Adapting to climate change – how do poor people cope?

Adapting to climate change – how do poor people cope?

Adapting to climate change – how do poor people cope?

Climate change will increase the gaps between developed and developing countries, in terms of wealth, health and food security. This will make achieving goals to reduce poverty more difficult.

Poor people with few assetscannot easily recover from climate disasters or change how they make theirliving. They rely heavily on agriculture, fisheries, rivers and forests. Theseresources could change drastically with climate change, making these groupsmuch more vulnerable than wealthier people. Additional factors, such as health problemsand unsafe housing, make poor people even more vulnerable.

Research by Practical Action inthe UK shows that efforts to reduce poverty can also help people to adapt toclimate change.

Climate change increases povertybecause it can cause major changes to natural resources, which many poor peoplerely upon for food and income. The threats from climate change include largenatural disasters and the risks from slower changes to the climate. Internationalprogrammes to reduce climate change are important, for example the Kyotonegotiations to cut greenhouse gas emissions. However, adaptation requiresgovernments to support local programmes and provide poor communities with theinformation and skills they need to plan for changes.

Many countries have begun todevelop National Adaptation Plans of Action. These identify priorities foraction and then plan for impacts affecting a country’s most vulnerable areas,livelihood sectors and groups. For example, they might identify flooding as apriority, in coastal areas and plan for impacts on fisheries and fishermen.

Local programmes must:

  • train people tomake use of new information, technology and infrastructure
  • help people to expandthe ways they make a living, and rely less on one strategy that may be lost dueto climate change
  • combine poverty reduction activities with natural resourcesmanagement and disaster risk management programmes. This will help createpractical solutions that are developed locally.

Industrialised countries arelargely responsible for climate change but people in developing countries aremost affected. People in developed nations are, to a large extent, protectedfrom climate change and natural disasters by their governments, insurance andwealth. Developed nations are therefore responsible for reducing the effects ofclimate change, compensating poor countries for the damage they suffer becauseof climate change and for the costs of adaptation.

  • Adapting to climatechange must be a part of all development policies, including the MillenniumDevelopment Goals.
  • Adaptation shouldnot be planned and financed as a separate policy or programme. The mosteffective way to adapt is to reduce poverty and help people to lessen theirvulnerability to climate disasters and change.
  • All project riskassessments should include climate change information and ensure that theirinterventions are ‘climate-proof’. For example, new enterprises and housingdevelopments should be assessed for risk from climate change.

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