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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:

  1. Deagrarianisation (a long-term de-linking of livelihoods in the global south from agriculture)
  2. Urbanisation
  3. Migration
  4. Equity and economic growth.

What characterises all four processes is that they can be viewed in many ways as forms of autonomous adaptation, and adaptations which often are not just, or even, to climate change per se. Yet policymakers set on rolling out planned adaptation interventions should also consider:
  • the implications of the ways in which these processes are currently unfolding for climate change policy and practice, and;
  • the ways in which planned intervention can best engage with these processes, so as to push them towards sustainable adaptation, and away from maladaptation.


‘Deagrarianisation’, simply put, is the process of lives and livelihoods in the global south becoming increasingly de-linked from agriculture. Off-farm activities are, as a result, of ever greater importance. Where people start doing less in the way of climate sensitive activities, and more in the way of productive, climate insensitive activities, deagrarianisation can be a means to reduce vulnerability, both to poverty and to climate change impacts. More . . .


Most global production and investment is concentrated in urban areas. Most low- and middle-income nations are urbanising. Almost all the growth in the world’s population in the next few decades is projected to be in urban centres in low- and middle-income nations. Therefore, as the Satterthwaite and also the Huq et al papers note, how urbanisation is managed and governed has fundamental implications for poverty reduction, as well as for climate change adaptation and mitigation. More . . .


Migration activities are an integral part of highly contextualised, multi-dimensional and increasingly multi-local livelihoods, as the 2009 Human Development Report points out. As such, migration is an important feature in the process of rural change, deagrarianisation and urbanisation. Understanding migration is critical to getting us past the rural/urban divide in our thinking on poverty. More . . .

Equity and economic growth

Whilst economic growth is by no means overlooked in climate change and development debates, there are two broad issues to consider, one of which receives significantly more attention than the other: energy intensity of economic growth and equity. More . . .

Latest Documents

Sustainable adaptation: Linking adaptation strategies and sustainable development
S Eriksen; P Aldunce; C., S Bahinipati / Ingenta 2011
This paper highlights the need to identify points of linkage and create synergy between adaptation strategies and sustainable development in order to promote ‘sustainable adaptation’. Using case studies from Nigeria, South...
How can urban development contribute to disaster risk reduction?
US Agency for International Development 2010
This paper examines the risks of natural hazards and disasters that challenge the development efforts of the urban or city development process. It also highlights how local government, as the key partner of the development process, co...
How well is ‘local risk governance’ working to bring about progress in disaster risk reduction?
R. Nagel 2011
In 2009 a Voices from the Front Line (VFL) study gathered views on progress in implementing the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) on risk reduction activity at the local level across 48 countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas. In 20...
Environmental drivers of human mobility
The German Marshall Fund of the United States 2010
Environmental change is one of a larger set of factors that affect human migration and displacement worldwide. Climate change and variability will particularly affect migration in and from highly vulnerable areas like low-lying island...
Is migration boosting human development?
United Nations Development Programme 2009
This report explores how better policies towards human mobility can enhance human development. It lays out the case for governments to reduce restrictions on movement within and across their borders, so as to expand human choices and ...
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This key issue guide is produced in collaboration with the Learning Hub project, managed by IDS with support from UKaid.

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