would also be likely to consume less and live in greater harmony with the planet. Therefore, as the notion of ‘trickle down economics’ seems perverse to many and as our planet continues to suffer, action is gravely needed to build a more stable, wholesome economic model, which does not equate economic growth or GDP with progress.
While there are no one size fits all answers to our predicament, there are a number of practical steps that we can all consider taking.
With a general election coming closer, and elections in the North this year, we can scrutinise candidates and demand policies that can help to move us towards a more equal society, with a more sustainable economy and lower climate damaging emissions. Innovation will be required to provide the kind of jobs that can reduce our impact on the environment while building resilient communities across the country. The next few years will prove pivotal in determining whether environmental sustainability and inequalities in society are tackled both nationally and globally. While Davos 2015 has come and gone with little effect, the climate conference in Paris this December will be crucial for our future climate and consequently for the long term prospects of both the economy and society in every country.