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Key issues on climate change

A Key issues Guide provides an introductory overview of a specific topic, with a list of key research readings. We have worked with researchers for each of these guides to present a clear outline of the importance of each topic.
Gender and climate change
Women's hands
T. Bolstad / Panos Pictures

For years, civil society organisations and researchers have highlighted that, as weather patterns become increasingly unpredictable and extreme events such as floods, heatwaves or storms become more common, the way in which people are affected depends strongly on their position in society and, therefore, also on gender norms and expectations.The momentum for gender equality in climate change policy, research and practice has been growing. This is a guide to key issues and trends around the linkages between gender and climate change made in policy and action on climate change. It introduces the ongoing debates and key resources.

Climate Smart Agriculture
Field of crops
J. Banning / Panos Pictures
Agriculture is the lead sector in many developing countries, often employing a majority of the population. Agriculture also has profound linkages to other key sectors such as water, energy, health and environment. How agricultural production copes with climate change and how farming practices respond to it are therefore critical questions. Climate smart agriculture (CSA) offers potential answers through the use of agricultural technologies. This key issues guide examines key elements of CSA with links to useful further reading.
Cities in a changing climate
Cape Town in mist
E. Miller / Panos Pictures
Cities contain over 54% the global population, increasing numbers of which - especially in the developing world - are acutely exposed to the risks of climate change. The 2014 IPCC fifth assessment report states that risks and impacts in urban areas are set to increase. Cities have historically responded through, ‘adaptation’ and ‘mitigation’ measures, but they have been largely separate policy agendas. Newer thinking calls for a more joined-up approach by bringing together adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development. . This key issues guide narrows its focus on water, health, and infrastructure-related themes, to illustrate cases with sufficient depth.
Loss and Damage
People by orange wall
E. Rasmussen / Panos Pictures
Adaptation and mitigation will not be sufficient to prevent all future losses and damages. At this moment it is not clear what these additional costs will be and/or how much of these can be attributed to climate change. The purpose of this Key Issues Guide is to help climate change researchers and development practitioners get a better understanding of the issues and challenges associated with loss and damage, both from the climate negotiations and research perspectives.
Water Resources and Climate Change
Water from tap
M. Ostergaard / Panos Pictures
The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) highlights how water is an essential crosscutting theme when addressing climate change. It provides new scientific evidence  and a major advance about the likelihood of “a detectable human influence on the global water cycle since 1960”. This Key Issues Guide provides a brief snapshot of three issues relevant to the state of uncertainties around climate change and water resources: complex science, development impacts and the trade-offs between water-energy-food security.
Finance and Climate Change
F. Moleres / Panos Pictures
Climate finance is a ‘hot topic’ in the current international climate negotiations: after all, without adequate financial resources and investments how can countries sufficiently reduce GHG emissions and respond to a changing climate? This updated key issues guide, developed by the Climate Finance Update programme, focuses on public finance and dedicated climate funds. It notes key sources of funding and trends in spending in the efforts of governments, organisations and communities in adapting to and mitigating climate change.
Pro-poor electricity provision
Energy poverty is a major development issue: nearly 1.3 billion people, close to one-fifth of the world’s population, have no access to electricity. We also face the pressing need to decarbonise existing energy systems to address climate change. Therefore, making progress on both objectives requires a sharp increase in renewable electricity production, both on and off-grid. It is within this context that this Key Issues Guide explores the potential poverty impacts of increasing renewable energy capacity in developing countries.
Low carbon development
Oil pipelines
F. Naumann / Panos Pictures
The key question at the heart of the low carbon development agenda is: how can countries achieve development – especially rapid poverty reduction and improved human development outcomes – in ways that do not worsen climate change? This key issues guide highlights a range of central issues on low carbon development and presents the complex nature of this agenda including: frameworks for guiding low carbon development; low carbon energy; and
low carbon land management, including avoiding deforestation.
Planning for climate change
Climate change adaptation happens in two critical ways: through externally planned interventions and through autonomous action at the household and community level. Both are important processes and it is essential that planned interventions recognise existing community scale responses. There is a divide between top-down science and technical responses and bottom-up or community-based approaches that take a lead from social and economic vulnerability and capacity assessments. Aligning both the knowledge systems and responses from these two approaches is an important step in moving forward on adaptation planning. This guide focuses on introducing  approaches and lessons in a number of core areas, complemented by links to key resources. 
Community radio and climate change
Community radio is run by and for communities in local languages, often with programming focused on issues at the heart of local development, such as climate change and environmental degradation. The resources and case studies highlighted in this key issues guide have been selected to help community partners, researchers, and decision-makers learn more about how the strengths of radio can be harnessed, to help address the local impacts of climate change and see examples of good practice already underway in developing countries.
Indigenous knowledge and climate change
Villagers holding a meeting
A. Cecil / Panos Pictures
The potential of indigenous knowledge for informing observations of, and responses to climate change is an area of growing interest, particularly for those working at community level where access to other forms of “scientific” knowledge are inaccessible or incomplete, but increasingly in international forums as well. While this potential is exciting and may offer new ways to directly engage local communities, it also brings with it important concerns about power, rights, and ethics in engaging with these kinds of partnerships. This key issues guide provides resources for better understanding the relationship between indigenous knowledge and climate change, the potential this relationship may hold, and the challenges that may underlie it.
Disaster Risk Reduction
Rescue worker
J. Oerlemans / Panos Pictures
Disasters are exerting an increasing toll on developing and developed countries, destroying lives and livelihoods and hampering development processes. Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) is founded on the belief that whilst although disasters are inevitable, death and suffering from them is not and humans can take action to ensure this. With increasing number of disasters being linked to changing climatic conditions, and the escalating frequency of droughts, floods and cyclones, disaster risk reduction is rapidly becoming a key issue in development and climate change policy. This key issues guide presents a critical overview of current DRR practice and policy, highlights new emerging trends and recommends further reading.
Tackling poverty in a changing climate
Tackling poverty in a changing climate is going to be critical if our international response to climate change is going to encourage, not constrain, development. Yet at the same time, it is a very large topic, and this Key Issues guide cannot, and does not, attempt to be a one-stop ‘how-to’ guide to ending poverty in the context of climate change. Rather, the approach we take is to consider four processes which we feel will have fundamental implications for climate change and poverty efforts, but which perhaps do not currently receive the attention they deserve. These processes are: deagrarianisation (a long-term de-linking of livelihoods in the global south from agriculture); urbanisation; migration; and equity and economic growth.
Adaptive Social Protection

Given the increasingly complex and interlinked array of risks that poor and vulnerable people face, it is likely that approaches to vulnerability reduction, such social protection, disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, will not be sufficient in the long run if they continue to be applied in isolation from one another. In light of this challenge, researchers at IDS have coined the term ‘Adaptive Social Protection’ (ASP) to describe policies and programmes that combine these as a means to increase the livelihoods resilience of the poorest and most vulnerable people. This Key Issues guide explores the ASP concept, and presents a range of themes and reports exploring the links between social protection and climate variability and change in policy and practice in developing countries.

Strengthening Climate Resilience
'By focusing on linkages between approaches, achieving a triple win of reducing disaster impacts, adapting to climate change and safeguarding development gains is possible' (Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, June 2010). This key issues guide interrogates the possibility through the lens and literature of disaster risk management, and asks whether a climate-smart version of disaster risk management can indeed aid climate change adaptation and protect development. In doing so, it considers what modifications of disaster risk management policy and practice are required, given that climate change is altering the frequency and magnitude of some hazards, increasing vulnerability and magnifying uncertainty.
Children, climate change and disasters

Research and advocacy on children has been relatively marginalised in debates around climate change and disasters. There is a growing body of research on the impacts of disaster events and gradual climate change on children, especially on child health. Studies have shown that children are among the worst affected in the aftermath of natural disasters. With increasing number of disasters being linked to changing climatic conditions, and the escalating frequency of droughts, floods, water scarcity, malaria and vector-borne diseases, children are likely to be adversely affected both as children and in their adult lives. This key issues guide reviews these issues and recommends further reading.