A Call for Disability-Inclusive Climate Action in India and Globally

About 16% of the human population are people with disabilities living on our Planet Earth. That is 1 in 6 of us. People with disabilities are part of human/species diversity and our biodiversity. While recognising that we live in mutually interdependent relationships with all species and depend on our natural resources, and also recognising that the climate crisis is adversely impacting all of our lives, as people with disabilities, we accept the shared responsibility to work towards climate justice for all. 

Recent research underscores the interconnectedness of climate and physical and mental health, revealing associations between temperature rises and increases in suicides, hospital admissions for mental health conditions, and the overall decline in community health and well-being. Chronic health conditions and medication may impact the body’s ability to regulate temperature. Air pollution has been linked to depression and anxiety, along with increased stress levels and sleep issues, which lead to further mental health concerns. Individuals with psychosocial disabilities face a mortality rate three times higher during heatwaves. People with disabilities are at higher risk of negative impacts of climate change due to social and economic factors, such as higher levels of poverty, gender, caste, class and ethnic, religious and other marginalised identities.  

These and many other examples show the need for climate justice that is inclusive of people with disabilities. However, the absence of a disability constituency within the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change is glaring. People with disabilities find themselves neglected in National Determined Contributions, climate policies, and various initiatives, hindering the collective efforts to address the challenges posed by climate change.
We, People with Disabilities and Organisations of Persons with Disabilities in India, call upon all stakeholders to uphold the mandate of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) by bringing into effect the following: 

Prioritise Inclusive Participation: 

Actively involve people with disabilities and their representative organisations at all levels and stages of climate change discourse (including disaster prevention planning and execution, climate mitigation and adaptation, environmental sustainability, climate justice initiatives and reconstruction efforts), ensuring these insights shape effective and inclusive strategies. At a basic level, this would involve the proactive elimination of barriers hindering participation at annual climate change fora such as COP. This involves ensuring multi-stakeholder collaboration—including civil society, Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs), government, businesses, and industry—in developing climate-resilient community action plans.

Adopt Disability-inclusive Practices: 

Ensure that emergency preparedness and response program are inclusive and accessible, including emergency communications and infrastructure such as shelters and cooling centers. Tailor information and other materials in different formats that are accessible to people with different disabilities, especially individuals with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities.

Address Mental Health: 

Prioritise understanding the mental health impacts of climate change and engaging with communities on how best to address this, drawing from locally-rooted solutions of psychosocial support. Rights-based mental health support should be at the centre of policies related to humanitarian and climate-related responses.

Enhance Research and Disaggregated Data Collection: 

In partnership with organisations of people with disabilities, invest substantial efforts in collecting high-quality, disaggregated data on climate change and people with disabilities. This data should serve as the bedrock for evidence-based decision-making in any climate action or disaster risk reduction and management efforts. Ensure special attention to the needs of women with disabilities and other persons with disabilities facing intersectional forms of discrimination and marginalisation.

Incorporate Disability Perspectives in Global Frameworks and Climate Agreements: 

Advocate for the inclusion of a disability constituency within the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. Ensure that people with disabilities are actively considered in National Determined Contributions, climate policies, particularly climate finance and loss and damages, fostering a more inclusive and resilient response to climate challenges.

By Disability Inclusive Climate Collaboration
Mariwala Health Initiative | NCPEDP | SMRC | Swadhikaar | Rising Flame | The Sangyan | Women with Disabilities India Network: Dr. Nandini Ghosh and Dr. Reena Mohanty

Image depicting the logos of Mariwala Health Initiative, NCPEDP, SMRC, Swadhikaar, Rising Flame, The Sangyan, Women with Disabilities India Networ