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Climate justice in an ageing world

The world’s population is ageing and increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This demographic transformation and its repercussions for climate action have remained under-explored. Anticipating the global stocktake at COP28, this discussion paper from HelpAge International made key recommendations for policymakers and the international community.

Gary Haq / Published on 23 November 2023

Charveriat, C., Bodin, E., Cartier, B., & Haq, G. (2023). Climate justice in an ageing world. Retrieved November 23, 2023 from Help Age International:

The 2015 Paris Agreement states that the world needs to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. By that year, older people will make up a significantly higher proportion of the global population than at present. This demographic shift poses a particular set of challenges around climate adaptation and climate justice. The issue is especially acute in low- and middle-income countries where 80% of the world’s older people will be living by 2050.

Current assessments, such as those from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), do not make reference to this global ageing trend. Moreover, debates around climate action do not reflect how older people are uniquely positioned to contribute to climate action, whether that is through experience, knowledge, social capital, or political mobilising. To address this shortcoming, the authors of this discussion paper focused on the experiences of older people in low- and middle-income countries to better inform national and international climate policies.

Half-body profile portrait of a senior man looking out to the right of frame over a rural view

An older man looks out over a rural view in Brazil.

Photo: Igor Alecsander / Getty Images

The authors made five key recommendations:

  1. Integrate ageing into climate analysis, especially future scientific climate reports from organisations such as the IPCC  and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
  2. Enact targeted public policies at the national level, beginning with age-sensitive climate risk and needs assessments, in order to enhance life-course resilience.
  3. Empower older people in the transition towards a sustainable future through both meaningful engagement in decision-making, and age-sensitive awareness campaigns on climate change and environmental activism.
  4. Support intergenerational solidarity through dialogue and adaptation projects co-designed with Older People’s Associations (OPAs) and youth groups.
  5. Tackle climate injustice by addressing intra- and inter-country carbon inequalities, both in terms of contribution to climate change and providing adequate support to the older people most vulnerable to climate change impacts.

The discussion paper highlights that many older people are demanding climate action and are ready and able to take part. The authors conclude that the international community must now, urgently, take every opportunity to progress action on climate change and ageing.

SEI author

Gary Haq

Senior Research Associate

SEI York

Design and development by Soapbox.