Centering Equity in Climate Engagement

Listening and responding to community members with diverse lived experiences increases the quality and legitimacy of decisions and fosters sustained support for long-term action. 

However, the voices of marginalized and equity-seeking communities—many of which are particularly vulnerable to climate change—are often under-represented in engagement processes. People who face historic or ongoing marginalization due to their race, gender, disability, socioeconomic background, or other identities may encounter systemic physical, social and financial barriers to participation.

Ethical and effective climate engagement must address power imbalances and systemic inequities in order to hear from the full demographic, attitudinal and experiential diversity of their communities. The following eight principles for equity can help engagement practitioners enhance accessibility and more meaningfully involve diverse community members in decision making for climate action and climate justice.

1. Invite participation within an authentic and accountable engagement process 

Actionable climate responses are grounded in both technical expertise and community’s lived experiences. Authentic engagement does not have pre-determined conclusions, remaining genuinely interested in public input. Foster trust by clarifying the degree of influence participants can have on the final decision, following through with commitments and communicating outcomes.

Deliberative engagement processes, such as climate assemblies, can particularly enhance accountability by convening government bodies to listen and respond to recommendations in a public and transparent manner. 

2. Plan early and proactively

Anticipate and address inequities or potential barriers to participation before community members are discouraged from participating. Design budgets, timelines, framing, methods and communications to maximize accessibility. For example, consider appropriate language and framing to discuss climate change in ways that are familiar and grounded in lived experiences.

3. Establish respectful relationships with Indigenous Peoples

Be mindful of Indigenous Peoples’ ancestral ties to the land, their inherent rights (for instance, as articulated in UNDRIP), and the disproportionate impact of climate change on their lands, rights, culture and livelihoods. Establish respectful relationships with Indigenous Peoples and uphold their rights within engagement processes both when specifically engaging Indigenous Peoples, or when engaging other communities on ancestral Indigenous territories.

4. Engage the internal diversity of a community

Apply an intersectional approach to engagement to hear from diverse voices and perspectives within a given identity-based community. Make a strategic outreach plan to convene a representative group of participants.

5. Work in reciprocal relationship with communities

Dedicate time and resources towards developing trusting, respectful and collaborative relationships. Prioritize reciprocal partnerships over more transactional information-seeking engagement, in order to build community capacity and advance shared goals. 

6. Tailor engagement plans to the context

In consultation with partners and participants, customize strategies for the particular objectives, location, resources and audience of the engagement process. Distribute resources equitably to meet the needs of those facing greater barriers to participation. 

7. Commit to ongoing learning and improvement

Develop capacity for equitable engagement practices through ongoing reflection, evaluation and professional development with peer networks such as the International Climate Engagement Network. 

8. Advance systemic equity

Systems of discrimination or oppression fundamentally limit participation in engagement processes and threaten climate justice. Question long-standing norms, structures and power relationships, and work to advance equity in engagement processes, leadership, and climate solutions.

Beyond Inclusion: Equity in Public Engagement

For more comprehensive guide to the eight principles for equitable engagement, including concrete strategies and case studies, download your free copy of Beyond Inclusion: Equity in Public Engagement at

Dialogue Dispatch


Dialogue Dispatch is our community of practice newsletter where we share updates on our team's knowledge exchange activities alongside inspiring case studies, suggested readings and practical tools for people and organizations working to transform the field of democratic participation.

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