What is Equity?

Team members must have a shared understanding of equity when embarking on the development of an equitable climate action plan. It is also important to know exactly who we are talking about when we reference "equity-deserving" or "equity-seeking" groups. Here are some useful definitions:


  • Equity refers to fairness and justice in policies, processes and outcomes for historically and/or currently underrepresented and/or marginalized people and groups. It considers power, access, opportunities, treatment, impacts and outcomes, in three main areas:

    Representational equity: The proportional participation at all levels of society;

    Resource equity: The distribution of resources in order to close equity gaps; and

    Equity-mindedness: The demonstration of an awareness of, and willingness to, address equity issues.

    Achieving equity requires recognizing and addressing barriers to provide opportunity for all individuals and communities to thrive, no matter where they started from. (University of British Columbia's Equity and Inclusion Glossary of Terms)

  • An equitable region is one in which all can participate and prosper in their communities and in the regional economy, and where benefits and burdens are shared fairly. (Climate Assessment Tool, Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact)
  • Social equity implies fair access to livelihood, education, and resources; full participation in the political and cultural life of the community; and self-determination in meeting fundamental needs. (Modelling Toronto's Low Carbon Future)

Equity-Seeking Groups:

  • Equity-seeking (or equity-deserving) groups may include the following:
    • Women and non-binary individuals
    • People with disabilities
    • BIPOC (Black, Indigenous*, people of colour) communities
    • LGBTQ2S+ communities
    • Undocumented workers, immigrants, refugees
    • Low-income residents
    • Unhoused or underhoused individuals
    • Youth
    • Seniors

*There is a unique role for Indigenous reconciliation within climate action and policy. See the section on Climate & Indigenous Ways of Knowing & Being for more.

The above groups are considered equity-seeking due to historical and ongoing experiences of marginalization, discrimination, and oppression. As a result, many of these communities have a lower socio-economic status, and continue to face present-day hardships.

Climate action alone cannot dismantle the systems of oppression that continue to harm equity-seeking communities. However, it is critical to understand how these systems operate when developing climate policies to ensure solutions are not perpetuating or exacerbating inequities.

Equity-Seeking Groups and Climate Vulnerability:

  • Climate change vulnerability is the degree to which people and places are at risk from the impacts of climate change, and also takes into account how well they can cope with those impacts. People living in different geographies, with different capacities, and with different jobs will experience climate change effects differently. (Modelling Toronto's Low Carbon Future)
  • Climate change impacts, such as extreme weather, will take the greatest toll on these equity-seeking groups, but through transformative policies, municipalities can help to address the systemic root causes of inequalities. (Benefits of Actions to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Toronto)