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CDKN policy brief: climate change and poverty reduction

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S. Anderson (ed)
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Climate change is likely to complicate the achievement and sustenance of development goals. Its effects on poverty are not well understood, and existing poverty reduction strategies do not adequately support climate resilience. This brief discusses the nexus between climate change and development, and how the achievement and sustainability of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals will be affected. The brief outlines the following ways in which climate change impacts on key elements of poverty reduction strategies:

Food security: climate change is likely to decrease food security and increase the risk of hunger.
Water security: changing rainfall makes access to water for households more difficult.
Energy security: higher temperatures and less rain make biomass for fuel and reduce access to water for energy.
Human security: climate-induced disasters make vulnerable people less secure.
Governance: when climate change affects basic securities, it stresses governance systems.

Citing the 2007/8 UN Human Development Report, the brief presents the following concrete evidence of how climate factors affect the poor:

The 2002 food crisis in southern Africa reduced the health spending of more than half of all households in Lesotho and Swaziland.
The East African floods in 2007 created new breeding sites for disease vectors like mosquitoes leading to epidemics of Rift Valley Fever and increasing levels of malaria.
After the 2006 floods in Ethiopia, the ensuing epidemic of cholera led to widespread loss of life and illness.

The paper highlights the importance of adaptation for development to be kept on track. It reasons that unless countries can effectively adapt to climate change, reducing poverty will become ever harder. It argues that the artificial distinction made between adaptation and development in the political arena should be put aside and more investment in climate resilience should be made. It makes the following recommendations:

Climate finance should fund collection and analysis of evidence on the effects of climate change on poverty reduction.
Poverty reduction and adaptation strategies should be fully integrated in public services to maximise adaptation co-benefits.
Climate finance provision should pick lessons learnt from aid-effectiveness, such as the need to align and support national policy development.
Where climate change interferes with development, mitigation measures should only be pursued when there are clear adaptation and poverty reduction co-benefits.
National development and adaptation policies should be responsive to the local needs of the climate-vulnerable poor.